After nearly 50 years serving south Lake Minnetonka communities, Excelsior’s library is closing this weekend to make way for a new Hennepin County Library.

The new $5.6 million library opens Sept. 13 — a project that’s been years in the making for residents in Excelsior, Shorewood, Tonka Bay, Deephaven and Greenwood.

The new, 7,600-square-foot brick building is located only a block away from the current one, but it will be more than twice the size of the 3,700-square-foot, 1960s-era library, adding more public meeting rooms, public art, updated computers and an outdoor reading space.

“It becomes more of a gathering space for the community,” said Peggy Bauer, an Excelsior resident and the library’s senior librarian. “We just needed more space. Business has increased in the almost 50 years since the library opened.”

Of Hennepin County’s 41 libraries, Excelsior is one of several west metro libraries getting makeovers. In St. Louis Park, the library is closed until Aug. 30 for upgrades including new carpet, furniture and meeting rooms. And in Maple Plain, the library reopened in June after getting new carpet, seating, study tables, shelving and book bins as part of a five-week renovation.

“It’s a big system and it’s well used,” said County Commissioner Jan Callison, who represents the Lake Minnetonka region. “People are very excited about this next building.”

It’s been years in the making in Excelsior.

The five south Lake Minnetonka cities first started talking about updating the city-owned building in 2004 but couldn’t agree on funding. Then the Excelsior library was among the ones Hennepin County decided to update. Although the initial designs were similar to other modern glass-and-steel designed libraries in Plymouth, Maple Grove, Roseville and Maplewood, Excelsior residents said the modern look didn’t fit the town’s historic character.

The city and county finally reached an agreement on a brick building and now, a year after breaking ground on the project, the new county-funded library is nearing the grand opening — one of several new projects in the lakeside town.

“It’s going to add to the vitality of the community,” Callison said, adding that the old library was undersized and substandard. “The community has been waiting a long time.”

Added space, programs

Linda Kane, the building project manager, said construction has remained on schedule throughout the project. Since work is finished on the new building, she said crews will do finishing touches and add furniture and books over the next few weeks.

The library’s extra space will be able to host more meetings, programs and events such as family crafts and author visits, Bauer said. It will also have more materials and new technology, helping meet growing demand for everything from books and e-books to computers and early literacy resources.

“Hennepin County is really dedicated to keeping services comparable across the county,” she said.

The library also expects to see more cyclists and pedestrians since the new library is located next to the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail.

A block away, the town’s library since 1965 will shut down at 5 p.m. Aug. 16. During the four-week gap before the new one opens, residents can go to libraries in Minnetonka (17524 Excelsior Blvd. or 12601 Ridgedale Drive) and Wayzata (620 Rice St.).

But even Excelsior’s old library may get a new life. The city is interviewing architect firms Sept. 8 to draft plans for possibly turning the building into a new City Hall.