After nearly a year of renovation work, St. Paul is reopening two of its anchor libraries with expanded areas for kids, more community meeting space and a lot more windows.

On Sunday, the newly dubbed Highland Park Community Center will open its renovated library and recreational facilities to the public with a program featuring speeches, music, presentations by the architects and refreshments.

A similar ceremony kicked off the reopening last weekend of the Sun Ray branch library on the city's East Side.

The cost of the two projects was $13.5 million, with $7 million coming from the city.

Library Director Kit Hadley said that an assessment of library needs in 2011 found that the Highland Park and Sun Ray branches were the libraries most in need of upgrades.

"They're among our most heavily used libraries," she said, adding that Highland Park circulates more materials than any library in the city.

The Highland Park library was built in 1954 and redesigned in 1974. It shares its building with the Hillcrest Recreation Center.

The renovated library is more than 40 percent larger than it was before. The additional space was added without a change in the building's footprint.

Bigger spaces for teens and children emphasize interactive learning, Hadley said. There will be a single service point, combining check-out and reference functions, and more room for community meetings.

"This is really a transformed community center from what it used to be — a library that we wouldn't have called a 21st-century library, and a rec center that didn't connect well," she said.

"This really is a library for the next several decades."

Similar changes were made at Sun Ray, where more space was added for group and individual learning. A new glass wall on the south side created more interior space and allows for more daylight, Hadley said, and a public plaza and outdoor reading garden were added as well.

The Highland Park renovation cost $7.9 million, including $4.75 million in public funding. The Sun Ray project cost $5.5 million, including $2.25 million in public money.

This has been a year of changes for the St. Paul library system. In May, the new Arlington Hills library opened in the Arlington Community Center, and last summer downtown Central Library was named for former Mayor George Latimer.

The Highland Park library, at 1974 Ford Pkwy., will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, with the program scheduled for 2 p.m.

Kevin Duchschere • 651-925-5035