East Side Freedom Library closes in on roof costs


The East Side Freedom Library, housed within the historic Arlington Hills Library building, is one of three Carnegie libraries in St. Paul. It was built in 1916. (Submitted photo)

Tsione Wolde-Michael reads in front of a crowd at East Side Freedom Library’s Juneteenth event, which celebrates African-American emancipation. About 100 people attended the event, one of three the library has hosted this summer. (Submitted photo)

‘Raise the Roof’ campaign raises funds 

The East Side Freedom Library’s “Raise the Roof! Open the Doors!” campaign is over halfway to its goal. 

With over $24,000 raised from over 260 community members and several organizations, the library is close to matching the $31,000 it received from St. Paul’s Neighborhood STAR funding.  “We’re just thrilled with the number of people that have wanted to be connected to the project,” says Peter Rachleff, president of the East Side Freedom Library.

Much of the fundraising has been done online through the East Side Freedom Library website.

The East Side Freedom Library is located at the former Arlington Hills Library at 1105 Greenbrier St. The Beaux-Arts style building was built in 1916 with funds from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

The building is one of three Carnegie libraries built in St. Paul, and holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The East Side Freedom Library is leasing the building from the city of St. Paul for $1 per year for 15 years. Part of the lease agreement includes repairing the almost 30-year old roof before 2015, hence the “Raise the Roof!” campaign.  The East Side Freedom Library board members hope to replace the roof early this fall so they can meet the terms of the lease and begin other work on the library, including moving in their main collection.

When completed, the East Side Freedom Library will house more than 10,000 books, as well as DVDS, CDs and material objects for research purposes only. According to the library’s mission statement, its goals are “to preserve and promote knowledge about the East Side - its history, residents and institutions - through educational collections and programs.” 

The collection will be stored on the main floor. The lower level of the historic building will be renovated into a community space. 

Though the library hasn’t raised the roof yet, it has opened its doors. The library has hosted two educational events this summer. A Juneteenth event on June 17 celebrated African-American emancipation, and an event on July 7 commemorated an Independence Day speech given by Frederick Douglas.

The events featured performances and readings by musicians, poets and professional actors.   The site’s most recent event was a celebration for Mary Catherine Ricker on July 28. Ricker, the president of the St. Paul teacher’s union, was recently elected executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. About 100 people attended each event.  

“Every time a crowd of people comes into the building it really kind of leaps to life,” Rachleff says. “It just keeps giving us ideas about the potential that it has to become a real, living, breathing space in this community.” 

Rachleff hopes to host an event on Labor Day weekend to celebrate the holiday and share its history. 

For more information about the East Side Freedom Library, including how to donate to the “Raise the Roof!” fund, visit their Facebook page or http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/

Kaylin Creason can be reached at staffwriter@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7825.

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