Wednesday, September 30, 2015

MY FIRST LIBRARY: Hennepin County Library Northeast

At the Hennepin County Library Northeast in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Last week, when I was in Minnesota for the celebration of the East Side Neighborhood Services Centennial, I stopped to visit the recently remodeled Hennepin County Library on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis. When I went inside and checked the computer catalog I was pleased to discover that the library system (including this branch) has many of my books. More than fifty years ago, when I was growing up in Northeast Minneapolis, this was the library that I came to with my family and where I checked out books with my library card. At the checkout desk the librarian would put a card stamped with the due date in the pocket at the front of each book. Two weeks later I would bring back the books and check out more. It was my first library experience. In those days it was called the Central Avenue library and it was part of the Minneapolis Public Library system, now merged with the Hennepin County libraries, and it was in a different building, a large stone structure built in 1915 with funds from Andrew Carnegie.
The Central Avenue Library, Built in 1915
Every Saturday morning my parents would drive us to the library from the Northeast Neighborhood House where we lived. My brothers and I would go downstairs to the children’s room to pick out our books, and our parents would go upstairs where the adult books were shelved. Later, at home we'd gather on the sofa or one of our beds and either my mother or father would read to us. I liked story books such as Madeleine or Curious George. My brother Steve loved trains--which we could see chugging along the tracks on the other side of the park--so his books were usually about locomotives.  Peter liked sports and Tom preferred animals so we always had a variety of subjects to choose from. Even after I learned to read on my own I continued to listen to these "story times."

The library I grew up with was torn down in 1971 and replaced with a modern glass and brick building, which was then remodeled and enlarged in 2011. The old card catalog that I remember thumbing through is long gone and many of the bookshelves have been replaced with tables and computers. But the library is still a place where people from all over the neighborhood come to read and research and on the Saturday morning I visited it was already busy. Long ago the books at the Central Avenue library fed my love of reading and is one of the reasons I grew up to be a writer. I have fond memories of the hours I spent there.

For a brief account of my years in Northeast Minneapolis and my connection to East Side Neighborhood Services, go to my blog page Memories of Northeast Minneapolis. This is the text of the short speech I gave at the 100 year celebration of ESNS.

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