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December 3rd, 2009 - An Old Trip To The New Library

Continuing with the catch-up from the Candlewasting move, today we take a little trip down to the library. "The 'new' Minneapolis Downtown Library, that is. The date is March 13, 2007.
I used to have a pact with myself that started when I first moved to Minneapolis and lived downtown, that no matter what the obligations on my birthday (March 12th) be they school, work, life, etc. that I would play hookie and spend at least part of the day riding buses, walking around downtown, and ultimately end up at the downtown library with a camera.

I'm not sure when I got out of this habit, but in 2007, since we finally built our new library  downtown, (the old one was sort of a cross between a public utilities office and a drive-up bank, it had a pneumatic tube system that sent notes everywhere in the building ala 'The Jetsons') that I would go back to my roots and check out the new library in a similar fashion.
These days I can take the train downtown and then ride the buses, or I ride my bike. It's really the way to get around the DT.

I have a map of all the bike racks and lockers, and the train takes us right into the "heart of the beast" as it were, plus you can take your bike on the train and go from there.
The new library, (it's not so new anymore, but it's still new enough to be called the 'new' library for some reason) is actually one of the few modern buildings with architecture that I don't hate.
The inside reminds me a little of the factory in that movie "Monsters Inc.," but it's got a lot of class.
I still can't find the door after I'm in there looking around for a while, however. Somewhat of a sensory overload.
Not all of the offices were completely moved into when I was there that day.
One had this great view of the busy downtown with only a forlorn empty chair to appreciate it.
I expect everything is pretty full now, the last time I visited, I went to a 'Small Business Owners' seminar and the place was jumping.

They have a lot of special public events there, book readings and meetings, educational programs and the like. We still haven't replaced the 'planetarium' that was an icon in the old library though.
It was cheezy, but memorable. Maybe one of these days when we're feeling flush... Hmmm.
Outside, the city rumbles and trundles on, flashing it's steel and glass with all of their glory, as well as eye-catching cardboard "Will work for FOOD" signs.

The owner of this bicycle won't have a problem picking it out of a busy, crowded library bike rack. It seems to have a barbecue grill attached to the front. Owing to the thick fur on the handgrips, it looks as though last night's fare may have been yak meat or the like. Not sure what job they had to perform for that.

Across the street is a nice inner city park with the very thought-provoking
"Positive Mental Attitude Walk".
What mugger would dare take you on there?

All in all, I really enjoyed the new library and my trip back down the streets of our town. There's something about the downtown that defines a city, and Minneapolis and Saint Paul are no exception.
They are two sister cities, but very different downtowns. Maybe next year I'll head over to SP and play hookie.
I can't take the train yet, but I could canoe over and catch a mooring next to the year-round houseboats, barges, and stern-wheelers.
Hmmm. I wonder if the ice will be out by March...

1 comment:

dignature said...

As if on cue, an article about the 'new' Minneapolis library and the recent merger between the Minneapolis system and the Hennipen County system just popped up in the 'paper', the Mpls Star-tribune or "Strib" as it is known around here. It brings out the good, the bad, and the ugly:

Hennepin's 25 suburban libraries, the chart showed, would need $5.7 million over the next few years for maintenance, energy and lighting upgrades. On the other hand, the 16 Minneapolis libraries recently added to the county system were slated for $7.6 million in similar work. And that didn't include another $915,000 for automation system improvements.

In 2000, Minneapolis voters approved a $140 million referendum to build a new Central Library and cover improvements to the system's neighborhood branches.

But the city's libraries were already running a deficit, a situation that dramatically worsened when the state cut aid to cities. Only a year after the downtown library opened, the city's libraries were forced to accept a merger with the far healthier county system.

The merger was rocky almost from the start. Merger costs ran $3.5 million higher than expected, although that was offset somewhat by job cuts and administrative savings. County commissioners, including Opat, wondered whether the city had withheld critical information and if the county had done enough to ferret it out.

Judy Hollander, Hennepin County's property services director, said the county examined the Minneapolis system as much as possible, given the tight timeframe of the merger. Hollander said that city library officials, working with a reduced staff and limited resources, had postponed regular building maintenance in a number of cases.

Minneapolis' libraries are much older than those in the suburbs. The average age of the city libraries is 57 years, versus 29 years for suburban libraries. On average, Minneapolis libraries were last remodeled 15 years ago; in the suburbs, the average length of time is 10 years.

But it wasn't just the city's older buildings that raised eyebrows. The board found out this summer that the three-year-old Minneapolis Central Library hadn't yet been recommissioned -- a process that adjusts a building's mechanical systems for more efficient operation, and that in this case may cost $200,000. Hollander said that some of that cost might be covered by federal stimulus funding.

In other ways, the merger made great progress in 2009, said Sharon Charles, the Hennepin County library services manager. Phones and computers have been standardized, policies and procedures are becoming uniform, and a new strategic plan is in the works.

The proof is in the popularity of the library system's services: By the end of this month, the library projects that 16.7 million items will have been checked out this year. That's the fifth-highest circulation in the country, she said.

Knowledge doesn't come cheap, I guess.