The Morton Mandan Public Library is poised to make changes in coming years that will allow the facility to be used and enjoyed by generations to come, thanks to a $3 million donation to the city of Mandan from the company that built the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The money will be used to make needed physical changes to the building, along with neighboring Dykshoorn and Heritage parks.
The donation by Dallas-based Energy Transfer comes at a time when downtown Mandan is growing and changing, and the library hopes it can be a part of that renaissance.
“We want to tie it into the Main Street initiative, make improvements and make more of a walking and visiting environment downtown,” Library Director Jackie Hawes said.
The improvements will be part of a broader strategic plan for the library that emphasizes the goal of supporting literacy through a safe and welcoming environment.
One way the library is doing that is through programs for people of all ages. For example, story times are held multiple times a week for younger children, teens can hang out in the “Teen Zone,” and the library book club loans a new book to members each month.
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The library does community outreach as well. The “Lunch with Heroes” program brings youth together with groups such as the Bismarck Bucks indoor football team and the Mandan Fire Department for lunch in Dykshoorn Park.
The library is putting on 179 programs this summer alone, and the donation will help continue and expand those programs in the future.
“Everything has its own little twist to it, where you don’t repeat the same thing over and over,” said Taylor Adamski, a freshman at Mandan High who has attended multiple library programs. “It’s all fun; you learn a lot and it’s really entertaining.”
The library saw more than 100,000 visits in 2018, and one goal is to increase attendance over coming years. While the physical changes will help toward the goal, they are not the only way the library will be improving.
The Bookmobile, which reaches communities in Morton County without access to a library, will benefit from a possible parking garage allowing library staff to easily load and unload books and supplies.
In addition to upgrading the library, the city plans to make improvements to both Dykshoorn and Heritage parks on Main Street. Preliminary plans include a decorative fence and ticket booths at Dykshoorn and a pavilion in Heritage park to host events. The library’s proximity to the parks plays a big role in the city’s plans for it, as any improvement to the library will help the parks and vice versa, and improvement to either is a benefit to downtown.
“We utilize the park a lot, especially during the summer months,” Hawes said. “The schools and United Way provide free lunches in the park, and we provide programming for that. Nearly every day they provide lunch we provide some kind of activity to go with it. It’s perfect to have a park right next door.”
Energy Transfer Executive Vice President Chris Curia said the company's donation is "part of our commitment to be a valued business partner in North Dakota.”
“We are grateful for the support we received from the people of Mandan throughout the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and we wanted to ﬁnd a way to beneﬁt residents of all ages throughout the county," he said.
The library and park upgrades could cost up to $6 million, meaning some of the funds must come from the community and the Friends of the Library group. Raising money and planning the actual changes will take time, and the effects of the donation likely will not be seen for a couple of years.
But while the physical improvements may not take place for some time, the library staff is hopeful that this can be a starting point for a revamped library.
“We have had a lot of momentum in the last two years,” Hawes said. “We’ve made a lot of changes, and this donation will definitely help continue that forward momentum, and hopefully help make Main Street, and the library, a destination.”