Hamline Midway Library will close beginning May 28
Hamline Midway Library will close to the public beginning May 28, 2023 for decommissioning of the existing library building as the process of building a new library continues.
Starting May 15, Hamline Midway will no longer be listed as an option to when choosing a location to pick up your holds.
- You may check out and return materials to Hamline Midway through Saturday, May 27.
- Once the library building is closed, SPPL will begin moving all books and materials into storage and removing furniture, equipment, and other materials. This is anticipated to take several months. Construction is slated to begin in fall 2023 and is expected to take up to 18 months.
SPPL invites community members to check out books, DVDs, and more from Hamline Midway Library shelves and keep them for the duration of construction and return them to the shelves once the new library building is open.
Alternative libraries near you:
SPPL welcomes library users to visit one of the 12 other Saint Paul Public Library locations. Nearby locations include:
Merriam Park (1.6 mi)
Rondo Community (2.5 mi)
Saint Anthony Park (2.6 mi)
Rice Street (3.6 mi)
Starting May 15, Hamline Midway will no longer be an option to select when choosing a location to pick up your holds.
Visit the Holds page in your account to change the pick-up location for your current holds. If you do not change the pick-up location, holds will be held for you at the Rondo Community Library.
Hold lockers are available at nearby Rondo Community, Rice Street, and George Latimer Central libraries.
The Bookmobile will continue to make stops in the Hamline Midway neighborhood, including at Hamline Hi-Rise, Victoria/West Nevada, Lyngblomsten senior residence, and a new weekly stop at Hamline Hancock Rec. See schedule for more information.
News and Updates
Hamline Midway - Frequently Asked Questions
Despite objections from the City, Hamline Midway Library was listed to the National Register of Historic Places after being nominated by a community member. The listing does not prohibit the City from building a new library building. The City is participating in the processes required for buildings listed to the National Register of Historic Places, which includes an environmental review process with the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board to ensure all environmental impacts were considered as part of the design process for a new library. The City is also participating consultation process with the State Historic Preservation Office. These activities will happen alongside the decommissioning of the building.
Once construction of a new Hamline Midway Library begins, it is expected to take up to 18 months. Construction is anticipated to begin in fall 2023.
While Hamline Midway is closed, SPPL welcomes library users to visit one of the 12 other Saint Paul Public Library locations. Nearby locations include Saint Anthony Park, Merriam Park, Rice Street, and Rondo libraries. Additionally, the Bookmobile will continue to make stops in the Hamline Midway neighborhood, including at Hamline Hi-Rise, Victoria/West Nevada, Lyngblomsten senior residence, and a new weekly stop at Hamline Hancock Rec.
Materials placed on hold can be directed to any library location. Hold lockers are available at nearby Rondo, Rice Street, and George Latimer Central libraries.
The staff members working at Hamline Midway Library prior to its closing will take on new assignments at one of Saint Paul Public Library’s other 12 libraries across Saint Paul. If possible, they will be working at one of the libraries nearby where Hamline Midway Library users my visit while the library is closed for construction.
The city has made a commitment of $8.1 million in CIB funds for Hamline Midway Library, and both options that were presented were designed to fit within the $8.1 million budget.
The 8.1 million in CIB funds for the Hamline Library covers the cost of a building that meets the Library’s goals. The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library are completing a feasibility study to understand the amount they may be able to raise for system-wide capital investments. These funds will go toward much needed renovations of Hayden Heights and Riverview Libraries, as well as toward system-wide investments for Play & Learn spaces and upgrading our technology, especially in public meeting areas.
Overall, sustainability of the new building is an extremely important feature of these projects. Given the community’s and the City’s desire to have a larger, more accessible library, the City believes that a new building is the most sustainable option available that also meets the programmatic needs and goals of the community.
It is not viable for the existing Hamline Midway Library building, even after a potential renovation, to meet B3 Sustainable Building 2030 (SB 2030) Energy Standard and the City of Saint Paul’s Sustainable Building Ordinance.
Embodied carbon of buildings
“Embodied carbon” refers to the carbon emissions created to extract, manufacture, and transport the materials used in the construction of a building. In the case of wood or other carbon-based building materials, the carbon is literally sequestered in the building for however long it stands. Building a new building rather than re-using an existing building means that new greenhouse gas emissions are created in the extraction, manufacture, and transporting of the new materials.
Importantly, however, and particularly in a relatively small building, it is generally the case that more than 50% of the embodied carbon is in the foundation, as foundations are generally made of concrete and concrete is very carbon intensive. The existing Hamline Midway Library building’s foundation is in bad shape and needs to be at least partially replaced regardless of whether the above-ground portion of the building is renovated or demolished and rebuilt. Given that at least a partial new foundation is required to update the HVAC system, a significant amount of carbon emissions will go into any option for improving this library.
It is also important to note that the City plans to re-use many of the current building’s materials in the new building, including the iconic entry archway and as many of the bricks as possible. Many of the other materials in the building will not go to landfills, including any amount of demolished concrete foundation which would get recycled into aggregate that is used in roadbeds and other similar functions. This recaptures much of the embedded carbon lost in the construction process.
Building operations and carbon emissions
The current building has stood for about 90 years. If we expect a new library to last as long or even longer, then a very significant amount of the building’s overall carbon footprint will come from the energy used to power, heat, and cool the building each year. The current building wastes a lot of energy because the old walls and roof are poorly insulated, and the structure does not allow for a way to easily insulate the building well. One of the few available methods for better insulating walls (that do not have sufficient cavity space to fill with insultation) is to build an additional wall/envelope all the way around the building. This is most done on the exterior of a building, which in this case would hide or encase the old building. The building is not insulated, and it would be cost-prohibitive and destructive to the interior features to insulate it. Uninsulated walls significantly hinder energy performance for the life of the building.
The building envelope (walls, roof, and foundation) of a new library can and will be built to a very high energy efficiency standard, dramatically reducing the energy needed to heat and cool the building on a per square foot basis. In addition, The City aims to use very efficient electric heat pump technology and to not use any natural gas to heat the building. An all-electric building can be heated and cooled using carbon-free electricity. Electric heat pump technology is not sufficient in a cold climate like ours unless the buildings is very well insulated.
While Xcel’s electricity fuel mix is about 55% carbon free today, they have committed to reach 85% carbon free electricity by 2030. If the City chooses, we could spend slightly more on the electricity bill to buy 100% renewable and clean wind power. A new, larger roof will create the opportunity for on-site solar power to be considered as well.
Sustainability and transportation to the building
A larger facility with a more accessible and functional layout will serve more community members both better and closer to home. The City learned through the community engagement process that some community members currently travel longer distances to go to other library branches where the accessibility, services, and spaces better meet their needs. This extra movement creates additional carbon emissions through the use of fuels for cars, buses, and light rail trains
The Saint Paul Public Library strives for maximum, equitable accessibility. We want to welcome all patrons through the same pathway and front entrance, not make people who are unable to navigate stairs enter SPPL buildings through a back or side door or require them to go on a longer, separate, exposed path to enter the front door.
The user impact of different entrance paths affects people with mobility challenges every time they use the library, particularly felt based on weather. On rainy days, icy days, and days of extreme heat, people with mobility challenges would need to navigate a long and winding path verses a short, direct route to enter. This is not acceptable or equitable accessibility in a public facility, particularly a public library where access – to space, information, and resources – is central to the overall public mission.
At Saint Paul Public Library we seek to go beyond meeting minimum accommodation requirements (which, as history shows, are likely to become outdated as ADA changes over time) in order to deliver public facilities that have the needs of people with mobility challenges at the center of design. This will ensure maximum accessibility and a public library that all can be used with dignity and ease.
Riverview Library in Saint Paul’s West Side neighborhood is a Carnegie Library and is designated as a historical building.
Despite the City’s objection, Hamline Midway Library has been listed to the National Register of Historic Places after being nominated by a community member.
Hayden Heights Library does not have historical designation.
Libraries serve people. With our investments in library buildings, we prioritize the needs and desires that community members have for their library spaces. As a library, we seek to serve the most people accessibly, safely, and in a building suited for future generations that honors and incorporates history.
All funding proposals submitted to the Capital Investment Budget (CIB) committee must include relevant information from the City's Adopted Comprehensive Plan and other relevant City-approved plans as part of the City's Capital Investment Planning process. This information was included for the Hamline Midway, Hayden Heights, and Riverview Library proposals and is part of the CIB record.
The City’s Capital Investment Budget (CIB) Committee reviewed and approved project funding to fully explore options for expanding Hamline Midway’s library at this site.
Plans for a new library building are in alignment with City values and priorities that inform the City’s Comprehensive Plan, the City’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan, the Saint Paul Public Library’s Strategic Direction and Facilities Direction plans, and are supported by the professionals at LSE Architects, the City of Saint Paul’s real estate design and construction division, Mayor Carter, Ward 4 Councilmember Mitra Jalali and the majority of City Councilmembers, and many community members. The City’s Comprehensive Plan Policy HP-16 addresses the balance of preservation and new construction. In this case, the analysis supports new development.
SPPL plans to replace the current library with a new library that will offer today’s residents the same features residents in 1930 sought when they advocated for this branch to be established: a modern, adequate, large library. We are committed to incorporating elements of the history into a new building while also reflecting all the communities that call Saint Paul home today, including Dakota people who are the original residents of this land.
Library Size and Floor Plan
Hamline Midway Library is currently one of the smallest of the City’s 13 library locations. Maintaining all or part of the existing structure severely limits how many square feet can be added to meet current and future library needs. Much of the existing basement is not usable public space and library staff members have to mediate access to the bathrooms, platform lift, and community room.
There have been several extensive Hamline Midway Library building and systems condition assessments, including studies by AMERESCO in 2016, HGA architects engaged to develop the Library’s Facility Direction in 2019, LSE architects engaged in 2021, and ongoing maintenance support from the City’s Office of Financial Services, Real Estate and Design Division.
HGA’s report included the summary note, “This building is in bad shape.” The list of items rated as “inadequate” included: every aspect of staff workroom space, service desk, visibility, ADA accessibility, building footprint, expandability, and more.
After repeated investments and attempted repairs to remedy water infiltration in the auditorium – the location’s only community meeting space – the City commissioned a water infiltration study in 2020 and implemented $30,000 in repairs and remediation to windows, brick and paving above grade. These measures were not effective. The next step recommended by the study would be to excavate the north and west sides of the building to waterproof the foundation and install a drainage system.
In 2022, LSE conducted additional building assessments. Their findings included:
- The building does not have fire sprinklers.
- Main entry is not accessible, and the accessible entrance is not obvious from the entry or visible from the street.
- The accessible entrance does not have any supervision from staffed areas and requires taking an elevator from the lower level to the main level or a lift into the community room.
- Lower-level hallways are not accessible and inadequate as public spaces. The hallway from accessible entry to toilets is too narrow for passing, and hallway behind stage is a dead-end corridor not visible from any other spaces and could allow someone to hide or trap someone.
- Stairs are not visible to any public spaces and there is a recess at the bottom of the stairs that could provide a space for someone to hide.
- Toilets are not in an area that is visible by staff. Currently the toilets require a key from staff to be used and have a record of safety and security incidents.
- The accessible entrance is not the main entrance and is significantly inferior to the entry stairs. The accessible entrance leads into the lower level and requires an elevator to a drop off at the back corner of the main reading room where the main entry is visible from the street and enters into the center of the main reading room.
- A significant portion of the lower level is not accessible including the stage in the community room. The community room was made partially accessible by the addition of a lift; however, the lift is slow and requires operation by a staff member. To have a staff member operate the lift, a patron in a wheelchair would need to take the elevator up to the main level, speak with a staff member, take elevator back to lower level, then take a slow lift into the community room.
- A patron in a wheelchair needs at least two elevator rides to use the bathroom since the toilet rooms are locked on the lower level and require a key on the upper level.
- The staff breakroom and staff toilet are not accessible and would make employing a staff member in a wheelchair difficult.
- Lack of ventilation and significant water infiltration in the community room and the lower level has contributed to significantly worse air quality in these public and staff areas that could be unsafe for people with respiratory health concerns.
Lack of distinct children, teen, and adult areas make congregating in the library uninviting to many community members, especially those engaged in small group activities.
Hamline Midway was the only library in Saint Paul where the interior was closed to the public for more than one year during the COVID-19 pandemic due to its outdated HVAC system, which does not supply ventilation air to the occupied spaces. Perimeter unit ventilators recirculate interior air, increasing the safety risks for occupants during a respiratory pandemic. The situation is currently remediated with HEPA filter fan units, which improve safety but operate at a volume that can make it difficult to hear. Installing a new HVAC system would require a new addition that would increase floor to floor height on the lower level to allow for mechanical space.
Several modifications have been made to the original 1930 building including front staircase, service desk, entrance foyer, windows, roof, minimal accessibility (back entrance/elevator/lift), light fixtures, water-proofing attempts, plaster repair, boilers, and more.
For the full description of recent building assessment findings, including diagrams of interior and exterior issues, please see the Hamline Midway Library Pre-Design Report prepared by LSE Architects, May 13, 2022
Over the past 5 years, the City has spent at least $400,000 on repairs and maintenance at this library – none of those dollars significantly improving the accessibility or function of this building for staff and library users. Exposed rebar and spalling concrete, illustrate the significant structural deficiencies in the existing foundation.
Based on community input that was received in 2021, the Library advanced a proposal submitted to the City’s Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) committee for $8.1M in investment for the Hamline Midway Library through the City’s 2022/23 Capital Investment Budget (CIB) process that would support a new building on the same site or a renovation plus expansion. Recommended by the committee for funding, Mayor Carter proposed and City Council approved an $8.1 million investment in Hamline Midway Library. The Library began to work with community and LSE Architects in late 2021 to dig into possibilities for an amended set of two options: new building or renovation and expansion.
The decision on which direction to pursue for how to transform Hamline Midway Library was made by City administration in May 2022. It was based upon community input, building assessments, project budget, and Saint Paul strategic goals for libraries, sustainability, equity and inclusion, and fiscal responsibility. From there, LSE focused on a rebuild for more detailed schematic design
SPPL and its design partners considered other options, including renovation/addition on site, adding another level to existing building, co-location off-site, and acquiring additional property. These options were determined to be not viable financially, operationally, or because they did not result in a library that meets community needs.
We have an opportunity to honor and continue the historic legacy of neighbors’ desire for a modern, adequate library at 1558 Minnehaha Ave. while designing a fully accessible building that is safe, inviting, affirming, and comfortable for people of all cultures, abilities, and communities. We seek to build a library that incorporates elements of the past while not having access to public spaces, resources, and services constricted by it.
A city that works for all needs libraries that work for all. The 1930 Hamline Midway Library was not built to work for everyone. The dark underbelly of this historic legacy is one of racial supremacy in which white settlers moved from East to West to obtain cheap land through treaties with Indigenous tribes, and to subsequently profit off those exploitive deals. Now, in 2022, amidst a racial reckoning in this country – including civil unrest and protests for racial justice in the very neighborhood where this library stands – we at Saint Paul Public Library do not concur that this trend in our country’s history is one to further honor and memorialize through designation of this building on the historic register.
Saint Paul Public Library buildings are public buildings and the Saint Paul Public Library is the legal property owner of the Hamline Midway Library according to Ramsey County Property Tax Records.