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Reopening of libraries is happy ending to dark chapter

Don’t rush to the library to pick up a copy of Ann Patchett’s “Run.” The bestseller has a waiting list a mile long — or more precisely, 585 readers long (484 people in the Hennepin County system and 101 in Minneapolis, according to the online catalogs).

Better hope those people are fast readers. But here’s a tip: If you run straight over to one of the three Minneapolis library branches that reopened Thursday, you can nab a copy of “Run” and other coveted best-sellers right off the shelf.

After a year of silence, Webber Park, Roosevelt and Southeast are open, and loyal neighborhood library lovers can enjoy a month of choice browsing as a reward for their patience.

“We aren’t allowing holds on the material from the reopened branches for a few weeks, so this would be a good time to stop by,” says Eric Heideman, community librarian at the Southeast branch. “Since we’ve been closed for a year, if something’s in our collection, it’s on our shelf at the moment. People have been meeting with a lot of success with what they are looking for.”

Readers tumble in
The libraries reopened at noon Thursday with little fanfare, although the word clearly got out. At each branch, patrons waited at the doors, peering in the windows well before opening time, and they continued to tumble in from the cold until closing, at 8 p.m.

If anyone worried that people wouldn’t come back after all those months of darkness, the future looks good. In fact, the only thing better than loyal old patrons may be unjaded new ones, and all three branches issued several new library cards on Thursday. May these newcomers never know a shuttered library.

The only reopening glitch was the small matter of the missing key for the Roosevelt branch’s front door. “We didn’t have a key to unlock our door, which we didn’t discover until 11:30 a.m,” says Tanya Depriest, information services area manager. “So we decided to tape the lock shut for the day, which we actually did about 20 minutes to noon. When people saw us do that, they started streaming in early. At noon on the dot, a mom, dad and two kids ran in the door, so excited. People missed their library so much.”

Depriest says that although the fate of the three libraries wasn’t official until Dec. 21, when the Hennepin-Minneapolis merger was officially approved by the library board, the reopening process began in the fall. Staff members were hired, buildings were cleaned, computers were added and collections were updated.

“At one point so many people were coming to the door when they saw activity in the library that we had to tape paper towels over the window in the door. It looked tacky, but we had to get our work done, and we didn’t want to ignore them, or raise hopes,” said Depriest.

But this attention was a good problem. “I was there the night of Dec. 31, 2006, and I was the one who had to stand on a chair and tell everyone that the library was closed. It was the most difficult day of my career,” she says. “Today was the best. Everyone was so happy, it was so exciting.”

Clearly, she’s a reader who likes a happy ending.

What: Celebrate the reopening of Minneapolis library branches with refreshments, music and children’s entertainment. Elected officials will also appear.
When and where: Saturday, Jan. 12
10 a.m. at Roosevelt, 4026 28th Ave. S.
Noon at Southeast, 1222 Fourth St. SE
2 p.m. at Webber Park, 4310 Webber Parkway

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