New Webber Library is open

Photo by Rebecca Branch

Photo by Rebecca Branch

“Welcome to the New Webber Park Library!” These words, spoken by Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins, were sweet indeed to the large group of community members present at the Library Grand Opening on May 18. Many of those in attendance were present at meetings over a decade ago, when Webber Park Library was shuttered for a year. Many were present when the community celebrated its reopening in January 2007, following the merger of the Minneapolis and Hennepin County Library systems. And many were present at countless meetings over the last decade with all of the ups and downs, twists and turns, on that ‘road of hope’ which ended at 4440 Humboldt Ave., on May 18 with those welcoming words spoken by our commissioner.

Higgins stated, “A library is like a garden and this is Camden’s newest garden. It will provide stories, technology and books, so that ideas can grow.” She introduced the featured guests, including former County Commissioner Mark Stenglein, Commissioner Mike Opat, Library Director Lois Langer Thompson, City Council President Barb Johnson and LSE Architects, CEO Mohammed Lawal, and ended her introduction by noting that, “We are all dignitaries here today.”

Hennepin County Library President, Lois Langer Thompson talked about the great and challenging journey to get to this opening day and this splendid facility. “The inside is twice as big as the previous library, but it feels as if it is three times bigger because of the design, which connects the inside to the outside.” Council Pres. Johnson said, “This is a really emotional day. I grew up on 47th and Girard, and the library was a refuge from home with seven kids in a small house.” She gave tribute to Mary Martinson, the founder of the Friends of Webber Park Library (FWPL) and lifelong resident of the community. Martinson was at nearly every meeting regarding the future of Webber Park Library, for over 10 years. Martinson was at the ground breaking ceremony last April, but died from complications of cancer last August. The FWPL purchased two memorial bench plaques to honor her work and commitment to our community.

The final speaker before the ribbon cutting was Mohammed Lawal, CEO of LSE Architects. Lawal said his charge was to design a community library that is visible, flexible, durable, attractive, and fits the specific needs of the community. One way that LSE did this was to utilize a subtle interior z-shape, which connects the parkway to the library, and the library to the community. 724 panels of Cold Springs Granite are in the finished project, a request made by the community to ensure that the new library complimented the Victory Memorial Parkway marker across the street. Large, sound-proof glass panels allow for seeing, but not hearing, the trains and other exterior sounds.

The festivities moved inside and within an hour 500 people had walked through the doors, admiring the amazing new library. Sojourner Truth Family Outreach Manager Anna Gonzalez, was there with student Yareli Menchaca, who already had her arms filled with items she had checked out. One young boy made a beeline to the children’s light table that he had admired through the windows. Chaz Sandifer, community resident and coach from Noir Elite Fitness, admired the soundproof meeting rooms, fully equipped with audiovisual hook-ups and walls that serve as writing tablets. People stood in awe of the collage of recycled tin, by Michael Sweene which transformed old cookie tins into a remarkable expose’ of the past and present neighborhoods of Webber-Camden, with all of its people and wildlife. Others visited with artists, Ta-Coumba Aiken and Christopheraaon Deanes, co-creators of two pieces that grace the entrances to the library. Their works were created to heal and evoke a positive spirit for people, and celebrate the spirit of the neighborhood. Nestled into all three artworks are the people, imaginations and mysteries of our community.

Festivities continued with concerts by the Hopewell Music Cooperative North Orchestra ensemble in the morning, followed by the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation naturalist program and the Hopewell flute choir. Local music students Andre Bronson on piano, Anna Mills-Anderson on violin, and Molly Mills on cello transformed the Victory Room into a musical hall, revealing the superior acoustics of the library. Hopewell singers Caroline Povolny and Shelby Joy Adams performed Flower Duet from Lakme, by Leo Delibes, in perfect pitch and perfectly connected the musical moment to the beautiful exterior grounds of the library and parkway.

Webber Park Library will be open six days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. When you visit you will have access to 23 new computers, three public meeting rooms, 15,415 books, CDs and DVDs, play spaces for children, comfortable reading spaces inside, and beautiful reading areas amidst the pollinator-friendly native gardens outside. Nestled into the collage by Michael Sweene is the piece of a tin that reads: “Your satisfaction with this product is our priority. That’s why we insist upon using only the highest quality ingredients and finest production methods for our . . . products. Enjoy!”  Thanks to LSE Architects and Hennepin County for doing just that.