Celebrating 125 years of operation, the county library system has assembled an exhibit that recalls the past while envisioning the future.
The Hennepin County Libraries will recall their deep-rooted history, celebrate their ongoing success, and look forward to their future endeavors with their summer-long exhibit, "For Use: 125 Years of Library Service in Hennepin County," at the Minneapolis Central Library.
A grand opening program and reception will kick off the event at 7 p.m. Thursday in Pohlad Hall at the Minneapolis Central Library.
The program is built around the theme "The Past, Present and Future of Libraries" and will feature a prominent former library director and the current director. Minnesota Historical Society history player Maureen Trepp will portray Gratia Countryman, library director from 1904 to 1936, in a discussion about the history and evolution of the county's libraries with current library director Lois Langer Thompson. A casual reception will follow the program.
The ongoing exhibit will focus on how library service has evolved over the past 125 years, said Stu Wilson, executive director of the Library Foundation of Hennepin County.
"You might think it would be a progressing of buildings, but it's more about the way library services changed to serve the community," he said.
The exhibit will feature several interactive pieces. A technology table will allow patrons to try out e-readers, while an MP3 station will allow them to listen to oral histories from the library's special collections.
At another station, visitors will be able to answer questions regarding what they value most in the library system and what they would like to see in the future. They will be able to write their answers on cards and slip them into an old-fashioned card catalog.
"It's a way to interact and give us feedback on what they want to see in the library," said Johannah Genett, programming director of Hennepin County Libraries.
The exhibit also will feature a timeline showcasing important moments in the library's history, beginning with the groundbreaking of the Minneapolis Central Library in 1886. A few of the library's most interesting and rare finds will be on display as well.
"You can go at your own pace," Genett said. "You can spend five minutes, or you can spend an hour looking at everything."
"The history is really fascinating and deep and rich," Wilson said. "Being able to celebrate that in this great, relatively new library -- it's sort of an added bonus reflecting the strong service of the library and the support of the community."
The exhibit is free and will run until Sept. 30.
Mara Van Ells is a Minneapolis freelance writer.