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The first West Duluth Branch Library was built in 1912 and was located at 701 N. Central Avenue.
The current West Duluth Branch Library opened on June 17, 1991 at 59th Avenue West and Grand Avenue. At the time, it was the first new branch library to open in Duluth in 62 years. The West Duluth Branch Library is part of a multi-use facility, called City Center West, which also houses a firehall and a senior citizen center.
City Center West was designed by the architectural firms Edward Schafer Associates and Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle. It is a bright and spacious one-story building with large windows, free off-street parking and a traditional brick exterior that blends smoothly into the neighborhood.
In an extraordinary salvage effort, the classic oak furniture (shelving, tables, chairs, a vestibule and an information counter) from the old Lincoln and West Duluth branch libraries was carefully dismantled, refinished and installed in the new Library, providing an enduring link to the past.
City Center West served to bring the West Duluth community and people closer. In the summer of 1994, an intergenerational writing workshop was held at the West Duluth Library. Teenagers and senior citizens worked together to produce a booklet of stories about West Duluth history to celebrate the area's Centennial. The booklet, When West Duluth Was Young, was published by the Duluth Public Library and the Arrowhead Library System.
Public Art has been an important addition to City Center West and the Library. Peter Weisenegger was chosen to create a sculpture for City Center West. The aluminum, wood and bronze mobile was installed in June 1994. The sculpture is hanging from the center skylight in the lobby of the building. This piece, titled "Gateway" has three metal arches, each supported by a gate. "Gateway" represents the three occupants of the center: the library, firehall and senior center.
In 1995 the West Duluth Centennial Committee gave $5,000 to the St. Louis County Historical Society to create a permanent historical mural and exhibit at the West Duluth Branch Library. Artist Al Zaverl was commissioned to produce a 4 x 8-ft. mural. On November 19, 1997, the new mural and interactive display was dedicated. The installation commemorated the "marriage" of West Duluth and Duluth in 1894. (On January 1, 1894, the village of West Duluth was consolidated with and became a part of the City of Duluth.) Allen Noska and Carnita Tuomela of East Group Fabricators in Duluth worked with library staff to develop the project. Other crucial support came from Dr. James Westman of the Centennial Committee and Joanne Sher, researcher for the project.
Changes at the West Duluth Library
during the past ten years have included expanding their open hours
to six days a week year round and offering new services, such
as public access to the Internet, evening storytimes for children
and a monthly Book Discussion Group.
Generous gifts from the Friends of the Duluth Public Library have added a beginning collection of compact disks and a play phone booth for the children's area.
After ten years, the West Duluth Branch Library has much to celebrate. Clarice Hietala, who oversees the day to day operations at the library talked about the changes. "The West Duluth Library staff have seen Storytime toddlers turn into Miss West Duluth candidates. We've helped students locate information for reports, hoping they will receive great grades." Hietala feels a tremendous sense of community. "We have watched the face of West Duluth change, in both people and business," she said. "I think the Library is an important part of people's lives here." Hietala enjoys her job. " Personally, I have truly loved getting to know library users on a first name basis." The job brings an interesting variety of challenges, especially "discovering each person's library needs and doing our best to fill those needs."
Duluth Public Library, 520 W. Superior St., Duluth, MN 55802