Tag Archives: Carnegie Libraries

Thanking those who were the soul of this Carnegie Library

A collection of good books, with a soul to it in the shape of a librarian, becomes a vitalized power among the impulses by which the world goes on to improvement. Justin Winsor

Putting a soul in any building is a worthy challenge.   In the words of founders of the East Side Freedom Library it is “librarians who brought life and commitment to our historic building.”

And it is those librarians who will be celebrated on Tuesday, August 8, 7:00 p.m. at the ESFL as appreciative community members gather remember and “to honor the women and men who have worked in this building.”

The celebration is part of the ESFL celebration of the centennial of the historic Carnegie Library building, once the home of the Arlington Hills Library.  Read more about the history and evolution of the Carnegie Library here:  https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/east-side-freedom-library-gives-new-life-to-carnegie-library-st-paul-neighborhood/

There will be a short program, refreshments and a reunion of library supporters, neighbors, bibliophiles, library lovers and history buffs.  The evening is free and open to all.

The East Side Freedom Library is at 1105 Greenbrier Street, St Paul.  Info@eastsidefreedomlibirary.org   651 230 3294.

 

 

Freedom Rings at East Side Freedom Library!

Robert Frost reminded us that “freedom lies in being bold!” I’m not sure if the stoic New England adoptee ever cheered, but if he did he would lead the cheer for the East Side Freedom Library which just last week celebrated its second year.

In something like the Miracle on Greenbrier Street the power of vision, passion and grit have transformed an abandoned public library building on St. Paul’s East Side. Phoenix-like, the once forlorn Carnegie Library is reborn as the East Side Freedom Library, a beehive of ideas, a hotbed of energy and a community resource of powerful potential.   Much of the impetus and support for ESFL comes from organized labor — Somewhere Andrew Carnegie, whose legacy lives on in the magnificent building, is bemused by the triumph of the “working boys” for whom the library was originally intended.

Some time ago I posted a brief intro to the ESFL. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/east-side-freedom-library-gives-new-life-to-carnegie-library-st-paul-neighborhood/) Though the post is descriptive, it was third hand. At that writing I had not visited – and thus experienced – the vibrant life that’s thriving in the ESFL environment. My recent opportunity to spend an evening with the people of ESFL opens my eyes to the essence of a living dream with seemingly infinite facets and possibilities.

It felt just right that the primary focus of the evening was on stories – the stories of important people and events interpreted and shared by youth – young participants in History Day, a national initiative with which ESFL is closely involved. There were story boards, documentaries, web sites and live presentations, all bearing the unique mark of young scholars exercising their freedom to learn and share – boldly. Elected officials and ESFL founders Peter Rachleff and Beth Cleary shared their vision and a low-key narrative of ESFL to date, with clear and realistic comments on their accomplishments and dreams.

There is much more to learn about this living treasure – a gem that shares its vision with anyone exploring the freedom to learn and engage whenever and wherever.   Locally, ESFL offers a host of ongoing programs including a challenging Summer Book Club that begins mid-June. ESFL also shares with the world online; one of the features last week was unveiling of ESFL’s digital online catalog of the unique resources that line the lofty shelves of the library collection.

The challenge of writing about ESFL is to keep up with what’s brewing inside the elegant library, reborn as the dynamic force it is on St. Paul East Side. ESFL is both a resource and a symbol of freedom to learn for the neighborhood and for the digital universe of which ESFL is a bold citizen.

 

 

 

 

East Side Freedom Library Gives New Life to Carnegie Library & St. Paul Neighborhood

NOTE: Librarian has-been that I am, I regret to admit that I had not followed the creation of the East Side Freedom Library with the attention it richly deserves. Perennial information-sharer that I hope to remain, my intent here is to share some of the story of this community work-in-progress. ESFL thrives as a living legacy that breathes life into the stories of a neighborhood always in flux and of the people who have long shaped — and continue to enhance — this vibrant community.

Browsing a Friends of the Library book sale a few years ago, I picked up a copy of Twelve Branches: A collection of stories gathered from the dozen branches of the St. Paul Public Library published several years ago Friends of SPPL. I was reminded of that little tome when I learned recently of the reincarnation of the Arlington Hills Library on St. Paul’s East Side. It made me think about the subtle presence – the stories, experiences, spirit of a neighborhood that lingers within a library building. The stories survive, even when the bricks and mortar structure that once thrived as a public library is deemed a Digital Age Dinosaur.

The venerable Arlington Hills Branch was a Carnegie Library, constructed in 1918, located to serve the ever-changing flow of immigrant workers who continue to settle – and stay – on St. Paul’s East Side. Library patrons have always been new Americans.   Once they were-Post World War I immigrants from Europe, the immigrants who built the churches and schools, worked on the railroad, and labored in the industries that thrived on the East Side “back in the day. Today’s residents are a mix of immigrant newcomers from Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Central America, poor people seeking jobs and a place to rear their families. (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/building/st-pauls-east-side/)

Once abandoned, the stately Arlington Hills Library building has risen Phoenix-like to preserve and share the stories of the neighbors and the neighborhood – stories that echo in the once-lonely structure while they reflect the ever-evolving vitality of the community.

The Carnegie building now houses the East Side Freedom Library, once a dream, now a reality. ESFL reflects the vision of labor historian Peter Rachleff, his wife theater artist Beth Cleary, and a host of determined colleagues including Macalester and East Side residents.

Readily evident in the library’s fledgling collection are the stories of organized labor, much culled from the personal collection of founder Rachleff. There’s more, however, including selection by and about African American History, especially works by and about W.E.B. DuBois, co-founder of the NAACP, and a mix of fiction and non-fiction that capture the lives of working people, stories of the East Side community. Soon to find their place on ESFL shelves are the Hmong Archives (http://hmongarchives.org), a collection of books and materials that capture the history and lives of the East Side’s more recent residents.

The ESFL also boasts a robust agenda of public programming that draws neighbors to the emerging community gathering place. Rachleff estimates that ESFL hosts public events six days a week. Neighbors gather to explore ideas ranging from this week’s discussion of the papal encyclicals of Pope Francis (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/conversation-on-the-papal-encyclical-on-climate-crisis-july-29/) to next week’s documentary on Minnesota’s best known architectural feature (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/who-built-our-capitol/)

The impressive story of the resurrection and evolution of the library building is told by those far better informed and more articulate than this blogger. My intent is to highlight – and link to – the stories that others have recorded, just in case the reader has somehow missed (as I did) this bit of history unfolding in our own time.

  • The first link is to the East Side Free Library’s impressive website which shares the stories of the library’s evolution and of the East Side community itself.   (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org