(Header taken from one of the bookmarks passed out by Hennepin County Library at the Webber Park Library groundbreaking
The spring weather of 2016 has been fickle, but the chill temperatures and light flurries couldn’t remove the smiles from the faces of those gathered for the groundbreaking of the new Webber Park Library on April 12. Those present had been waiting a long time for this moment as Hennepin County Commissioner Higgins pointed out in her opening remarks stating, “We are here after a merger, a recession, structural failure and we are breaking ground on National Library Week.”
Webber librarian Larry Longard was at the welcome table, along with workers from the Cookie Cart. People were invited to enjoy some drinks and cookies, and were also gifted with bookmarks and pollinator friendly flower seeds, presumably similar to some that will be planted in the gardens around our new library. About 200 came for the event, so the seeds went quickly, ensuring beautiful gardens throughout our community this summer.
Commissioner Higgins hosted the event, introducing the many speakers and public representatives who were present. Commissioner Mike Opat and former Commissioner Mark Stenglein emphasized that we are getting an excellent new facility. Stenglein said, “When I left office, I told Commissioner Opat to make sure this gets done and gets done right. This is a bookend to the Memorial.” Minneapolis Council President Barb Johnson said that in her work as a council member she is proudest of the merger of the two library systems. “The spirit of cooperation and the foresight of those involved have made this possible.” Johnson also reflected on the importance of Webber Park Library in her formative years, noting the many hours she spent at the old library as a child. “It broadened my world. My daughter did the same as me. I hope we have lots and lots of children coming to our new library.”
Park Commissioner Jon Olson talked about the intergovernmental collaboration that took place to make this happen, noting the many new amenities that are coming to our community as a result. “We worked with the county on the Victory Memorial Drive. Wonderful things are happening; we have a new pool, a new memorial and will soon have a new store and library. This is first class. All lives of government being involved to give North Minneapolis first class amenities.” State Representative Joe Mullery commented on the beautiful old structure of the original library. “It held such importance for our community throughout my whole life.” He also noted the bill that went through committee in the state legislature to make the library merger possible. “I made a text record that they had to keep Webber Library. We aren’t just getting a library; we are getting a fantastic library.”
Hennepin County Library Director Lois Langer Thompson said the words that everyone wanted to hear, “When we break ground there is no turning back.” There is no longer any need for apprehension about the dream for a new library becoming a reality. She also expressed gratitude to the many factions who have been involved in the process, giving special thanks to the library advisory committee and the Friends of Webber Park Library. “They have a special place in my heart,” she said. She also commented on the work of LSE, Architects and the advisory committee in the design phase of the library; especially their efforts to engage the community in the design process adding, “This library represents the community.” Commissioner Higgins, reiterated Thompson’s statements adding, “I echo what Lois said about the Friends of Webber Park Library and the community engagement of the LSE architecture team. They listened and listened and listened and they gave us a thoughtful representation of what the community wanted.”
Architect Mohammed Lawal, LSE was the last to speak. After months of planning he has become a familiar and friendly face to the Webber community. In his remarks he thanked the Hennepin County commissioners for their vision, “They would settle for nothing but excellence. I grew up across the street from the Sumner Library on Humboldt Avenue. Sumner was my first library project. Now I’m on Humboldt again and I want to be here in 50 years celebrating the 50th anniversary of this new library. Thanks to the community for coming and sharing. You expressed what you wanted and we put it in. We will have a front porch, outdoor areas and more.” He also thanked his LSE team, Hennepin County facilities services and Hennepin County library staff. “The county prodded and pushed us to give you the best. I will see you in one year for the grand opening.”
The event ended with Commissioner Higgins inviting the community to dig in. “This is a big deal! Enjoy the refreshments. Get some flower seeds – spring will be here soon. It’s time to dig some dirt!”
And that is what happened. Golden shovels were given out, first to the government officials who were present and next to all of the others present who came to be a part of the day. Lots of dirt was thrown in the air. The county and the community are planning for the grand opening of the new Webber Park Library in the spring of 2017 – 10 years after the closing of the library for one year. It should prove to be a celebration indeed. We will have a library and a garden, and yes Cicero, we will be close to having everything we need.