Hamline Midway Library Update

Dear Friends, 

The City of Saint Paul recently learned that the Hamline Midway Library has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior. This follows appeals to initial rulings by the City’s Historic Preservation Commission and State Historic Preservation Board, and comes despite the City’s own opposition to the designation.  

While we share and appreciate peoples’ value and nostalgia for long-standing spaces like older neighborhood libraries, we are disappointed in this decision. It will mean delays to realizing the City’s vision for its libraries – a vision that prioritizes welcoming, deeply accessible, sustainable, safe, and joyful spaces for learning and connection.  

The Hamline Midway Library is a well-worn, well-used facility that is problematic in many ways. It is a barely accessible space, when our public facilities must be held to standards of deep accessibility. The layout is problematic and constricting for public programs and the contemporary demands for services that reach beyond bookshelves.  

The City has proposed a thoughtful, inspiring new library space for the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, one that honors the library’s history and responds to current and future needs. The design for the new library grew out of direct input from neighbors who participated in wide-ranging community engagement and who are excited by an investment in Hamline Midway’s resilience, despite assertions to the contrary. The City has designated funding for the project and is prepared to begin construction this year.  

While the historic designation does not prevent that vision from being realized, it inevitably delays the project and likely makes it more expensive. And let’s remember that the vision for Hamline Midway Library is one part of a citywide vision for reinvestment in all our libraries – a vision The Friends is fully prepared to help realize through our own fundraising efforts. Deep investment in Hayden Heights and Riverview libraries is planned, as are technology and play-and-learn investments at every branch in our system. Plus, The Friends hopes to build an endowment that will support children and family programming in perpetuity, so that Saint Paul’s children can always reliably look to their library for inspiration, joy, and learning.  

As a Friend, we know you also love and believe in our libraries. We thank you for that, and we will keep you posted about this and other issues affecting Saint Paul Public Library and, therefore, each of us.  

Most sincerely, 

Beth Burns
President, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library