Minneapolis’ Quatrefoil Library is preserving history and fostering community

The library on East Lake Street is not only a source of LGBTQ+ literature and materials, but is also a gathering place for the Twin Cities queer community.

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Alice Bennett

Claude Peck, President of the Quatrefoil Library in Minneapolis.

Macy Harder

With a collection of over 15,000 books, the shelves of Quatrefoil Library are rich in history and queer culture spanning decades.

But its legacy does not stop there.

Since Quatrefoil opened in 1986, the library has offered a variety of LGBTQ materials in an effort to protect these stories from erasure. As its collection expanded over the years, so did the library’s impact. Today, Quatrefoil operates as a gathering space for the Twin Cities LGBTQ community, bringing people together in a place where everyone is welcome.

Quatrefoil moved to its East Lake Street location in 2013 where it remains today. All of the books available are queer-focused, written by LGBTQ authors, or in many cases, both. The library offers a rich assortment for readers of all genres, with ever-expanding sections of both nonfiction and fiction materials.

Quatrefoil is gearing up for its annual Pride Book Sale. The library will have tents at the Twin Cities Pride Festival on July 17-18, where festivalgoers can purchase T-shirts, buttons, and of course, some great LGBTQ reads.

Claude Peck is a writer and former Star Tribune arts and news editor. After serving on the library’s Board of Directors for five years, Peck took on the role of Quatrefoil’s president in January 2021.

Peck explained that in recent years the library has been focused on expanding into a community center.

“We’re also a crossroads for ideas and events, and for people who are thoughtful and people who have things to say and argue about,” he said.

Quatrefoil encourages conversation and connection by hosting various queer book clubs, poetry readings, book launches, panel discussions, game nights and more.

The combination of being a library and a place that brings the community together through activities is what makes Quatrefoil unique.

“Our events are often tailored to the crowd that might not come in here on a typical Saturday afternoon to check out a book,” he said. “I think it’s kind of a patchwork of wonderful things that people can do with this community.”

Paul Kaefer discovered Quatrefoil at a Pride event in 2016, shortly after moving to the Twin Cities. He said he and his partner “had no idea this kind of thing existed,” and that they thought the library was a “really cool place.”

Kaefer started volunteering with Quatrefoil in January 2017, and joined the Board of Directors in September of that year. Today, he serves as one of Quatrefoil’s vice presidents, and having an LGBTQ-specific library helped him find community. In fact, he said that many of his LGBTQ friends are people he met through the library.

“I came out as gay during college… but I didn’t feel like I had a big support network,” Kaefer said. “Until finding Quatrefoil, it felt more like I had to seek it out. I had to meet people individually, or have a friend who had a friend that I could become friends with.”

Kaefer also said it’s important that LGBTQ places exist for queer people of varying interests.

“[The] gay community exists outside of bars. I’ve definitely met more bookish people who would totally love to go to a book launch instead of going out partying,” he said. “That’s not everybody’s thing, so it’s cool to have a place that’s about preserving, collecting and sharing literature and history.”

David Lenander studied English at the University of Minnesota and worked at the University’s Health Sciences Library for over 30 years. He’s a member of the North Country Gaylaxians, a book club that meets monthly at Quatrefoil to discuss LGBTQ science fiction, horror and fantasy literature.

For Lenander, the library’s mission to preserve queer stories and make them available to others is a celebration of history.

“You don’t want to celebrate the awful things, but you want to celebrate the progress we’ve made,” Lenander said. “I hope that we can learn from history and do better, and I hope we can celebrate literature and poetry and all those things.”

The library introduced free membership on June 1 as a way to reduce barriers to patronage and make their materials accessible to all. “Q cards” are available for no charge, and upon signing up, members can check out Quatrefoil’s books, DVDs and other items.

Peck said he hopes this change will help young people and those on a tight budget who still want to use the library.

“Our idea was to just say everyone’s welcome,” Peck said. “We welcome and invite your patronage, and we want you to get involved.”