Dinkytown library could renovate or relocate

Plans for a new Southeast Library are in the beginning stages.

Public service assistant Wade Huber re-shelves books at the Southeast Library in Dinkytown on Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Public service assistant Wade Huber re-shelves books at the Southeast Library in Dinkytown on Thursday, April 18, 2013.

Meritte Dahl

 

Hennepin County has taken the first step toward potentially relocating the public library in Dinkytown.

The county is assessing whether to remodel or relocate the Southeast Library, said Hennepin County Capital Projects project manager Kelli Koob. In the fall, the county will discuss the decision with community members after examining the condition of the 50-year-old building.

The library is used mostly by Marcy-Holmes, Como and Prospect Park residents, but about a third of visitors are University students, said librarian Eric Heideman.

 “We’re the only general library on the East Bank,” Heideman said. “We’re known in particular for our science-fiction collection.”

Todd Mulloy of Roseville checked out a few graphic novels Saturday. He said he visits the library every 10 days.

The Southeast Library has more graphic novels than the libraries near his home, Mulloy said.

Materials science graduate student Sam Blass said he requests books from other Minneapolis libraries and picks them up at the Dinkytown location, which is close to his home.

Besides books, the Southeast Library offers a gathering place for students and campus’ surrounding residents.

The library regularly hosts community events and is getting ready to start its summer reading program, Heideman said.

A group of University students came in for knitting sessions several times this past year, he said, and a Mandarin-Chinese conversation circle meets weekly.

The library’s walls regularly feature artwork by students from Marcy Open School and community artists, Heideman said.

“The brick walls seem to go well with just about any kind of artwork,” he said.

The library’s building was designed by Ralph Rapson — who headed the University’s School of Architecture from 1954-84 — as a State Capitol Credit Union office in 1963. Four years later, the building was renovated and opened as the Southeast Library.

Former Dinkytown resident Nick Zabitchuck said he comes to the library to read the paper in a quiet location.

The library doesn’t do a great job of getting non-fiction books anymore, Zabitchuck said. He noticed a change after Hennepin County Library merged with Minneapolis Public Libraries in 2008.

 “It’s kind of a poorly stocked library,” said Seward resident Nicholas Costello.

He said he checks out books at the Southeast Library two to three times a month, and the Internet there is faster than at other libraries in the city, he said.

Hennepin County is forming a group, Friends of the Southeast Library, in the fall to encourage neighborhood involvement with the library. There are similar groups across the county that aid in fundraising and volunteer recruitment for libraries.

University students are encouraged to lend their voice to the relocation discussion.

“Right now, we’re not sure what students are looking for in a public library,” Koob said.

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners approved a $12 million capital budget for remodeling or relocating the library.

The county’s building analysis should be completed by mid- to late summer, Koob said, and a relocation decision will be made in early 2014, following discussions in the fall.

 “The process is really just beginning,” she said.