St. Paul library turns a new page

The George Latimer Central Library’s $1.03 million upgrades aim to diversify services and help patrons learn new skills.

Elliot and Sylvia look at the puppets on display in the Central Library's Youth Services department on Saturday at George Latimer Central Library in St.Paul. Although a special performance was put on for the grand reopening, Elliot and Sylvia often come on Saturdays for various puppet shows and performances.

Sam Harper

Elliot and Sylvia look at the puppets on display in the Central Library’s Youth Services department on Saturday at George Latimer Central Library in St.Paul. Although a special performance was put on for the grand reopening, Elliot and Sylvia often come on Saturdays for various puppet shows and performances.

Taya Banjac

The nearly century-old George Latimer Central Library in downtown St. Paul reopened Saturday after a more than $1 million facelift, following a recent push to update libraries.
 
 
A 3D printer, recording studios, reservable rooms and new weekly workshops were some of the features unveiled at the grand reopening event. Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, a local nonprofit, funded all of the renovations.
 
 
New updates include a laser engraver, computers with digital editing software, a sewing machine and three sound-proof rooms with an audio-mixing studio. The historic building will now have a space to provide job resources and high-tech equipment to visitors, which won’t be open until later this week.
 
 
“We’re really trying to support maker activities and the development of new creative skills,” said Latimer Community and Digital Services Director Jill Boldenow.
 
 
The library also offers workshops and assistance for people who want to start small businesses or find new jobs, with access to online software tutorials, she said. 
 
 
These skill-based workshops, called “Work of Art,” will be held weekly, with different topics each week, like resume-building and business planning. 
 
 
“I think this is really important for students to be thinking about where their career is going … and this particular space is going to have a lot of expertise, resources and programs to support that,” Boldenow said.
 
 
Study spaces were also added, including meeting rooms for groups to reserve, Boldenow said. She said the library has a new youth area with games and activities for kids and teens as well.
 
 
“It’s just really for all ages. It’s a really dynamic place,” Boldenow said. 
 
 
The University of Minnesota’s library media services offer similar resources for students and faculty to work on multi-media assignments for class or leisure.
 
 
SMART Learning Commons occupy spaces in three University libraries where students can get media production help, peer tutoring and research advice. Students and faculty can also rent video and camera equipment or use computers with digital editing software. 
 
 
“When students need help, they have a place to go, and instructors know they have somebody who they can contact if their students need follow-up support,” said Scott Spicer, head of library media services, adding that he has worked with more than 200 different classes across the University and consults with 10 to 20 classes per semester.
 
 
The Bio-Medical Library staff wants to install a one-button studio to record events like presentations, and the school plans to add a space in Walter Library with a 3D printer, he said. 
 
 
Megan Wachowiak, a recent University of Minnesota industrial engineering graduate, attended Saturday’s reopening and said the new additions at Latimer could potentially benefit students.
 
 
“It’s a nice supplement to what the University has to offer if students want to try something off-campus or live in St. Paul,” she said.
 
 
Spicer said the SMART Commons at the St. Paul campus’ Magrath Library usually has less traffic and didn’t offer project help until last year.  
 
 
He said Magrath staff began offering guidance for students to catch up with the Minneapolis campus’ libraries.
 
 
In the meantime, Spicer said the Latimer Library reopening is promising to give St. Paul residents creative tools. 
 
 
“It’s great to know that the public library has those options,” he said.