Commissioners Approve 2010 Library Budget

December 15, 2009

Today, Hennepin County Commissioners approved the 2010 budget, totaling $1.6 billion, including $69.1 million for Hennepin County Library operations. The sum is a reduction of $4.7 million, or 6%, from the 2009 budget, however, it does reflect reduced expenses from the completion of certain library merger projects and includes $417,000 in new funds for cultural programming provided by the State Legacy amendment and an additional $1.5 million from ballpark sales tax revenues dedicated to service hours.

The sales tax opened thirteen Hennepin County Libraries on Sundays beginning in June 2008. Thanks to additional ballpark dollars in the 2010 budget, libraries currently under construction in Maple Grove and Plymouth will have expanded hours upon opening and the Central Library in downtown Minneapolis will be opened on Mondays. An announcement of exact start date is forthcoming.

The approved budget also includes $15.4 million for library construction, energy efficiency projects, and other facility upgrades across the county.

Our thanks go to the County Commissioners for continuing their support of the Hennepin County Library, which is seeing record-breaking use in the current challenging economic environment.

Foundation to Begin New Partnership with Friends Groups

October 12, 2009

The Library Foundation of Hennepin County, united with The Friends of Minneapolis Public Library, is pleased to announce that our organization will begin coordinating the independent Library Friends groups in Hennepin County. Library staff currently fill this role. This new model builds on successful practices used elsewhere and provides a foundation for strengthened Library support system-wide and at local levels.

The shift in coordination will be a six-month process. The Foundation will work with the Library and existing Friends groups to ensure a successful transition. Developing branch Friends groups in Minneapolis and strengthening the support of the existing 26 Friends groups will be the Foundation’s first priorities. Anyone interested in learning more about getting involved in a local Friends group in Minneapolis is invited to attend any of the following meetings:

At the meeting, we will clarify the roles of the grassroots Friends groups and the Library Foundation, as well as examine new ways Friends groups can work with the Foundation to support their local libraries. For questions about the Foundation and Friends groups, please contact the Executive Director of the Library Foundation, Stu Wilson, at 612-630-6172 or swilson@hclib.org.

History of Library Support in Hennepin County The stronger relationship between the Library Foundation and Friends groups is the next chapter in a rich history of library support in Hennepin County. On January 1, 2008, the Minneapolis Public Library and the Hennepin County Library systems consolidated into a single, county-wide library system – one of the largest in the country. With forty-one libraries, nationally acclaimed programming, a collection of 5 million items, and substantial online resources, the Hennepin County Library directly serves nearly one-quarter of all Minnesotans.

Prior to the consolidation of the systems, The Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library served as a singular Friends group for all public libraries in Minneapolis, while the Hennepin County Library had a separate Library Foundation and 26 independent Library Friends groups (one for each library location). Following the consolidation, the Library Foundation of Hennepin County and The Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library merged, creating a unified library support organization for all of Hennepin County with 85 years of experience and 5,000 active supporters. The merger brought together the two system-wide, professionally-staffed support organizations, but the 26 volunteer-run Friends groups remained separately coordinated by Library staff. The Library Foundation’s new coordinating role with the independent Friends groups paves the way for greater collaboration and enhanced services for all library supporters, while embracing the individuality of each of our library system’s dynamic libraries and the communities they serve.

Power Meters Added to Library's Green Resources

October 7, 2009

On October 1, 2009, forty nine Power Check Meters became available to Hennepin County Library customers. The meters, provided by Xcel Energy in partnership with Hennepin County, are used to measure home or business energy use and identify ways to reduce utility expenses and live greener. The launch has been incredibly successful. After just one week, the reserve list to borrow a meter has grown to 370 Hennepin County residents.

Read the official press release and learn how to reserve a meter here.

Similar programs at other public libraries have produced tangible results. Individuals borrowing power meters report making better informed appliance purchases and finding new ways to save energy. Hennepin County Library is the first American public library serving more that one million people with a power meter program. It is part of Hennepin County's Cool County Initiative and one component of the many green living resources offered by Hennepin County Library.

Coinciding with the Power Check Meter launch, three Cool County Green Expos bring expert green living advice to Hennepin County Libraries. The Expos are presented by Hennepin County Library, Hennepin County Environmental Services and Property Services, and Xcel Energy. The first, held at the Edina Library, was well attended. Attend one of the upcoming Green Expos:

  • Saturday, Oct. 17, 12 PM - 3 PM at East Lake Library, 2727 East Lake St., Minneapolis

  • Saturday, Nov. 14, 12 PM - 3 PM at Brookdale Library, 6125 Shingle Creek Parkway, Brooklyn Center
Cool County Green Expos are free and open to the public.

Hennepin County Library itself is taking measures to cut energy use. The installation of highly efficient light bulbs, new lighting schedules, improved HVAC systems, and structural improvements are already making a difference. Many new and remodeled libraries feature or will feature green roofs, geothermal heating/cooling systems, daylight-capturing windows, solar panels, and storm water management. The Central Library, completed in 2006, costs approximately $700,000 a year less to operate than the previous Central Library due to green and staff efficiencies - despite being 53,000 square feet larger.

Northeast Renovation Kickoff Event on October 29

September 30, 2009

The Northeast Library (2200 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis), which serves the Audubon Park, Holland, Logan Park, Northeast Park, and Windom Park neighborhoods, closes on October 29, 2009 for extensive renovations. The work will add more computers, expanded children and teen areas, flexible community meeting space, green efficiencies, and a more welcoming facade. Northeast is slated to re-open in 2011.

Celebrate the start of the Northeast project on the final day of operations with fellow library lovers. The "Renovation Kickoff" on October 29 from 6 PM - 8 PM features refreshments, renovation design plans, crafts, and a Family Storytime at 6:30 PM led by Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein.

The renovation is funded through $3.79 million in bonds approved in the 2000 Minneapolis Public Library improvement and construction referendum, which passed by 67%, and $1.45 million from Hennepin County.

Learn more about the Northeast Library renovation, the kickoff event, and the future of library services in northeast Minneapolis from the official press release.

Nokomis Renovation Kickoff Event on September 12

August 18, 2009

A special celebration and open house will be held at the Nokomis Community Library (5100 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis) on September 12, 2009 from 10 AM - 12 PM to mark the library's final day of operations before closing for a substantial renovation. The renovation will rejuvenate this very popular library with an additional 4,300 square feet on the main level, space for classes, programs and community meetings, a larger collection, and new computers. Green features will include geothermal heating and cooling, a rainwater garden, and specialized windows. Nokomis is scheduled to re-open in early 2011.

Read the Hennepin County Library's press release with complete details about the September 12 celebration here. Links to the conceptual design and project updates are found on the Nokomis Library's website.

Brown Appointment Completes Library Board

August 12, 2009

Hennepin County Commissioners unanimously appointed Brandi Brown of Minneapolis to the Hennepin County Library Board today. The appointment gives the Library Board a full complement of eleven members. Other recent appointees are Cassandra (Sandy) Johnson of St. Louis Park, appointed on July 14, and Therese VanBlarcom of Rogers, re-appointed on June 30.

At the meeting, County Commissioners thanked retiring Library Board members Roger Hale and Patricia Izek for their service.

The Hennepin County Library Board determines the Library's collection development policy, engages in long-term planning, establishes operating rules, and advises the County Board of Commissioners on library matters, among other responsibilities. For more information, visit the Library Board online.

Library Wins National Association of Counties Award

August 11, 2009

Hennepin County Library's comprehensive response to the economic recession has been recognized with an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties. Through the expansion of Jobs and Small Business Centers, partnerships with Workforce Centers, foreclosure workshops, and a program called Freedom Ticket that supports individuals released from correctional facilities, the Library is playing an invaluable role in the economic recovery. The commendation concludes: "[Hennepin County Library's] programs and services connect people to the resources they need to make informed decisions and live safe and productive lives. This program’s success illustrates how libraries can be a great resource to assist communities in difficult times."

Click here to read the complete citation.

The programs recognized by the National Association of Counties are in addition to the library's many other resources seeing record breaking use during the recession. Computers, workforce training, expert advice from staff members, and free access to education and meaningful entertainment are just some of the reasons why when the going gets tough, the tough get going to public libraries.

Volunteers Needed for Homework Hub Program

July 21, 2009

The Library is seeking volunteers to provide after-school help for Homework Hub, a program sponsored by the Library Foundation of Hennepin County, serving more than 12,000 students each year. Supervised by professional lead tutors, volunteers will work directly with youth on literacy and homework related projects -- reading, math, history, language arts and more. Volunteers must have some experience with school age children and commit to working at a Homework Hub location: Augsburg Park, Brookdale, Central, East Lake, Franklin, Hopkins, Hosmer, North Regional and Sumner. Applications are being accepted immediately. For more information and to apply as a tutor volunteer click here.

Library Catalogs to Merge in August

July 9, 2009

Beginning on August 27, the Hennepin County Library's two catalogs will be consolidated into a single system, providing patrons greatly improved access to the nation's 12th largest public library collection. The consolidation - a technological feat - is an important step toward integrating resources combined through the merger of the Minneapolis Public Library and Hennepin County Library systems in January 2008. Read the complete press release from the Library.

Star Tribune Reports on Pending Budget Cuts

July 6, 2009

On July 5, the Star Tribune reported on likely 2010 operating budget cuts facing the Hennepin County Library system (Library studies strategies for balancing its books). The cuts, between $3 million and $4 million for 2010, represent a 4% - 5% reduction at a time of record-breaking use. In the first half of 2009, over 8.3 million items were checked out from the Hennepin County Libraries – up 4.5% from the same forty libraries in 2008. Program attendance has surpassed 142,000 for the year and demand for public computers and assistance provided by dedicated librarians is also reaching new highs. Read the Star Tribune article here.

You can be part of the solution by expressing your support for the Library. Also, please consider a tax-deductible gift to the Library Foundation.

Update: Click here to read Executive Director Stu Wilson's Letter to the Editor responding to the article, published in the Star Tribune on July 9.

Library Announces New Lending Policies

June 19, 2009

Effective June 29, lending rules currently in place at our Minneapolis and suburban libraries will be combined to simplify borrowing, lessen confusion and prepare for the consolidation of our two library catalogs in late August. The standard loan period will continue to be 21 days for most items. A Library press release has complete details.

Local Library Support Meetings Scheduled

May 7, 2009

Hennepin County Library, in conjunction with Hennepin County Commissioners, have organized a series of seven community meetings to receive input about local library support. Meetings are scheduled through June, beginning on June 4. A Library press release has complete details and meeting schedule.

Central is the "Best Place to Read a Book"

April 22, 2009

Describing it as a "jewel of a building, right downtown [Minneapolis], and a magical place to read", the City Pages has declared the Central Library as the "Best Place to Read a Book." Click here to read the complete commendation.

Thousands of people agree. Last year, Central Library welcomed about 2,800 visitors per service day. A total of 938,046 items were checked out in the library and by interlibrary loan - that's 388 items per hour. Central Library boasts over 300 public computers, nationally-known programming, meeting rooms, specialized service centers, and a collection exceeding two million items - making it a regional destination. The building, designed by legendary architect Cesar Pelli, opened in May 2006. In March, the American Institute of Architects selected Central as one of the eight best American libraries.

Library Publishes 2008 Report to the Community

April 3, 2009

Hennepin County Library is providing critically needed library services in 2009 on the momentum of a historic previous year.
Hennepin County Library released its 2008 Report to the Community, outlining the previous year's achievements and building a foundation for the future.

In January, the suburban Hennepin County Library merged with the Minneapolis Public Library, forming one of the nation’s largest library systems serving over 1.1 million residents through a network of 41 beloved libraries and online services. Read the full report here.

In a related press release noting the accomplishments of 2008, Commissioner Mike Opat, Chair of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, states: “Clearly, our libraries are a critical resource for Hennepin County residents….Whether folks are seeking help looking for a job, for materials to advance their skills or just for a good book, the library has become a point of refuge."

If Library services are important to you, please consider joining our community of library supporters by making a donation to the Library Foundation of Hennepin County today. Click here to learn more.

Central Library Wins Architecture Award

March 12, 2009

The American Institute of Architects has selected Minneapolis Central Library as one of the best eight North American libraries. The honor is conferred biennially. In a press release, Central Library is hailed as a “vital civic landmark and cultural center for downtown Minneapolis” – which is now an integral part of the Hennepin County Library system. Several trade journals, including Construction and Maintenance have noted the award.

The Central Library, designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, opened on May 20, 2006. At approximately 353,000 square feet, it is the nation’s sixteenth largest public library and an architectural gem. Despite being 18% larger than the last Central Library, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars less to operate thanks to automation systems and green-efficiencies. Thousands of visitors and library customers come to the Library daily, utilizing its collection of some three million items, over 300 public computers, broad programming, and expert staff members.

The building’s construction was made possible by community support through an overwhelmingly successful referendum in 2000 and $15 million capital campaign.

Library Earns Five Stars

February 15, 2009

Hennepin County Library has been awarded five out of five stars for library services and use by the Library Journal. The recognition is based on circulation, visits, program attendance, and internet use per capita from 2006 statistics, first published in November 2008.

Of thirty-two American public libraries with annual budgets exceeding $30 million, Hennepin County Library was one of only five libraries earning the top rating. In Minnesota, a total of eight libraries received star ratings; the Grand Marais Public Library was the only other Minnesota library with five stars.

This is the latest recognition of the long tradition of library excellence found across the county. Read more about the library services index in the Library Journal.

Thompson Appointed Library Director

February 10, 2009

The Library Foundation warmly welcomes Lois Langer Thompson as the new Director of the Hennepin County Library. Today, the County Board of Commissioners officially appointed Thompson to the post, effective February 16, 2009. Thompson, a twenty-year veteran of the library system, became Deputy Director in 2007 and has served as interim director since September 2008. The appointment follows a recommendation made by the Hennepin County Library Board on January 26, 2009.

Accepting the appointment and addressing the goal of being a great library system, Thompson said, “I know that the Library Board, the Library Foundation, the local Friends groups, and certainly the staff are up to the challenge ahead of us.”

Stu Wilson, Executive Director of the Foundation commented, "I am very pleased, on behalf of the Library Foundation of Hennepin County and all of our members and supporters, to welcome Lois Langer Thompson as our new Library Director. Lois brings an unparalleled depth of experience and visionary perspective on libraries to her new role. Under her leadership, I am confident that the Hennepin County Library will have a bright and vibrant future."

Commissioners were scheduled to make appointments to the 11-member Library Board, however the appointments were laid over to a future meeting to allow for additional deliberation. There are forty applicants for two vacancies. Library Board members serve three year terms.

A Hennepin County Library press release is found online. The Star Tribune and Library Journal have both reported on Thompson's appointment.

Library Board Makes Director Recommendation

January 29, 2009

The Hennepin County Library Board has recommended that interim Library Director Lois Langer Thompson be appointed Library Director. At their January 28, 2009 meeting, the Board interviewed both Thompson and Rivkah Sass, current Executive Director of the Omaha Public Library. The Star Tribune has reported on the Board’s action (Hennepin Library Board casts a vote for continuity). Their recommendation will be considered by County Administrator Richard Johnson, who ultimately makes an appointment subject to approval by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners.

The position of Hennepin County Library Director has been vacant since September 12, 2008, when Director Amy Ryan departed to become president of the Boston Public Library.

Library Director Finalists Announced, Public Interviews Scheduled

January 26, 2009

In a recent article (Hennepin officials to look Wednesday at 2 for top library job), the Star Tribune reports on the search for a new Hennepin County Library Director. Two finalists for this position, interim director Lois Langer Thompson and Omaha Public Library Executive Director Rivkah Sass, will be interviewed at the next Hennepin County Library Board meeting. The board meets at the Ridgedale Library (12601 Ridgedale Drive, Minnetonka) at 5:00pm on  Wednesday, January 28. A meeting agenda is found online.

When the economy is down, public library use is up

January 13, 2009 “Now, more than ever, your library card can be your key to world that may have seen out of reach.” Katie Couric, CBS News, December 31, 2008

Americans are increasingly relying on their public libraries, and the media is beginning to take note. NBC News recently described libraries as a “lifeline” for millions during the recession. Minnesota Public Radio attributes growing demand to more patrons seeking low-cost alternatives for learning and meaningful entertainment. A New York Times blog post asks: “…will libraries become more popular than shopping malls as a destination?”

These reports bear out in Hennepin County. Nearly 16.8 million items were checked out in 2008 – more than at any other time in the Hennepin County Library’s 124 year history. Circulation in December 2008 was 7% higher than the previous year. KARE 11’s coverage highlighted rocketing attendance at Hennepin County Library classes where computer skills, career advancement, resume-writing, and small business development are all taught by expert staff members. For many, libraries are both a refuge and a solution.

Update: Media Coverage ContinuesFebruary 3, 2009 News coverage continues on the rising use of public libraries in Hennepin County and around the country.
WCCO Television, Libraries: Cheap, Useful Tool For Job Searchers
CBS Evening News, In Recession, Libraries Are Booming