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Library History
Early Years
In 1928 the Silver Lake School Mothers' Club decided that the City of Columbia Heights needed a public library. Headed by Harriet Blythe, the club met on November 17 and persuaded Margaret Thomas, a high school teacher, to head the first board. With less than $100 to purchase materials, the club members canvassed the neighborhoods on foot with children's wagons to solicit donations of books and magazines. On December 3, the first library opened its doors at 3949 Central Avenue NE with Grace Sullivan as the only employee. By December 18, 178 library cards had been issued.
 1928 Columbia Heights Public Library
1928 Columbia Heights Public Library

 1941 Columbia Heights Public Library Public Support
Having moved four times, the library was operating out of a rented building at 838 40th Avenue NE in 1953. The board celebrated the library's 25th anniversary of service, and the City Council recognized the library as a department of the city for the first time. Previously, the library had been maintained primarily by liquor revenues and donations, but now the city had a legal requirement to provide monetary support.

The original building was built on the lot at 820 40th Avenue N.E. in 1960. In preparation for the move into permanent headquarters, three truckloads of books were weeded from the collection, and the first professional librarian was hired. 
828 40th Ave. N.E. 1941

Public Support & Growth
By 1966 the programs and services had grown, and the library was in desperate need to expand the physical building. The city and board worked together to obtain an LSCA grant and a civil defense grant to fund an addition to the original building which tripled the space available and housed the library and the civil defense program run by the city.

When the regional systems were created in Minnesota in 1971, the Columbia Heights Public Library negotiated to join MELSA through a contract with the Anoka County Library. This provided reciprocal borrowing and returns, inter-library loan, and back-up reference.

In 1976 the civil defense area in the building was taken over by the library and remodeled extensively to house the children's department and an activity room. 
 1953 Columbia Heights Public Library
838 40th Ave. N.E. 1953

Columbia Heights Public Library 2011  Technological Advancements
The library celebrated 50 years of service in 1978 and embarked on a series of building remodeling projects and progressive collection development. A materials security system was installed in 1984 and planning for automation of the circulation system started the same year. The automation / conversion project that culminated on February 10, 1987, involved three years of planning, elevation to Level II status of the Columbia Heights Public Library in MELSA, and nearly 500 hours of volunteer time. The addition of an online public access catalog in 1992 and internet access in 1997 kept current technology available to the patrons. The building was brought up to full ADA compliance with a project in 1994 that utilized CDBG funds for an elevator. The materials security system was replaced in 1997 with a Tattletape system.

2000 ushered in the new technology age when two internet browsers with graphical interfaces were installed for use by the patrons. The conversion of the automated circulation system from dumb terminals to PC’s started in 2001 and was completed in 2002. This work was in preparation for migration of the system to a client / server platform. 
820 40th Ave. N.E. 2011

In 2001 the Library Board of Trustees formed a non-profit foundation on behalf of the library to provide an agency that could receive donations and apply for grants. The first citizen board was appointed in 2004 and has raised over $50,000 on behalf of the library since its inception.

75 Year Anniversary
The library celebrated 75 years of service in 2003 and planned monthly events to commemorate the special year. The grand finale open house, It’s Our Birthday was attended by hundreds of people and featured entertainment, a cake in the shape of a red wagon, and a commemorative Powerpoint presentation on the history of the library.

Continued Progress
In 2005 the automation system was replaced with an integrated library system which utilized the Windows operating system.

In 2008 the library celebrated eighty years of service to the community and continued its mission to provide free access to informational and recreational materials to the citizens. Cooperative programs with Independent School District 13, the Anoka County Library, and the Anoka County Historical Society were pursued to make the most effective use of combined funding.

Throughout the history of the library, the city met maintenance of effort requirements each year and utilized alternative funding sources whenever possible.

In 2010-2011, the library utilized a Gates Foundation Grant to replace all the public PC’s.

Contact Columbia Heights
590 40th Ave. NE
Columbia Heights, MN 55421
Ph: (763) 706-3600
Fx: (763) 706-3601
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