Dakota County leaders and state and federal lawmakers celebrated the groundbreaking of a new South St. Paul Library on Oct. 4, calling it a long-awaited project that will benefit the community in many ways.
“It's a very exciting day for us," said Dakota County Commissioner Kathleen A. Gaylord, who represents South St. Paul. “That's the thing about libraries — it's not just a building. It's a place to gather, it's a place for kids to experience the joy of reading.
“Nowadays it's also technology," Gaylord added. “Technology is such a big piece of this, and there will be so much new technology in this building to provide the kind of services that we've been able to provide around the county, and I'm so happy that it's coming here to South St. Paul."
The city's first library was opened 100 years ago. The current city building dates to 1927 and is inadequate to deliver modern library services and serve a socioeconomically diverse population.
The city approached Dakota County in 2020 with a proposal to stop operating its library and join the county library system. With support from the city, the county completed predesign, selected a contractor and then approved a bid in September 2022.
Monumental projects take time, said South St. Paul Mayor Jimmy Francis, and many people were involved in making this possible, including past city leaders and state legislators.
“I'm so excited for the future partnership with Dakota County," Francis said.
South St. Paul will be the 10th location in the Dakota County Library system.
New library highlights include:
- 16,000 square feet on one level, improving access for all users
- Multiple study rooms and meeting spaces to accommodate groups of different sizes
- A quiet room
- A “Heritage Room" celebrating South St. Paul history
- Outdoor reading space
- More than 100 parking spaces between an on-site lot and on nearby Seventh Avenue N.
The library site, which will feature a children's area and dedicated teen space, is across the street from South St. Paul Secondary School.
The building was designed to be comparable to a LEED Silver rating in energy efficiency. Construction is expected to be complete by December 2023 and the library will open to the public in early spring 2024.
The library project is funded with $11.3 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed during the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Rep. Angie Craig said during the groundbreaking that it was important federal officials leave decisions about how to spend that relief funding to local communities, such as Dakota County.
“I am so proud to see that this project is coming to fruition," Craig said. “This will be a lasting legacy that the investment from the ARPA dollars brings right here in South St. Paul."
Commissioner Joe Atkins applauded Gaylord's leadership in the library project — an accomplishment coming in her final year on the county board and after decades of public service.
“What an awesome capstone to a career — to do something not only that will be a beautiful piece of construction with a garden and a fireplace, but will last generations to come," said Atkins.
For more information, visit the South St. Paul Library page.