New Walker Library ready to open, almost

New Walker Library drawing by Shaw-Lindquist Associates Inc.BY ED FELIEN

The new Walker Library should be ready to open sometime in April, some people say, which puts them ahead of schedule.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, like Persephone emerging from the cave and her long hibernation in the underworld, the new Walker Library will rise above ground and be almost transparent.
The $12 million building will feature a façade that will show the books. In the old building the books were hidden underground and the parking was on top (which seemed a little scary to some of the patrons). The new building will have 21 spaces for parking underground and the books upstairs in plain view.
From Southside Pride 2013: “The first Walker Library sits across the street and watches the new construction with amused detachment. Sitting high above Hennepin Avenue, a grand staircase leading to Greek columns supporting an impressive portico, this building said clearly when it was built that it was a temple of learning. Just climbing the steps was meant to be an ennobling meditation. Built in 1911 on land donated by T. B. Walker (yes, the same Walker of Walker Art Center, Walker Church, etc.) who was president of the library board at the time, it was constructed to coincide with the first streetcar line to run from Lake Street to downtown on Hennepin Avenue. The streetcar made it easy for workers to live south of Lake Street and commute to work, and the library was intended to provide cultural enrichment for their leisure time.
“Today, with cable TV and the internet, that notion seems quaint. Although many patrons use Walker for free internet, they still check out a large number of books. In Walker’s last year before closing, 220,538 items were checked out for adults and 71,665 items were checked out for children.
“Of the $12 million cost for the new building, $500,000 will be provided by the city from funds left over from the 2000 referendum, and $11.5 million will be paid by the county.
“It speaks well of our community that even in times of budget crises and government cutbacks on services, there is still a public commitment to provide resources for learning.”

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