The Southeast branch of the Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis’ Dinkytown neighborhood will have a new name when it reopens after renovations are completed in late 2019: the Arvonne Fraser Library.
The Hennepin County Board voted last month to rename the library after Fraser, a longtime leader in women’s rights and a passionate advocate of the local library system.
The last public meeting Fraser attended before she died in August at 92 was about the Southeast Library’s final renovation plans, said Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who sponsored the name change. She and her husband, former Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser, were longtime residents of the city’s southeast neighborhood.
“As a lover of libraries, it seemed appropriate to name this library in her honor,” McLaughlin said at the mid-December County Board meeting. “She was overjoyed about the library’s new plans.”
The Southeast Library, near the University of Minnesota at 1222 SE. 4th St., is undergoing a $11.6 million makeover that will include more space for reading and quiet study, multipurpose rooms and an expanded play-and-learn area for children and families.
The library closed in December for the renovation work and is expected to reopen in 10 to 12 months.
Plans call for increasing natural light with skylights and opening the center of the building by creating a view from the main floor to the lower level. A new canopy and seating will be installed outdoors.
During the time that it’s closed, the library also will receive technology upgrades; new heating, cooling, ventilation and electrical systems; leakage and drainage fixes; and a new fire alarm system, along with other safety and security enhancements.
The building was designed in the brutalist style in the early 1960s by noted architect Ralph Rapson as a credit union for university and state employees. It became a branch of the Minneapolis library system in 1967.
In his resolution renaming the library, McLaughlin noted that Fraser was a fierce proponent of women’s rights and immersed herself in the emerging feminist movement in the 1970s.
She founded the Women’s Equity Action League and served as the director of the Office of Women in Development at the U.S. Agency for International Development and as the U. S. representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
She also worked at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, co-founded the school’s Center on Women and Public Policy and directed the International Women’s Rights Action Watch.
According to McLaughlin’s resolution, Arvonne and Don Fraser created the Anne and Lois Fraser Memorial Fund in honor of two of their daughters to help the Hennepin County Library expand its children’s collection.
Arvonne Fraser also served as chairwoman of the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library. When merger discussions started between the Hennepin and Minneapolis library systems, she used her influence to ensure a smooth transition and expand the hours that libraries would be open.
“This is a fitting recognition for her,” said McLaughlin.