Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Peek At The North Branch Library Renovation...

Photos By John Hoff

During last weekend's Art FLOW, I had a chance to check out the renovation-in-progress of the North Branch Library Building, located near the intersection of West Broadway and Emerson Ave. N.

The life and achievements of an amazing woman named Gratia Countryman are inseparable from the library building itself, and so the newly renovated building will be known as "Gratia's Annex." To read all about Gratia Countryman, go to her Wikipedia page, click here.

During Art FLOW, the building was open and...

Some promotional flyers were passed out which were quite informative. Later, I tried to find the material in the flyers online, so I could create a link from this blog post. Apparently, though, that material is not online. Since it's very informative, public spirited and (most importantly) was being freely and publicly distributed, I'm going to just slap the material online so anybody seeking info about the North Branch Library renovation will be able to find it.

Here goes.


By bringing the North Branch Library Building 'back to life,' Emerge Community Development will provide career development (jobs) and technology learning (training) services to residents along the West Broadway corridor in North Minneapolis--an area of our city greatly in need of economic revitalization. In so doing, Emerge will honor the legacy of one of our city's most distinguished public servants--Gratia Countryman, the pioneering director of the Minneapolis public library system from 1904 to 1936.

Thus the Campaign for Gratia's Annex seeks $4.25 million in gifts and subscriptions to preserve a cherished landmark--one on the National Register of Historic Places and one that served as a symbol of learning for residents throughout the area.


Open to the public in 1894, the North Branch Library was the first community library in Minneapolis and one of the first open-shelf libraries in the nation. Situated in the heart of North Minneapolis near the West Broadway and Emerson Avenue intersection, the North Branch Library was a true cornerstone of a once prosperous North Minneapolis community.

Gratia Alta Countryman led the Minneapolis Public Library system from 1904 to 1936 and was known nationally for her pioneering efforts in making the library more accessible and user-friendly to all the city's residents, regardless of age or economic position. During her distinguished 32 years of service, Ms. Countryman provided foreign language materials for immigrants and Braille books for the blind, she launched new branch libraries throughout the city and she set up over 300 other "distributing agencies" including classrooms, factories, businesses, residences for women, orphanages, jails and other institutions.

Under Ms. Countryman's leadership, the North Branch Library flourished, establishing the state's first bookmobile and becoming in her words "a wide-awake institution for the dissemination of ideas."

Endowed by local philanthropists, the North Branch Library predated subsequent Carnegie Foundation supported Minneapolis community libraries by 17 years. The building was designed by Frederick Corser, a renowned Minnesota architect, and constructed as a petite red brick castle in the medieval revival style, complete with turrets and gargoyles. The North Branch Library served as a community melting pot and beacon of hope for 81 years, offering the heritage of the past and the promise of the future.

Then, in 1975, with the building of the "New" North Branch Library near Lowry Avenue, the original North Branch Library closed is doors and was subsequently nominated as a historic building to the National Register.

An Exciting Career Learning and Technology Center

In honor of Gratia Countryman's pioneering work, Emerge Community Development is launching a $4.25 million capital campaign to create Gratia's Annex, a state-of-the-art career learning and technology center that makes career development and technology resources increasingly accessible to North Minneapolis residents in need. This exciting development brings a historic and dormant 3-floor, 13,585 square foot building back to life, helps North Minneapolis residents cross the digital divide and inspires a new generation of Northsiders to pursue careers and discover computer technology.

Uniquely designed spaces that enhance learning and community building including...

FIRST FLOOR includes state-of-the-art technology center with three classroom/learning labs equipped with state-of-the-art multi-media technologies and open access computer kiosks for walk-in visitors.

SECOND FLOOR includes an elegant common space for community gatherings and programming and two multi-use conference rooms with built-in teleconferencing capabilities.

THIRD FLOOR includes office space for a single co-anchor tenant or multiple tenants that provide complementary services to the visiting public.

Programming that promotes skill development in the new digital age

Anchored by the Emerge Community Development's City Skills Training Program which will offer site-based customer career training, Gratia's Annex will engage in numerous partnerships to promote skill building and career development including:

# Software training and certification programs including accredited technology courses in partnership with local universities and technical colleges.

# A wide variety of community technology workshops and trainings facilitated by Emerge and partners such as: certified trainings in Microsoft and other software uses, introductory courses in basic computer fundamentals, progressive courses in programming languages and operating systems.

# School partnerships for day-time educational uses.

# Corporate and service organization partnerships to create a strong volunteer presence.

# Individualized career development and job placement services provided by Emerge.

(End of flyer)

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