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MINNEAPOLIS-Voters Tuesday approved $110 millionto build a new building for the central MinneapolisPublic Library as well as $30 million to improve branch libraries.The referendum passed with a two-thirds majority.

Laurie Savran, president of the Minneapolis PublicLibrary Board, said that voters “saw the importanceof providing a top-notch facility for the state’slargest public library collection and the bestpossible library service in our neighborhoods.”The referendum provides for a new,five-story central library to be built on its presentDowntown site at 300 Nicollet Mall, and $30 million tocomplete improvements to all 14 community libraries inthe city.<p.The next steps are to select an architect for the newcentral library and to locate a temporary Downtownlocation to offer full library service throughout theconstruction period. Construction is expected to beginin 2003 and the new library to open in late 2005 orearly 2006.

Planning will also proceed on a new Minnesotaplanetarium to replace the existing one in the current central library. The new,high-tech theater and science center is expected to bea regional attraction comparable with the newplanetariums recently opened in New York and Chicago.Last session, the Minnesota Legislature allocated $1million toward planning for the new planetarium.Funding will be sought through private contributions,additional state bonding or both.

The $30 million portion of the referendum forcommunity library improvements will accomplish thegoal of completing all neighborhood branch projectswithin 10 years. A timeline will be developed andspecific plans will be refined, addressing eachbuilding’s need for remodeling or expansion,handicapped accessibility, technology upgrades,historic preservation, or replacement.

Across the river, St. Paul is also working on itscentral Library. Over the next four years, the city ofSt. Paul, using funds from its capital improvementprogram, will pour $15 million into the building.

Theproject will transform much of the library’s interior,either by means of restoration or by opening up newsections of the building for public use. Another $5million, being raised privately by the Friends of theSt. Paul Public Library, will go into system-widetechnology and programming improvements, as well asmuch-needed additions to the collections.

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