NE library’s architects want teen/resident advice on redesign

At 34 years old, the Northeast Library is ready for a facelift.

The Northeast Community Library at 22nd and Central avenues NE is the next Minneapolis Public Library (MPL) in line for an extensive, $3 million-plus renovation, from the roof on down. The MPL board recently chose the Cuningham Group Architecture, P.A., based at St. Anthony Main, to do the renovation.

According to MPL Project Director Teresa Jensen, the 1973 building needs many improvements including extensive roof work, a new heating, air conditioning and ventilation system, and better windows.

"We have stressed to the architects that we want a better engagement with the street," she said. "We want it to fit into the neighborhood. The library feels dark inside. It has tinted windows. It was the way things were done in the 1970s, possibly for energy efficiency, possibly to reduce glare. They didn’t have the glass we have now. No matter what else we do, we’ll be replacing those windows."

The project will be mostly funded by the library referendum money that Minneapolis voters approved in 2000, to renovate all the community libraries and build the downtown Central library.

She said she and Lois Porfiri, head Northeast librarian, have visited many of the Northeast neighborhoods to ask for volunteers to serve on an advisory team and work with the architects. Not all 13 northeast neighborhoods lie in MPL’s designated boundaries for the Northeast Library, she added; the ones that do include Beltrami, Windom Park, Marshall Terrace, Waite Park, Holland, Audubon Park, Logan Park, Columbia Park and Northeast Park.

The point of the advisory team, Jensen said, is to answer such questions as, "What is it that your community needs and wants?" "How do you use your library?" "What groups are we not reaching?"

Porfiri said, speaking just for herself, that when the library is renovated, she would like to see a larger teen center combined with a homework helper area. "So many of our users are teens, because we’re so close to Edison High School. It will be difficult trying to balance all the different demands. There is a huge demand for technology here. I expect the number of computers to triple." When asked about the windows, Porfiri said, "We have an unfortunate situation with our current bookshelves. They were placed parallel to the windows and block the light from coming into the library and flowing down the aisles."

She added that they are still looking for one or two teenagers to serve on the advisory committee; anyone interested can call her directly, at 612-630-6901. The Northeast Library Advisory Team will convene in September, after the architects’ contract is finalized.

Sara Rothholz Weiner, project coordinator with Cuningham Group, said, "We are so excited to be able to participate. The Minneapolis Public Library has created a tremendous vision for libraries and particularly for its community libraries. We are interested in partnering with them. We feel that this library is part of Cuningham Group’s neighborhood as well. A number of people who work here live in the neighborhoods near the Northeast library.

"We want to enhance the library, so people know it’s there," she added. "It doesn’t reach out and embrace the street right now. And the parking lot entrance is a primary entrance, too, as well as the Central Avenue entrance. It needs to be more welcoming."

The architects will seek to make the building brighter and more cheerful, she added, with improved lighting and "daylighting" (using natural light). They will also ensure that the library can accommodate new technology.

"We are fortunate in that the library has good bones, a clear plan," Rothholz Weiner added. "That makes it easier to work with."

Jensen said they will keep the building’s original footprint. "The building is large enough for the community. It’s over 15,000 square feet, that’s a nice size for a Minneapolis library. The new [remodeled] East Lake Library is around 16,000 square feet. For Northeast, it’s just that the space needs to be used better. We anticipate that there will still be a functioning community room."

The merger
Jensen said that for MPL’s most recent renovation projects, North Regional and East Lake, they received an Art in Public Places grant from the City of Minneapolis. Because of the upcoming merger with Hennepin County Library, however, she isn’t sure if Northeast will still be eligible.

Megan Peterson, in MPL’s communications department, said that the merger is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2008. "There will be an interim phase, because there are many decisions that still need to be made. We have been doing employee bargaining with all the different unions to resolve pay differentials."

The Hennepin County Library Board, the Hennepin County Commissioners, the Minneapolis City Council and the Minneapolis Public Library Board will have a final vote on the merger in December, 2007. Peterson said a new library board will be in place by the time the merger takes place; the board will be appointed and will be increased from seven to 11 members, with some seats reserved for Minneapolis residents.

"We might be called Minneapolis Public Library, a division of Hennepin County Library, during the interim phase," Peterson added.

What will happen to the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library? Linda Merritt, office manager of the Friends, said that the group is starting its strategic planning. "We will continue our programs, such as The People’s University and Talk of the Stacks. We do not foresee any need for us to go away; we will continue to be advocates for the library system and the funding of those services."

The Friends raised more than $16 million during MPL’s capital campaign, and pledges more than $250,000 in grant money to the library every year, she added.

For information on the Northeast Community Library renovation, call Megan Peterson, 612-630-6239, or email, mlpeerson [at] mplib [dot] org.

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