HOWARD LAKE, MN Howard Lake City Council, during a special meeting March 5, accepted a microbial assessment report presented by Leslie Cloonan of ATC Group Services, and agreed to pursue recommended solutions to reopen the Howard Lake Public Library.
The library has been closed recently, after concerns about air quality were brought to the city and Great River Regional Library.
The League of Minnesota Cities, which provides insurance for Howard Lake, requested the assessment and hired Cloonan to conduct air-quality tests inside the library.
Cloonan explained her testing techniques, results, and recommendations. She visited the library Feb. 1 to conduct the tests, which included a visual inspection, measuring moisture content in the walls, taking air samples, and dust samples from the carpet to determine fungal spore levels.
“The air samples looked good, there were no issues there,” Cloonan said. “The main issue we found was carpet fungal contamination along the exterior walls.”
She recommended cleaning horizontal surfaces in the library. This would include wet wiping hard surfaces, using a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum to remove micro particles, and steam cleaning the carpets to kill any mold spores. Cloonan recommended re-testing to make sure these solutions were effective.
“Once we get to spring, when all this snow melts ... that would be the time to bring in a building envelope specialist to figure out the extent of water intrusion along the wall,” Cloonan said.
Several Howard Lake citizens told the council what an important role the library plays in the community, and expressed their desire to see it reopened.
Patricia Schoephoerster, a resident since 1965, gave a personal recounting of the library’s history. She was involved in early relocation efforts, and explained how the library used to be located north of Highway 12.
Schoephoerster said moving it to the current site renewed the community’s interest and library patronage increased.
Bridget Stanley grew up in Howard Lake. She explained how the library has been a consistent source for resources, such as movies, books, and internet access, and provides activities for her children.
“Having it here is helpful for me and my family. I find it very, very important,” she said.
“For every town that has a library, you have a safe place for people that lots of times don’t have other safe places,” said Katie Huff. She noted that librarians are friendly, and a library creates a welcoming public environment. “I can’t stress enough the goodwill it engenders.”
City Administrator Nick Haggenmiller thanked residents for attending the meeting, noting he had never seen the city council chambers so full.
Great River Regional Library Executive Director Karen Pundsack was also present Tuesday. The library system represents 32 libraries, including Howard Lake.
“I know there have been some concerns expressed that we wouldn’t get the building reopened. Clearly, that is not the goal here tonight,” Pundsack said, adding that GRRL is working closely with Haggenmiller to reopen the library. However, she acknowledged it will take time to address the building concerns properly.
Haggenmiller was hesitant to offer a concrete timeline, yet emphasized the city’s commitment to reopen the library.