Dinkytown library’s fate up in the air

Max Rust

Dinkytown book junkies might need a new place to get their fix.
A recent study analyzing current needs of Minneapolis Public Libraries suggests that a new location be found for the system’s southeast branch, located in Dinkytown at the corner of 13th Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast.
The study is called “Outlook 2010: A Discussion Plan To Improve All Minneapolis Community Libraries.” Though it is only a framework to examine libraries’ needs, many people in the community have already begun voicing their opinions.
The study states that the southeast library suffers from “structural problems,” prompting the need for future renovation or relocation.
The building was converted from a credit union to the present library in 1967. The bricks and concrete that compose the building do not accommodate the wiring necessary for expanded Internet access. The study also mentioned that the location was not suitable for optimum neighborhood use of the library.
The study, which used library-user surveys and data such as book circulation statistics, proposes two ideas for the southeast branch:
ù Option one prefers consolidating the southeast branch with the northeast library branch into a brand-new state-of-the-art facility. This option calls for relocating the combined branches into an economically developed, visible area like the Quarry shopping center in northeast Minneapolis. The estimated cost for the new building is $4.25 million.
Additionally, a “library express” would be created in Dinkytown. This would be a small storefront facility offering Internet access, a small book collection and a place to pick up and drop off books ordered from larger city libraries.
ù The second option suggests refurnishing the current southeast library building by replacing carpet, signs, doors and other fixtures. This plan does not offer an estimated cost.
Although the plans are far from being carved in stone, a group of area residents discussed the plan at a recent Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association meeting. Several attendees, including state Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, expressed opposition to the idea of moving the library to the Quarry area. Most attendees favored keeping it where it is.
Minneapolis Library Board President Diane Hofstede said the board commissioned the study to see how the branch libraries could be improved as plans for a new central library downtown begin to solidify.
“Since we’re working on a new central library and there was an opportunity for perhaps including the neighborhood libraries in the funding package for the central library, we certainly had to look at what options were available and what the costs may be,” Hofstede said.
Though the southeast branch is primarily used by older area residents, many University students use the facility as a place to study.
Jeanette Thompson-Larsen, the southeast branch’s librarian, said many foreign students and immigrants use the library, too. Thompson-Larsen has purchased more video and audio cassette materials on basic grammar and U.S. citizenship to accommodate the needs of recent immigrants.
Other major library patrons are the children at the Heart of the Earth Survival School, located across Fourth Street from the library.
Robin Wetzel, the school’s curriculum director, said the younger students check out children’s books, while older students use the library’s resource materials for projects. The students also use the computer terminals.
“For many of our students, they don’t have computers at home, and so, like many poor kids, they need access to the Internet,” Wetzel said.
If the library were to move, Wetzel said, the school would be “out of luck.”
“We’d have to try and track down a bookmobile or do something else. That is the only library access that we have that’s close by,” Wetzel said.
In coming months, the library board will discuss options and accumulate input from neighbors and businesses in the area before making any decisions.
Hofstede said the board is working to have a library-funding referendum on the ballot in November 2000.
“If we really want to deliver the kinds of services that we think neighborhoods need, it means we have to have an infusion of some capital improvements,” Hofstede said.

Max Rust covers the community and can be reached at [email protected]