NRHP Reference # 75001017
|Location 80-90 4th Street West
Saint Paul, Minnesota|
Architect Electus D. Litchfield; Charles Carroll Soule
Architectural style Renaissance Revival, Other
The Saint Paul Public Library is a library system serving the residents of Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the United States. The library system includes a Central Library, twelve branch locations, and a bookmobile. It is a member of the Metropolitan Library Service Agency, a consortium of eight Twin Cities library systems.
The Saint Paul Public Library traces its beginnings to 1856 when the newly formed Young Men's Christian Association opened a reading room. The following year, both the Saint Paul Library Association and the Mercantile Library Association also were organized. These early efforts all merged in 1863 into the Saint Paul Library Association.
In 1879, under the leadership of Alexander Ramsey, the Library Association proposed that the City accept responsibility for their collections and establish it as a free public library. Finally, on September 7, 1882, the city council approved an appropriation of $5,000 to establish the Saint Paul Public Library. By this date, the collection had grown to include 8,051 books.
In the following years, the Library grew rapidly. As early as 1890, there were calls for the construction of a new building. Instead, in 1900, the Library moved to the old Market Hall, located on Seventh Street. Many civic leaders continued to push for the construction of a new building, but the Library remained in the Market Hall until a fire in 1915 destroyed the entire building, including the Library and most of its collection of 158,000 books. At the time of the fire, construction of the new Central Library was already underway.
Planning for the new Central Library had occurred well before the 1915 fire. Under the leadership of Mayor Lawler in 1909, serious work began on building a new Library. A site was chosen on Rice Park, and in 1910, the Library board began discussing how to raise the $500,000 it was estimated the new building would cost.
By 1912, railroad baron James J. Hill had offered to contribute $700,000 specifically for the construction and endowment of a reference library attached to the public library. Almost simultaneously, $100,000 toward the project was raised through a subscription campaign, $30,000 was received through a bequest from Greenleaf Clark, and the state legislature authorized the sale of $600,000 in bonds for the construction of the new facility. By the fall of 1912, the Library board had hired Charles Soule, a Boston library consultant, to assist in planning the new facility. Ground was broken for Central Library in 1914. Ultimately, the entire building, including the Hill Reference Library, was erected at a cost of approximately $1.5 million.
The Central Library opened in 1917. In that same year, three Carnegie library branches opened -- Arlington Hills Library, Riverview Branch Library, and Saint Anthony Park. All four buildings are still in operation as libraries. The Central Library has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
The library started an extension division in the 1920s provided books for various public schools in Ramsey County outside of Saint Paul. This division became the Ramsey County Library in 1951.
Expansion of the Saint Paul Public Library continued in 1930, when the Hamline and Merriam Park libraries opened. Both branches were made possible by a bequest from the estate of Henry Hale. In the 1970s the Carnegie library began to sink so In 1993, after the demolition of the old building, a new 14,500 square foot Merriam Park library opened in the same location at a cost of $2.7 million.
In 1945 the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library was formed to encourage and stimulate use and support of the library.
The 1950s saw three more branches open: Rice Street in 1952, Highland Park in 1954, and Hayden Heights in 1955. The Highland Park library was remodeled and enlarged in 1975, then closed again for six months in 1995 for further expansion and conjunction to the Hillcrest Recreation Center. Groundbreaking for a new Hayden Heights library commenced on August 23, 1977 across the street from the original location. The new building opened in 1979. In 2002, a new, $3.7 million Rice Street library opened. At 12,300 square feet, it was nearly three times the size of the original building.
The Centre Theater on University Avenue was remodeled and opened as the Lexington branch in 1967 the old theater building served the library from 1967-2006 In 1970, the Sun Ray library opened.
The 21st century saw further changes to the library system. The Central Library closed in October 2000 to undergo a $16 million renovation project and re-opened on October 5, 2002. In 2004, the Dayton's Bluff branch opened in the new Library and Learning Center of Metropolitan State University. Replacing the Lexington branch, the Rondo Community Outreach Library opened in 2006 in a mixed-use facility including 98 housing units. Groundbreaking on a combined library and recreation center in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood took place on July 26, 2012. The new facility replaced the Arlington Hills Library and was dubbed the Arlington Hills Community Center, which opened on May 22, 2014. The Sun Ray and Highland Park locations closed on December 2, 2013, for extensive renovations, and reopened in fall of 2014. The Central Library was renamed "George Latimer Central Library" in honor of the former mayor of Saint Paul on June 10, 2014.
Racial Equity Initiative
In 2014, the library launched the Saint Paul Public Library Racial Equity Initiative in conjunction with the Saint Paul Racial Equity Initiative. The initiative entailed a number of changes in policy, which affected its workforce and services in relation to people of color. The library was recognized as a 2016 innovator by the Urban Libraries Council and was presented with the council's Equity Award in October 2016. To add additional support to the city's initiative, the library launched a "Resources on Race" libguide.