Southeast library will reopen Saturday as newly rennovated and renamed Arvonne Fraser library

City library reopens with hours six days a week

Brooke Sheehy

Arvonne Fraser library in Dinkytown will open its doors to the public for the first time Saturday after more than a year of vacancy. 

The primary architect for the renovation of the library, Todd Grover, said that maintaining University of Minnesota graduate and former head of architecture Ralph Rapson’s brutalist style of modernism was important in preserving the history of the building. Renovations include making the building more open and conducive to studying, but still maintain the signature Rapson features. Hennepin County Library officials said the newly renovated building will be a better study space for students and community members. 

“We have a lot of buildings done by Rapson. We have Roerich Center,  the Cedar Riverside area, and even the Chateau apartment complex,” Grover said. “But [this library] was one of the buildings by [Rapson] that was more of a public building because it is a library.” 

The defining Rapson feature of the library is its concrete waffle slab ceiling that appears to be held up by 16 concrete columns. Between the cement ceiling and walls is a small section of glass wall. The glass appears to be holding up the concrete waffle slab ceiling. 

The original building could not accommodate the people that the county wants to draw into the building, said the Hennepin County Library Project Manager Margaret Woodling. 

Installing an elevator to make the building wheelchair accessible and inclusive to all was a crucial design update for the building, Woodling said. 

The most noticeable renovation is the large rectangular atrium style opening in the center of the main floor. 

Woodling said that the previous the basement was windowless and unused by  patrons or staff. With new atrium style opening that opens main floor to the lower level, the renovated and newly functional basement has access to natural lighting from the three large and 19 small skylights a part of the waffle ceiling on the main floor. 

“Another thing that we looked at we as we were thinking about the floor opening was that when we were upstairs and concrete waffle slide, everyone always looked across it,” Grover said. “But, by putting the floor opening [in  the center of the main floor], people can actually see up at it and it’s kind of a different sense of understanding of the architecture.”

Hennepin County Principle of Communications Specialist Maria Elena Baka said the library will be open six days a week after reopening, as opposed to two to three days of the week before renovations. 

The newly renovated library is named after Minneapolis community activist and University of Minnesota graduate Arvonne Fraser. 

Woodling said Fraser was a friend to Minneapolis public libraries and helped to raise private funds for the libraries, including the Minneapolis Central library in downtown Minneapolis. 

“Arvonne Fraser would be so happy to know that the library will be open six days a week,” Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said. “She was at the last community meeting about the library before renovations started, and the one thing she really wanted was for the library to have more hours.”