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Sumner Library Records

Identifier: HCL 062

Description of Contents

This collection contains fact sheets, brochures, building information, contracts, newspaper clippings, correspondence, plans, maps, and other administrative records documenting the history of Sumner Library from 1914 to 2012. The bulk of materials document the Sumner building, including original construction, building moving for the creation of Olson Memorial Highway, and multiple renovations. Children's services at the library are also well documented.


  • Creation: 1914 - 2012



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


A Carnegie library located along Olson Memorial Highway in the Near North neighborhood of Minneapolis, Sumner Library has long served a diverse community. Sumner Library opened on June 5, 1912 in a rented store room at 901 6th Ave. N in Minneapolis. Young people flocked to the library for reading materials, and many adults used the library's collection of juvenile materials to learn English. Approximately 90% of the library's patrons were Jewish immigrants. From the outset, reading materials in Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew were in high demand, and the foreign language collection was entirely "read out" by 1913.

Just a few months prior to the library's opening in rented quarters, the Minneapolis Public Library received notice that the Carnegie Corporation was offering them $125,000 to erect four branch libraries. Sumner Library was the third of four branch libraries in Minneapolis to be constructed with funds from Carnegie. Minneapolis architect Cecil Bayless Chapman designed the library in the Tudor Revival style. The brick L-shaped library featured arched ceilings and a central tower where the main entrance and librarian's office were. Sumner Library's new building officially opened on December 16, 1915 at 6th Ave. N and Emerson. After being open just one month, the new building was already too small. Staff reported that one-third of the children who came to the library could not find a place to sit, and adults were crowded out of the library altogether.

In 1927, a much needed addition was built on the west side of the library. The new addition housed the children's room and a workroom. In 1938, Sumner Library was moved 100 feet north to accommodate the widening of 6th Avenue. At the same time the library was moved, an addition was built on the north side of the library. The addition was used as an office and a reference room. In 2004, the library was renovated once again. Additions were built on the north and west sides of the library, and the library's entrance was relocated to the north side of the building. Existing parts of the library were also restored and preserved to maintain aspects of the building's original design. Minneapolis architects, Mohammed Lawal and Peter Sussman, designed the renovations. Lawal grew up on the Northside and used Sumner Library as a child.

Sumner Library has served a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups since its establishment in North Minneapolis. Initially, the population that lived near and used Sumner Library was primarily Jewish. Adelaide Rood, Branch Librarian from 1916-1953, saw the library as a place that could help people of different cultural groups understand one another. In 1931, the library held its first "Jewish Book Week," displaying Jewish books and items. In the 1940s, the library decorated for Christmas and Hanukkah, creating good-will among patrons. By as early as the 1920s, however, Jewish families began moving farther north and west, out of the vicinity of the library. By 1961, the library reported that the neighborhood could no longer be thought of as a Jewish neighborhood, but an African American neighborhood, and the library's collection of Yiddish and Hebrew books was transferred to the Central Library.

The neighborhood surrounding Sumner Library has been home to African Americans since before the library was built. In the 1920s, the library established reading rooms in the Border Avenue Methodist Church and in the Phyllis Wheatley Settlement House for African Americans in order to reach more African Americans on the Northside. In the 1970s, responding to the needs of the community, Branch Librarian Grace Belton set out to identify and collect resources on Black history and literature as a means of providing access to these resources and preserving Black heritage. In 1998, the collection was named the Gary N. Sudduth African American History and Culture Collection, after the Library Board Trustee and Urban League President Gary N. Sudduth. As of 2015, the collection contains over 5,000 titles for children, teens, and adults.

In the 1980s, people from Southeast Asia began living near and utilizing Sumner Library. By the 1990s, people from Somalia and Ethiopia lived on the Northside and began using the library as well. As of 2015, the library houses Somali, Hmong, and Spanish language collections.


1.68 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials



Fact sheets, brochures, building information, newspaper clippings, correspondence and other administrative records documenting the history and operations of Sumner Library in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1914 to 2012. Sumner Library was part of the Minneapolis Public Library. The Minneapolis Public Library and Hennepin County Library merged in 2008. Sumner Library is now part of the Hennepin County Library.

Custodial History

Materials from before 2008 were included in the Minneapolis Public Library archives (accession 2019.25). Portions of the collection (accession 2018.16) were previously managed by Hennepin County Library Officially Withdrawn, an organization for retired and former staff of Hennepin County Library and Minneapolis Public Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection contains materials transferred to the archives by Hennepin County Library administration in 2017 accession 2019.25. Additional materials transferred by Hennepin County Library administration in 2018 as accession 2018.16.

Related Materials in Hennepin County Library Special Collections

This is one of many collections documenting Minneapolis Public Library and Hennepin County Library locations. For photographs, see HCL 002 Hennepin County Library Photographs.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jenna Jacobs in March 2021.

Sumner Library Records
Jenna Jacobs
March 2021
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.