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This is the first article in a six-part series on the future of the Southeast Library in Minneapolis.
Will Southeast Minneapolis ever get a new community library?
While some community residents complain that replacing the library at Dinkytown has been repeatedly delayed, county officials say planning for a new building could begin late this year.
The library at 1222 Fourth St. S.E. serves University of Minnesota students and residents of four adjacent neighborhoods: Marcy-Holmes, Como, University and Prospect Park/East River Road.
The current building is widely perceived to be inadequate, even for a library open only three days a week. (Hours are noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.) The building is not accessible for people with disabilities and it lacks parking and necessary interior space.
The county’s 2012 Capital Improvement Program stated that the building has 13,000 gross squire feet, of which only 4,700 are usable as library space for staff and customers. The CIP also stated that planning for a new building should have begun in 2011.
“Since Hennepin County took it over, Southeast keeps moving to the bottom of the list for a new library,” said Melissa Bean, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association.
Kelli Koob, coordinating librarian in the Hennepin County Library’s Capital Projects Office, will be the project manager for a new Southeast Library.
“The Southeast Library has changed its timeline a number of times,” Koob said. “All of our projects have done. That’s the nature of the projects.”
Hennepin County commissioner Peter McLaughlin said the library was threatened with closure until the merger of the city and county libraries in January 2008.
“The Southeast Library was postponed and pushed back in our capital plan because of real pressures on our capital budget,” McLaughlin said in a telephone interview. “The capital budget remains. There is still $12 million set aside for a new Southeast building. Some of it is money from the Minneapolis referendum and the balance is from the county.”
The Southeast Library was one of three buildings—the others were Roosevelt and Webber Park—for which the city had set aside only a modest amount of money at the time of the merger. “We’re not in the business of making crummy libraries,” McLaughlin said.
The referendum approved bonding for construction of the Central Library in downtown Minneapolis and improvements in community libraries.
McLaughlin said he has to defend the $12 million from other interests who charge that may be too much to pay for a small library.
Next, part 2: Design library dreams for Prospect Park.