Southeast Library’s future unclear

The 50-year-old library could relocate after an inspection this fall.

Library volunteer Paul Caspersen organizes shelves at the Southeast Library on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, near Dinkytown. When the inspection results of the building, designed by former University architecture professor Ralph Rapson, become public in the fall, the library could stay in its current location or move to a new neighborhood.

Emily Dunker

Library volunteer Paul Caspersen organizes shelves at the Southeast Library on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, near Dinkytown. When the inspection results of the building, designed by former University architecture professor Ralph Rapson, become public in the fall, the library could stay in its current location or move to a new neighborhood.

Kia Farhang

After serving University of Minnesota students and neighborhood residents for almost 50 years, the Southeast Library’s future is unclear.

The longtime Dinkytown fixture could move or close depending on the results of a building inspection expected in the fall. But some residents say moving the library could cause discontent and conflict between University neighborhoods.

“It’s going to be very divisive among the neighborhoods if it gets moved,” said Southeast Como resident Katie Fournier. “I really think it needs to stay in a central location like Dinkytown.”

Marcy-Holmes residents have talked with developers about possibly putting the library in a housing complex near the current location at the corner of Fourth Street Southeast and 13th Avenue Southeast.

Daniel Oberpriller, president of CPM Property Management, said his company isn’t currently planning any development in the middle of Dinkytown, which is where he thinks the library will stay.

If Oberpriller did develop near the library’s current location, he said he’d consider housing a new one in his building.

“They do want a new home,” Oberpriller said. “That library’s probably not sufficient for them.”

The library’s future is “a hot issue” for the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, said association president Cordelia Pierson.

“We are desperately searching for places to have community gatherings,” she said.

Stacy Sorenson, a neighborhood support specialist who works with Marcy-Holmes and Southeast Como, said she hopes residents will work together to find a location for the library.

“In the ideal world, of course, we’d all love to have a library and a corner store half a block from our house,” she said. “But that’s not the reality.”

Sorenson said she’s never heard of neighborhoods fighting over public
resources before.

After the Hennepin County Library system gets the results of a county building inspection in the fall, they plan to hire a consultant to solicit public input on the library’s future, said communication manager Erica Skinner.

“We don’t have anything certain about the future of the building,” Skinner said. “All of our decisions will be guided by what we learn.”

Southeast Como resident Paul Caspersen, who volunteers at the library for five hours every week, said he thinks it’s the best library in Hennepin County.

Caspersen said the increase in Dinkytown student housing has driven public schools and churches out of the neighborhood because they can’t cater to students, and he’s worried the library is next.

“Every democratic community needs a library,” he said. “This might go, [and] it’s very saddening for me.”

Graphic design student and Prospect Park resident Deidra Anderson said the library is geared more toward community members than students.

“Families come here,” she said.

But Anderson said she still visits the library because she thinks it has a better selection of fiction than University libraries.

Friends of the Southeast Library, a volunteer group dedicated to raising money for the library, is holding its first book sale in September, said Laurie Simenson, a senior librarian for the county system.

Simenson said all but one library in the county has a friends group, and they can raise anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 every year.

“I would say most of the groups are made up of older people,” she said. “All of the groups would love to have more younger people involved.”