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Hennepin County Library Administrative Subject Files

Identifier: HCL 077

Description of Contents

This collection contains memoranda, budgets, policy proposals and reviews, building information, program and event files, correspondence, evaluations, workshop materials, legal opinions, and other administrative records created and compiled by Hennepin County Library administration from 1922 to 2010. Bulk of the collection is from 1970s-1990s.

Some of the significant topics represented in these files are discussions and decisions about revenue sources (e.g., fines, fee programs, rentals), materials collection policy, participation in regional library associations, grants and awards, and a collection of the library’s cataloging newsletter begun by Sanford “Sandy” Berman in 1973, including working papers used to compile most issues.

Materials are largely textual, comprising correspondence, memoranda, minutes and agendas, financial and legal material, newspaper clippings, publications, blueprints, maps, brochures and pamphlets, and related printed matter. Among other formats scattered throughout the collection are audiotapes, and external storage media (e.g., floppy disks).


  • 1922 - 2010



The collection is available for use in Special Collections during the department's open hours.


Hennepin County Library (HCL) was established in 1922 to provide services to suburban and rural areas of the county outside the City of Minneapolis. Founded by Minneapolis Public Library Director Gratia Countryman, the library began as a bookmobile delivering books to homes, schools, and community centers. The library initially housed its collection at the Minneapolis Public Library (MPL), though local residents in places such as Champlin, Wayzata, and Osseo soon arranged for library space in their communities, with staff and books funded by Hennepin County.

Expansion continued, with setbacks, throughout the Depression era and World War II, and by 1952 had grown to 24 libraries. Circulation surpassed one million for the first time by the end of the decade, demonstrating increasing demand and leading to the construction of dozens of new community and reference libraries in the 1960s and 1970s.

Shortly after the failure of a merger proposal between HCL and MPL in 1971, HCL administrative staff moved from offices at the downtown Minneapolis Public Library into the newly constructed office space adjoining Southdale Library. Around the same time, the creation of the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA) regional library system, provided reciprocal borrowing and return not only between HCL and MPL but throughout the nine library systems in the Twin Cities area.

Hennepin County Library continued to add new libraries in the 1980s, again moving its administrative offices in 1982 to Ridgedale Library in Minnetonka. It also focused attention on modernization with automated circulation systems and an expanded range of formats such as paperbacks, films, and a variety of audio formats. Circulation at both the Southdale and Brookdale libraries surpassed one million in the 1980s and topped 10 million systemwide in 1996.

In the mid-2000s, budget cuts to the Minneapolis Public Library resulted in the indefinite closure of three libraries and renewed interest in a merger with HCL, a proposal which had been intermittently discussed for decades. Finally, in May 2007, following the recommendation of a committee formed by the Minneapolis Public Library Board, the City of Minneapolis, the Hennepin County Library Board, and Hennepin County, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law legislation consolidating the two systems. The merger officially took effect on January 1, 2008, creating the 41-library system that today serves all of Hennepin County.


31.88 Linear Feet (40 boxes)

Language of Materials


Donor Information

This collection was transferred from Hennepin County Library administration in 2017 as accession 2018.38.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Adam Mellion from September to December 2021 and January to February 2023.

Hennepin County Library Administrative Subject Files
Adam Mellion
February 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.