Hennepin County Library comeback plan

Bringing people back to the library

Bringing people back to the library

Hennepin County is taking steps to bring people back inside local libraries with their first ‘strategic plan’ in about a decade.

There are 41 libraries in the Hennepin County system, the busiest being the Minneapolis Central Library downtown.

“We had a plan in the past but this one is really much more data-driven,” said Hennepin County’s Interim Library Director Dan Rogan. “We know a lot has changed with COVID and technology, so we wanted to make sure the services we’re providing are still relevant.”

Library visits sharply declined during the pandemic, according to data shared with 5 EYEWITNESS News, dropping from 5.2 million visits per year in 2019 to 1.6 million in 2020.

Last year, visits were up to 2.8 million per year, which is still a 46% decrease from pre-pandemic attendance.

Hennepin County surveyed community members and staff in recent months, receiving about 2,500 responses to help formulate the strategic plan for the library system from 2023 to 2027.

“We’ve seen an overall decline in library card users in Hennepin County and we’re aiming to reverse that. We want to make sure that people feel comfortable coming to the library but also that the services we’re providing are meeting their needs,” Rogan said.

He said the library system offers 3.5 million physical items available for checkout, along with 500,000 digital items.

County-wide, the libraries also ran 3,000 programs last year, including story-time sessions for kids, teen technology centers, and gardening workshops.

They plan to expand successful programs, such as Homework Help, which was available at 12 sites in 2022 but is now expanding to 16 sites.

Library card-holders will also receive free access to Kanopy starting this year, which is a digital streaming platform for movies and shows which can be utilized at the library or at home.

“The other thing our strategic plan really talks about is being that connector. We know people come to us because it’s a safe space, and sometimes they have needs that go outside what the library can provide,” Rogan said.

He noted there will be more opportunities for social workers embedded at the library, resources for job-seekers, and support for staff in emergent situations.

The public will start to see billboards for the library around town as well, along busy roads, inside malls, and at the airport.

According to Hennepin County data, they had 461,000 active library cardholders in 2022.

“We have 1.3 million people in Hennepin County and I would love to see every single one of them have a library card and be using it,” Rogan said. “I believe that when we have more people in the library using our resources, we’re going to be a stronger community together.”