With the Eden Prairie branch of the Hennepin County Library scheduled to close this fall for nine months of renovation work, library officials are busy taking suggestions on how to improve it from lots of people — including the Eden Prairie Teen Tech Squad.
“I feel like we’re ready for an update in the library,” said Natalie Wideman, a senior at Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria and member of the squad. “Because so much stuff in school is tech-based. And we need a space that supports that.”
A new spot for teens is one of several features planned for the library, one of the county’s most popular.
Project manager Amy Kennedy Fosseen said the $12 million project will include LED lights, designated quiet areas and improved outdoor seating. Library designers continue to look for good ideas, using surveys and community meetings.
“We always strive for flexibility. Every project, we learn things,” Fosseen said.
The main goal, said Hennepin County Library Division Manager Johannah Genett, is to provide a “clean, inviting, safe space” to visitors.
The system updates its libraries every 12 years on a rotating basis, but Genett said they’re transitioning to a new update schedule based on library usage, community need and the state of the building.
Based on that criteria, the Eden Prairie library is due for a change. Once a grocery store, it’s the sixth most used library of the county system’s 41. In 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, Eden Prairie received 257,153 visits.
Aside from some outdoor additions in 2010, the building, at 565 Prairie Center Dr., hasn’t been seriously renovated since 2004.
At the most recent of two community meetings, held Jan. 24, people said the library needed more bike racks and updated computer software such as high-end editing programs like Adobe Photoshop.
The Teen Tech Squad, which meets at the library every week during the school year, suggested more tables, more outlets to charge devices and an open collaboration space where they can talk freely, Wideman said.
The squad’s members are high schoolers who are employed by the library to teach STEAM skills — science, technology, engineering, art and math — to their peers.
“We’re really trying to promote critical thinking skills,” Wideman said.
Genett said the library can improve itself in small ways too, such as lowering bookshelves so browsers can see all the titles and putting children’s books in bins so kids can see cover illustrations.
Most renovation ideas have come from regular library visitors. Officials are working on ways to get input from people who don’t visit regularly.
“At this point, we have not been successful at seeing that through,” Genett said. “That’s something we really want to look at in the future.”
In the meantime, Genett said, Hennepin County Library is focused on improving conditions for the steady number of patrons it already has.
Fosseen said she hopes to host another community event, as yet unscheduled, before submitting the designs for approval. The library is expected to reopen in summer 2019.
While the library is closed, patrons will be routed to the Hennepin County Library website — www.hclib.org — for resources, and directed to the other nearby branches for assistance.
Emily Allen is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.