Aberdeen to Auction Old Library Sept. 26, Hoping for Bids over $500K

With Aberdeen’s new library set to open on September 11, we have to figure out what to do with the old one on Sixth Avenue Southeast and Kline Street. The Aberdeen Chamber and Convention and Visitors Bureau have offered to buy the building and turn it into a new, more central and visible visitor center:

It’s a perfect location. The property is situated along 6th Avenue, which will greatly increase the visibility of our organizations and the services we provide. With over 30,000 cars driving by per day, we will be better able to direct people to Downtown Aberdeen, Storybook Land, Northern State University, Presentation College, and other businesses and landmarks within the community [Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, “Our Vision for a NEW Welcome/Visitor Center,” retrieved 2017.06.11].

For their chance to stake their flag in front of 30,000 cars (and a few bicycles!) each day, the Chamber and CVB in March offered $350,000. After obtaining an appraisal of the old library building of $1.17 million, the city is seeking higher bids:

The city’s current public library on Sixth Avenue Southeast will go up for auction in September.

That auction is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 26, City Attorney Ron Wager said in a news release. Bidders can participate by submitting qualified sealed bids of at least $500,000, he said [Elisa Sand, “City Library Property Auction Will Be in September,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.06.09].

Mayor Mike Levsen sounds optimistic in his weekend column about the prospects for drawing at least one qualifying bid:

What if nobody submits a qualifying bid? Highly unlikely, but that would restart the thinking back to square one.

We have been reminded over and over in these recent years of Aberdeen area progress that not much growth happens until someone with access to capital decides to risk some of it. It’s justifiable for us to thank, in advance, any investors willing to make a qualifying bid and bet on Aberdeen’s future [Mayor Mike Levsen, “Library Auction Set, Now It’s up to the Bidders,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.06.09].

Half-million antes may not be forthcoming if bidders heed the unflattering descriptions used by local library boosters to sell the community on building a new facility to replace the current one:

Water Infiltration: Chronic water infiltration, including leaks from the roof and windows, have compounded the flooding that has occurred in the basement on numerous occasions. Mold, dirt, humidity and the ongoing threat of flooding have rendered only 30% of the basement usable for library activity (meeting rooms).

Aged Infrastructure: Constructed in 1963, the current library building is not in full compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and lacks the electrical, cabling, and internet services required by any modern-day structure.

An Uninspiring Setting: The current library has low ceilings, cramped quarters, bad lighting, obscured windows, and a hodge-podge of furnishings. This does not provide for a space that energizes and inspires patrons. It is not inviting [Aberdeen Public Library Foundation, “We Are Not Meeting the Needs of the Community,” 2015.06.29].

Red star marks old library site—what do you think would go well at that intersection?
Red star marks old library site—what do you think would go well at that intersection?

But let’s be optimists! Like the Chamber, I can see the great potential of a location right on busy Sixth and broad, beautiful Kline (which is really a fun street to take from campus to Manor Park). Suppose there are some capitalist gamblers willing to take Mayor Levsen up on this bet. What could they do with that lot?

  1. Walgreen’s!
  2. A new restaurant to fill one glaring gap in Aberdeen’s culinary offerings: Middle Eastern food! Think Mim’s Café in St. Paul. Aberdeen needs shwarma!
  3. The Corner Book Shoppe could consider a bold move two blocks west and south. The old library is probably more space than Aberdeen’s only used book store needs, but perhaps they expand the bibliophiliac experience by going halfsies with a nice coffee shop, like, oh, say…
  4. Caribou Coffee! That coffee shop would gain no visibility moving just two blocks west, but they could finally solve their parking lot chaos with a reconfiguration of the old library’s more spacious north parking lot.

Let’s see if real businesspeople can come up with any better plans… and the half-million dollars to make the city pay attention to their bids.

7 Responses to Aberdeen to Auction Old Library Sept. 26, Hoping for Bids over $500K

  1. I like the old library. The first time I went there was in 1992. I had a job interview in Aberdeen that day (I did not get the job) but I got there early and had a few hours to explore the city and ended up at the library to look at newspapers and try to get to know the town in just a little bit of time. I really enjoyed that place. Fast forward 10 years I married with three very young children and we moved from Sioux Falls to Aberdeen. I used to bring my boys to the library for story readings and to check out books. I’ll never forget the day we took the kids to the library to see South Dakota public broadcasting’s mascots: Arthur, Clifford The Big Red Dog, and others. I remember how my four-year-old was so excited to get there and he couldn’t wait to see the TV characters live and in person. When we got there they were so much bigger than he anticipated, he got scared, and hid underneath the tables the rest of the time we were there. We moved away from Aberdeen just a couple of years later (and I still miss it). My scared four-year-old just graduated from high school and will be on campus at Northern this fall. So, I hate to see the old library go but whenever I pass that corner those two memories will be in my mind.

  2. Porter Lansing

    5. A mosque. The Chosen City’s future lies in attracting immigrants and showing tolerance is a grand way to begin. Tax breaks for rebuilding the ol’ girl.

  3. Thomas, I hope your son enjoys the return to Aberdeen! NSU is a pretty campus… and the new library is still within walking distance. :-)

    Porter, if local Muslims can outbid the Chamber, I welcome their development efforts. Five calls to prayer a day won’t be any more disruptive than church bells going off every hour. ;-)

  4. Porter Lansing

    Where I live we have chimes that go off every hour and a bell on the quarter hour. They’re at the train station down the street. No religion but a nice reminder of when I lived in SoDak. Watertown even had a steam whistle at the power plant that sounded at 12:45 to let kids know it was time to go back to Junior High and a louder whistle at 1:00 to let the boss know when his employees hadn’t left the bar soon enough.
    ~ I love libraries. Most of my youth was spend in a library or a movie theatre, as both were just across the street. I took my daughter to the library at least three times a week after dinner and hung out waiting ’til she was done, often several hours. I carry three library cards in my wallet, right now but don’t use them.
    What’s a library got that a personal computer doesn’t??? (This isn’t a Porter smart-ass question, I don’t believe they’re really necessary.)

  5. Fair question, Porter.

    First, not everyone has a computer and Internet yet.

    Second, not every kid has books… and no kid is surrounded at home by as many books as a library offers.

    Third, a library is a good excuse to go for a walk with the little ones, get out of the house, and introduce them to the concept of a “third place.”

    Fourth, a library has librarians who work hard to gather, organize, and help users find quality information.

    This is a partial list.

  6. Porter Lansing

    ….. I thought of one thing. A library is a great place to meet your girlfriend before you’re old enough to drive. She can almost always get permission to go the library and there’s lots of secluded spots to uh ….. study the Dewey Decimal System. :) It’s awesome that Aberdeen has a new one, because they tend to last at least 50 years and you won’t need another one for a long time. ✋ Don’t tell anyone in my family I said this, ’cause there’s more than one library science degree sitting at the Thanksgiving table.

  7. Porter Lansing

    I see your message, Cory. It was revealing listening to school board candidates speak of supplying kids with computers. The little town I raised my family in (41,000 population) has had a requirement since the 90’s that every student must have a computer and internet. This being an aerospace town, Lockheed supplies them to anyone who needs them. Tablets, too. Dems are working to make it a requirement statewide. Obtaining, refurbishing and distributing used computers is a top priority for volunteer parents and PTO groups.