Special Collections Newsletter - May 2023

hennepin county library special collections

May 2023

Check out what’s new and noteworthy this month in Special Collections!

Doors Open Event


Minneapolis Central Library

Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14

Come visit Central Library and Special Collections at Doors Open, a Minneapolis-wide event that gives the public behind-the-scenes access to dozens of buildings—from historic to not-yet-completed. Central Library, designed by world-renowned architect César Pelli, is a downtown destination for reading, learning and connecting. During Doors Open, visitors will be offered self-guided tours of the building, including historical displays on the past downtown libraries, on view in the Special Collections department (a rare weekend opportunity to visit the department!). See all 87 Doors Open venues.

Meet Special Collections staff member Frank Hurley


Frank Hurley is the Preservation Specialist for Hennepin County Library. He repairs and re-binds books, makes preservation enclosures, oversees commercial bindery work, and more to fix and preserve both the historic and circulating collections at Minneapolis Central Library. He’s worked in the Bindery (now known as the Preservation Department) for over 20 years. Frank lives in South Minneapolis with his wife and the younger two of their four children. Here’s more from Frank:

Q: How did you get into book preservation?

A: I was introduced to the book arts as an undergraduate at Colorado College, and in my 20s started hanging around the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. In 2001, a friend showed up at my door with a job application for a temporary bookbinder position [at the Minneapolis Public Library]. I filled it out and didn’t think much more of it. I was hired by MPL just around Thanksgiving that year. Last year I began teaching classes in Book Repair and Bookbinding at MCBA.

Q: Tell us about an interesting project you’ve worked on.

A: Over the years I’ve been a part of responding to a number of small water disasters. The biggest one happened in early May, 2003, when the Minneapolis Central Library was temporarily located across the street in the old Federal Reserve building. Water flowed into the library’s lower level stacks from a QUEST telephone cable chamber. About a hundred books were affected, many of them oversize, some of them art books or atlases. It was definitely a crash course in water disaster response. Fortunately, there has never been a water disaster even close to that size here in the “new” building. [Editor’s note: Frank was also one of the first staff on site to evaluate the collections at the East Lake Library after the damage following the George Floyd protests. Disaster response training

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Right now, I am not working on any big, special preservation projects. However, the enthusiastic librarians at Minneapolis Central are keeping me quite busy. Just for the fun of it, I’ve been occasionally making stab-stitch bindings, using scrap materials. Sometimes children and tour groups will visit the Preservation Unit, and these books make great hand-outs. [Learn how to do a Japanese stab binding.]

Q: Favorite Preservation tool or technique?


A: My favorite tools at work [pictured at right] are a horsehair glue brush for tipping in loose pages and replacing endsheets; a bone folder for scoring and making crisp folds; and a scalpel, for cutting the covers off books—sometimes I have to take them apart before putting them back together.

Photo caption: books with new bindings made by Frank, and his favorite preservation tools


More on the Preservation Department

The original Minneapolis Public Library Bindery Department was created out of the Cataloging Department in 1908. For many years, all book binding and repair functions for both the Central Library and the MPL system were handled out of this department. At one point, as many as 20 FTE worked in this department. Over time, the role of the Bindery diminished as collection maintenance policies changed and some of the work was outsourced. By 2009, staffing was down to a single position. The department became part of Special Collections in 2009 and was renamed Preservation in 2012 to reflect the department’s emphasis on preserving historic collections and the general collections at the Central Library. A second part-time position in the department turned into a full-time position last year.

See old photos of the Bindery workers in our Digital Collections.

New in the Digital Collections


This is Minneapolis

An adaptation of a presentation created by the City of Minneapolis in 1964 to mark the city’s winning of an All-American City award. The presentation originally consisted of a sequence of slides accompanied by a voice-over and music recorded on a long-playing vinyl record. Many of the slides were damaged and there was no timing sequence to pair to the recording, so library staff found similar or replacement images on the same topics from the same time period and merged images and recording into a single narrated video.

Watch the full video online in the Digital Collections

New Online Resource


Star Tribune Archive  

Hennepin County Libraries now provide free access to the Star Tribune Archive in Newspapers.com, available for in-library use only. The database includes full-page, searchable images of newspapers owned by the Star Tribune, including Minneapolis Tribune, Minneapolis Star, Minneapolis Daily Times, City Pages, and more, from 1867 to one month ago. An invaluable resource for all local history research! Search the database online next time you’re at a Hennepin County Library.

In the Archives

Formerly known as: Central Corridor Housing Trust, founded in 1986, replaced housing demolished for the Minneapolis Convention Center.

New Acquisition: Aeon Records

News clippings, publications, photographs, oral history interview transcripts, and compiled histories of Aeon, an affordable housing developer and manager. Formerly known as the Central Corridor Housing Trust, it was founded in 1986 to replace housing demolished for the construction of the Minneapolis Convention Center. Aeon now has properties throughout the Twin Cities.

New Finding Aid: Hennepin County Library Staff Newsletters

Staff newsletters from 1948-2007. Titles include Branch Newsletter, The County Line, Staff Newsletter, and Weekly Reader. These publications contain information on staff appointments, transfers, retirements, library events, local events, and information needed for daily work in the library. View finding aid

From the Blog

Heavy rainfall in June, 1935 turned many Minneapolis streets into a pile of bricks.

A Pile of Bricks 

Our streets may be full of potholes, but at least they don’t look like this! Heavy rainfall in June, 1935 turned many Minneapolis streets into a pile of bricks. See more rain photos from June 17, 1935.

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Contact Us

Special Collections vault

James K. Hosmer Special Collections

Hennepin County Library
Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Hours: Monday - Thursday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.


Appointments are not necessary, but you do need to call Special Collections or check-in at the 4th floor reference desk upon arrival for department access. You can speed up your visit by requesting materials be pulled in advance. Photocopier and scanners are available. Please bring a flash drive to store your scanned images.

Photo: Inside the climate-controlled Special Collections vault, where rare books, negatives, and AV material is stored.

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