All Things Considered

Minneapolis library offers books, but also snacks, socks and a safe space to sleep

A library
The Minneapolis Central Library opened in 2006 at 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.
Courtesy of Warren LeMay

Visit the Minneapolis Central Library over the course of several days and you might notice something different about the place. It has the usual books and research materials you’d find at any library, but as a recent New Yorker article pointed out, this is “not your childhood library.”

What separates this Minneapolis library from the rest is their intensive approach to serving people who are homeless and frequent the library.

“We want to be that point of access for individuals who are not only looking for the best great book to read, they’re also looking for essential human services as well,” said Scott Duimstra, the Hennepin County library director.

One of those social services allows people to sleep in the library during operating hours (Sunday, 12-5 p.m., Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Duimstra says the library changed their policy after they started speaking with the people who walked through their doors.

“There are some very difficult life situations going on out here; some individuals have to stay up throughout the night if they're on the street, because it's unsafe,” said Duimstra. “So we’re one institution where it’s warm, it’s safe, there’s comfortable seating, and if someone comes in and just wants to rest, it seems like a very basic human need for that.”

Duimstra spoke with MPR News host Tom Crann about how the Minneapolis Central Library is serving people beyond their search for a book.

Click play on the audio player above to hear the entire conversation.