Large-scale renovation finally comes to Southeast Library

A $12 million renovation was approved and looks to include University students in the new facility.

The Southeast Library in Dinkytown, seen on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, is set to be renovated beginning in Summer 2018.

Ellen Schmidt

The Southeast Library in Dinkytown, seen on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, is set to be renovated beginning in Summer 2018.

Maraya King

The underdog of Hennepin County libraries is set to receive a $12 million makeover.

The Southeast Library, on the corner of Fourth Street and 13th Avenue, is set to receive a much-needed makeover nine years after renovation conversations started and 11 years after it was briefly shuttered due to funding issues. The facelift will fix the library’s existing Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility issues and revamp everything from the basement up.

MacDonald and Mack Architects are leading the project along with Quinn Evans Architects, using Hennepin County dollars and existing library funds.

Todd Grover, a lead architect on the project from MacDonald and Mack Architects, said they plan to preserve the building’s brutalist-style exterior.

As for the interior, Grover said they plan to add more floors while maintaining an open layout.

Project Manager for Hennepin County Libraries Peggy Woodling said the library has 22 skylights they hope to utilize in the new design. The library’s new design may also feature a grand staircase, she said.

“There are few, if any, county services that are more beloved than library services,” said Hennepin County District 4 Commissioner Peter McLaughlin.

Grover said the team drew from the community to help find the renovation’s focus.

Community members primarily pushed to ensure the library will be easily accessible for people with disabilities and will expand parking space. Some also wanted improved internet access and a more welcoming environment for students, he said.

Catherine Liska, co-president of the Friends of Southeast Library, said her group wants to work with the University of Minnesota to help students use the space.

“This is a very critical phase for everything we feel is important in this beloved library to be taken into account,” Liska said.

Woodling said the county would like to hold focus groups specifically geared towards students to see how the library could better serve their needs.

Kevin Lian-Anderson, Library Services Manager for Hennepin County, said the library could act as a space for graduate students and professors to meet.

“We do want to regroup and start connecting more than we have been with the University as a whole, as well as with University libraries,” said Lian-Anderson.

The library has been a part of the University’s Dinkytown neighborhood since 1967. The library was designed by world-renowned University architect Ralph Rapson.

Discussions surrounding renovating the library have been ongoing since it reopened in 2008, after being closed the previous two years due to lack of funding.

In 2015, a University professor wrote a report — considered the first step in the library’s renovation — detailing necessary improvements for the library.

Lian-Anderson said the 2008 merger of Minneapolis public libraries and Hennepin County libraries led to tighter funding.

“The money that has slowly been budgeted is now available,” he said. “It’s been in the works for a while now, the community has been waiting.”

Construction on the Southeast Library is expected to wrap up by spring of 2019.

“The people of this community deserve and will cherish this library,” McLaughlin said.