Reinventing The Library

Reinventing The Library

St. Paul’s central library reinvents itself with an emphasis on business training and services.

The nearly century-old George Latimer Central Library in downtown St. Paul is seeing its second renovation since its construction in 1917. While the renovations come less than two decades after the first, the changes are needed to keep up with the digital age.

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, a community membership organization, has raised $1.3 million in private funds for the renovations, which began in October and are expected to make the facility substantially more business-friendly.

The third floor will henceforth be known as the Workforce and Innovation Center. It will include soundproof meeting rooms, study spaces, and audio recording spaces—things that have been requested by library-goers for years, according to Karen Kolb Peterson, public services director for the library.

The workforce and innovation center is intended to provide job seekers, entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelancers with not only a place to work, but also helpful resources.

While plans haven’t been set in stone, the center’s goal is to facilitate job connections, support entrepreneurship and provide access to training and technology by offering computer and business skills training and networking opportunities through guest speakers and “drop-in” learning experiences.

“We’re envisioning a place where people, both business professionals and people looking for jobs, will come to learn, network and use the technology resources we provide,” says Amanda Feist, librarian for the workforce and innovation center.

Those who visit will find a handful of software and online resources including Adobe Creative Suite, access to Lynda.com (a LinkedIn-owned business training tool) and Metrix Learning, a self-education program where individuals can take courses and earn various software certifications.

To provide additional business resources, the center is working on establishing partnerships with local government and community organizations. One partnership it has established is with Springboard for the Arts, a local community development organization that offers a workshop series designed to teach business skills to artists. The center will also provide a small-business workshop series through a partnership with Score, a nonprofit association of business mentors.

“We used to think of ourselves as warehouses for books, but we are quite intentionally making more places for people to learn and work,” Kolb Peterson says. “After all, we are a public library, a place that people support, pay for and visit, and it’s our responsibility to provide what they need.”

The revamped library is slated to reopen in the second half of January.