Hennepin County Library Athenaeum Committee Meeting Summary

Minneapolis Central Library, Doty Board Room

June 11, 2008, 4-6 p.m.





Present: Committee Members: Kathleen Lamb, Susan Mackert, Pierce McNally, David Pratt, Amy Ryan, and Cynthia Steinke

Hennepin County Staff: Sharon Charles


Tour of special collections and vault – Special Collections Senior Librarian Heather Lawton

Heather explained to members the Athenaeum collection in the Reister Reading Room and in the vault.


Welcome and Purpose – Committee Chair David Pratt

David Pratt welcomed attendees and stated the purpose for these meetings is the start of a new relationship with the Minneapolis Athenaeum and the Hennepin County Library.  Our goal is to seek ways to move forward that will enhance and benefit our partnership and be of great service to our customers.   


Athenaeum Overview

Information was distributed with background information on Minneapolis Public Library and the Athenaeum.  Included were annual reports from 2001-2003.  Past contracts were written in 1885, which was a 99 year contract and renewed for 50 years in 1984.  The contract was not renewed at the time of the merger.       


Discussion lead by Ms. Mackert and Mr. McNally included their concerns about Athenaeum books sent to Etherington Conservation Services in North Carolina in 2002 without appropriate follow up by Minneapolis Library staff.  The books are still at Etherington Conservation Services and are undergoing conservation and repairs.  The Library has contributed $4500 to the repairs; the Athenaeum has contributed $5300.  The $16,000 to $18,000 balance will be covered by the Athenaeum. 


Ms. Mackert described how Minneapolis Public Library handled administration responsibilities.  Former Athenaeum Librarian Edward Kukla evaluated the collection as interest to scholars into five different levels.  He decided that some collections were better than others, but that a scholar would not come to visit at the level of the Athenaeum collection.  Therefore, the collection should not be hidden from public viewing.  It is extremely important to get the collection into a form for customers to see and touch. Of the 6000 rare books about 5000 items can be viewed without any significant wear and tear. Many things don’t need the vault and can be displayed in the Reister Room.  They are concerned regarding the conservation, preservation, and collection development of the Athenaeum. 


Discussion included potential areas for further discussion:



How have the two entities worked together, including successes and concerns?

Discussion included these ideas:

§         Partnerships in programs and events have been successful.  The Iraqi exhibit was successful with help from the Library with security personnel, volunteers recruited, and brought in 700 new customers who had never been in the building.   

§         Shared staff

§         Facility and space is an opportunity

§         Athenaeum is open to working with Friends and Foundation


How does the Athenaeum support the Library, how does the Library support the Athenaeum?

The Athenaeum raised funds for the capital campaign to support the Minneapolis Central Library construction. The Athenaeum houses their collection at the Library.  They have purchased the books for loan to the special collections at the Library.   


How does the public benefit from an Athenaeum/HCL relationship?  How do Athenaeum members benefit?  Other benefits?

The Athenaeum said they have members who pay dues, receive a newsletter, have access to books, invitation to programs, and put on social functions.  They are building their own Friends.  They solicit for membership at events, hand them materials, and address them for rose scholars.   


What are the shared aspirations and potential for advancing this relationship into the future?

Ideas discussed include the opportunity to market reproductions of their collections.


The Athenaeum would like to reach a younger audience and bring the collection into today.  The relationship with HCL needs to reflect a win/win situation with a huge opportunity for everyone to be successful as they move forward. 


The Athenaeum Board could come to Library Board meetings to talk about the Athenaeum.  The Athenaeum could partner with the Minneapolis Institute for Art as a fundraising opportunity.  They could explore digitizing the Audubon collection.  There are unlimited possibilities.   


Next steps

The Library’s concern is a Property Services issue regarding the building.  The Athenaeum vault door and the temperature/humidity settings are being reviewed by Architectural Alliance.  The county will arrange for this to be completed within the next couple months. 


The memo of understanding will be discussed at an upcoming meeting.  Some of the issues brought up as next steps include insurance and liability, role of Athenaeum with HCL, long term relationships, policies and procedures, governance and HCL liaison, how Athenaeum advances the new HCL mission and vision which is under discussion.  


Next meeting:      

      Wednesday, August 6, 4:00-5:30 p.m., Minneapolis Central Library, Doty Board Room


Marilyn Zastrow, June 11, 2008

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