An uncommonly good idea: co-locating library, school, and rec center


As the Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) Committee prepares to make a decision that will affect the future of the Hamline Midway Library, neighbors continue to discuss their hopes and dreams for this important community space. It should surprise no one that opinions differ in this active and engaged community, revealing an opportunity to capture this energy through more expansive engagement.
We are a group of neighbors who are excited about the possibility of a different option than the ones currently offered – one that brings multiple institutions and departments together, co-located on one property, with the shared purpose of supporting and engaging our neighbors, young people, and their families in the Midway. We are asking that this third option (sometimes referred to as co-location) be included alongside the two other proposals – teardown and rebuild or renovate and expand – during any upcoming engagement process to assess the community’s interest.
We are proposing a co-located Hamline Midway Library alongside Hamline Elementary School and Hancock Recreation Center at Snelling and Hubbard Avenues. Because co-location can be understood in different ways, let’s take a moment to define what we’re talking about.
Designing a co-located space requires a clear understanding of and respect for the mission and programming of each partner as well as the types of space required by each to function at their best. Some co-located partners may share an entrance; others may find separate entrances a better fit for their needs. Co-located partners may choose to have some shared amenities and spaces (Hamline Elementary and Hancock Recreation Center use the same gyms, field, and playground) in addition to the spaces unique to their program. Partners in co-located spaces benefit from proactive planning, good communication, and support from institutional leaders to practice thoughtful collaboration and problem-solving.
One of the greatest advantages of this model is that it puts foundational community spaces in close proximity to one another, inviting shared investment, programming partnerships, and the ability to share resources. This large city block – defined by Snelling to the east, Fry to the west, Hubbard to the north, and Englewood to the south – includes green space and room to grow both up and out with amenities that enrich, inspire, and connect our community. Imagine a community garden and kitchen, ample meeting space, an outdoor performance space, and dedicated space for community-supporting organizations to put down roots.
This could become a one-of-a-kind gathering space for our growing and energetic community, bridging generations, welcoming neighbors to learn with and from one another, and making room for hyper-local, community-based programs and initiatives that arise to meet the needs of our Midway neighbors in real-time. Done right, it’s an adaptive space that grows and changes with the community that doesn’t just meet the needs of today, but is prepared to meet the needs of future Midway residents.
We’ve spent a lot of time with this idea and acknowledge the difficulties of such a bold project. It will require institutions and departments to align in harmony, which is not always easy. There is the perennial challenge of funding and, of course, the concern about how to use or sell the current Hamline Midway Library building. These are real concerns and there is no desire to minimize them; there is, however, a commitment to work in real partnership with Saint Paul Public Library to creatively solve these problems and remove any obstacles.
As this process moves forward, we encourage our neighbors to imagine their ideal neighborhood library: What programs and resources does it have? Who is using the space? How is the space serving and growing with the community? What makes it unique to the Midway? Putting this third option alongside the others in a robust and lively engagement process lets all of us –current and future library users –talk it out and discover, together, the future of the Hamline Midway Library.
We have the opportunity to meet this moment with purpose and energy and explore all options. It may be our only chance to do something special like this – something unique in our city that has the power to shape and support our community in truly dynamic ways.
We can do better than the status quo. We can do better than what’s expected. We can do better than what’s easy. We can do all of this if we do it together. Let’s expand the menu, build a bigger table, and invite everyone to it.
For more information, please visit, and to get connected to other neighbors interested in this conversation, please drop us a line at And make your voices heard at the June 14 public CIB hearing about CIB funding recommendations regarding the Hamline Midway Library.


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