Southeast Library part of citywide closings

A number of Minneapolis libraries are closing because of insufficient funding.

Charley Bruce

Students, employees and library patrons are reacting to news that the Southeast Community Library at Fourth Street Southeast and 13th Avenue Southeast will close in early January due to budget shortfalls.

By a vote of 6-2 Wednesday, the Minneapolis Library Board chose to close the library, along with Roosevelt and Weber Park community libraries, to balance its budget through 2009. But the board stopped short of selling the properties.

As a part of the decision, the newly built, $110 million downtown Central Library will close Mondays and the remaining 12 Minneapolis public libraries will be open five days a week. Southeast Library is currently open only three days and 24 hours each week.

Staff members at the closed libraries will transfer to other locations.

Retaining hope of reopening them with legislative funding, the board chose to not sell the closed libraries.

Kit Hadley, director of the Minneapolis Public Library, said Mayor R.T. Rybak’s one-time offer of $1.1 million will help to mothball the libraries, locking the doors but retaining building ownership.

Southeast Library’s collection will likely stay put, and the board will wait until July 1 to see if the Legislature grants more money to the libraries, she said.

“But we’d have the flexibility to shutter longer than that,” Hadley said.

Hadley said Wednesday’s City Council Ways and Means Committee meeting was the first time council members discussed the libraries’ funding situation.

It was also the first time there was an idea to find permanent funding for the facilities, she said.

“It seems to me our choices have been broadened,” Hadley said.

Board President Anita Duckor called the closings “an enormously heavy decision” at Wednesday’s Library Board meeting.

Not one board member wanted to close any of the libraries, she said, but fiscal responsibility took precedence.

Board member Laura Waterman Wittstock voted against the proposal.

She said people ought to “preserve and conserve what you have because it belongs to the people of the future.”

Eric Heideman, Southeast’s head librarian, said he hopes Southeast’s hiatus will be short.

“I hope someday I will be able to serve Southeast again,” said Heideman, an eight-year employee of the library.

Ward 2 City Council member Cam Gordon, who represents campus and surrounding neighborhoods, said the lopsided vote doesn’t represent the board’s prevote discussion.

Gordon took some solace in the libraries not being sold. He called Minneapolis a wealthy community with money in the Legislature for stadiums but not libraries

“(Libraries) should be the things we should be investing in,” he said.

Gordon said the city is looking at partnering with Hennepin County or private entities.

But he said he would never want to sell library naming rights.

“Keeping libraries public is very important,” Gordon said.

Gordon said partnerships make sense, because libraries are used by people outside of Minneapolis, making the system a regional asset.

Economics senior Aryanti Suhut said she is disappointed to hear Southeast will close, because it serves community members and University students alike.

“It’ll be a big loss for the community,” she said.

Adam Horkey, a Minneapolis Community and Technical College student, said he uses the library to research for his history classes.

“There aren’t very many libraries around,” he said.

After the closings, the nearest Minneapolis public libraries will be at least two miles from Southeast library: the Central Library at 300 Nicollet Mall and the Franklin Community Library at 1314 E. Franklin Ave.