Kristin Kaspar studied history in Augsburg College and was a member of the school’s history club. She works as a software quality assurance analyst, so she considered it fortuitous when a chance encounter led to an offer to write an article on the 100th anniversary.
“It’s fate,” she marveled. “They didn’t know me. I didn’t have anything published.”
Kaspar, a Hopkins resident, was well suited to delving into the library’s past, though. In addition to a love of writing and history, she grew up in Minnetonka, just on the other side of Shady Oak Road. Her family has deep roots in this area and worked at the businesses that made Hopkins.
As the library prepares to , Hopkins Patch sat down with Kaspar to discuss what her research uncovered about the library’s history.
(Click the PDF to the right to read Kaspar’s article.
Hopkins Patch: First of all, tell me what the environment was like that caused people to create a library 100 years ago.
Kristin Kaspar: I think really what happened was a lot of people moved here to be part of the Moline, starting in about 1887. Well, Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. I call it the Moline because my family used to work for the Moline. They had changed their name by then. But anyway, there were a lot of families that had moved here, even before then, that were farming families. But then when the Moline came in, a lot of immigrants came here from what was then Bohemia, and a lot of people came from all over. It wasn’t just the men immigrating. They brought their whole families with them. I think they realized that they didn’t have a good source for their kids to study. And really, the focus of the library was children, a place for them to go. They had story hours from the very beginning. At times they had had 150 kids back in the beginning. Think about that and how many people were here. Then again, if you consider my own family, it was nine kids. My dad’s family was nine children. So they were big families. And then of course, (a Bohemian fraternal organization) donated a whole bunch of Czech books as well because probably half the population didn’t speak only English. My own grandfather didn’t speak English when he came here.
Hopkins Patch: What finally pushed them out of City Hall into their own building?
Kaspar: Space. They didn’t have enough space anymore. They had been looking for a very long time to either expand within City Hall or move into a new space. They were looking at expanding into the meeting hall area. I think they had three rooms in the City Hall, and they were adding more and more books. Really, what it came down to is people couldn’t read there. They wanted a reading room-type situation. So they were looking at expanding to the meeting hall and either the Elks or somebody was meeting there at the time. They were concerned that they would be kicking them out of their space. Then the Dow House somewhat became available—although that’s kind of a murky subject, as well.
Hopkins Patch: What do you mean by “somewhat murky”?
Kaspar: Well, the Moline, or Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. still, they actually were renting it from the city. It had become part of the city’s property before 1948, probably in the ’30s. (MTM was) renting space in the building, and they did not want to move. In fact, they wanted to buy this space—buy the entire house, actually. The City Council for some reason—even though they were mostly businessmen and they recognized the fact that if the Moline was not here, the city really wouldn’t be here. Lots of power, but for some reason the library just won out. They evicted the Moline from the building basically, and in January of 1948 the library moved in.
Hopkins Patch: So how did its character change when it was on its own?
Kaspar: I don’t know if the character changed much at all. I think they just simply had a lot more space for more books. I know they added a lot more books from 1948 to 1963. But the interesting thing is they kept those Czech books—the original Czech books from 1912. Many of them were still in the collection. They kept everything. They had all these books that were just in really poor shape, but they kept them because they had meaning to the people who still lived there—especially the older generations. Even though nobody could read Czech anymore, they still wanted to keep those Czech books. The children’s programming continued, and it was very popular. People would go to the library with their children, go to the children’s programs, get some books, have picnics on the grounds of the library. I think the focus really remained on children all throughout at least the first 50-plus year, probably even farther than that.
Hopkins Patch: What caused Hopkins to give up its library and become part of the Hennepin County system?
Kaspar: I think maybe it was a changing of the guard. When Bloomie Mountain (Hopkins’ librarian for 31 years) passed away, I think the old guard went to the wayside. The new people who came in were professional librarians, and they still had a hard fight to become part of the Hennepin County system. People still were very adamant about being separate. The arguments were much the same as they were in 1931 when they were trying to go over to the Hennepin County Library System. They centered around tax money. They centered around being independent. They centered around, “We don’t want our collection leaving the library.” They were very centered on, “This is ours.” Eventually the things that won out were just simply the greater access to more reference materials, the ability to not have to go to another town to get it. And I also think things were changing in the ’60s. Maybe school was becoming a little more professional. They might’ve been a little more interested in research abilities. The kids needed a greater collection and greater access. It reminds me of the transition they’re going through today—where there’s more and more online. You don’t need the Encyclopedia Britannica; it’s gone. Also, in order to be a member of the Hopkins library before it became Hennepin County, you had to be a resident within the city boundaries. If you weren’t, you had to pay a subscription fee. I think people didn’t want to pay the fee anymore either. It was the last holdout other than Minneapolis. I think in the movement to greater access for more people, Hopkins wasn’t as isolated anymore. Even though everybody will probably get mad at me for saying this, they’re a suburb. They’re no longer a city. That wanted to make sure people would still come into Hopkins for the library.
Hopkins Patch: What do you think the founders would be most surprised about today versus when they started?
Kaspar: I think they would just be shocked when they walk in at who’s in the library. Hopkins has been a big immigrant community for a very long time. This whole town was built on the backs of immigrants. I think they’d be happy to see that the people who are coming here—that might not speak English all that well—I think that they’d be pleased to see that these are the same people they’re serving even today. I think the founders would be really happy to see that there’s still children in the library and there’s people of non-English-speaking background in the library and people are using it. And I think they’d be pleased to see it’s still here after all these years. It’s too bad they can’t see it today.
“Happy 100th: Then, Today, Tomorrow”
When: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
- Welcome from Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison and Hennepin County Library Director Lois Langer Thompson
- Exhibits on the library’s history, including some on loan from the Hopkins Historical Society
- Fun activities for all ages
- Authors with Hopkins connections—JoAnn Bren Guernse, Anne Ursu and former Hopkins Children's librarian Maryann Weidt. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
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