Sun Ray Library to see $5.5 million renovation

The Sun Ray Library was built in 1970. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Jill Yanish
Review staff

A $5,545,000 remodeling project will give the Sun Ray Library an updated presence on the East Side.

“We’re looking at transforming the library to be up to speed for what 21st century libraries need to be,” said Jill Boldenow, community and digital services director at St. Paul Public Library.

Although the details are not finalized, the project will include renovating both the interior and exterior of the library and reconfiguring the current space as well as constructing additional space.

The architect firm, LSE Architects, will unveil a detailed design of the library renovation at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at Conway Recreation Center, allowing the public to express opinions and provide feedback on the designs.

Construction will start early 2014 and cause the library to close temporarily while crews work on the interior. The remodeling work is expected to be completed by next summer.

The building is located at 2105 Wilson Ave., just north of Sun Ray Shopping Center.

The big makeover

Shelia Winderlich, a librarian at Sun Ray, hopes that the redesign will draw more people into the library.

“It stuns me when people will call and ask where we are and say they didn’t know it was a library,” Winderlich said. “We want people to know we’re here and use the services we provide.”

In addition to the facelift, the library renovation will add a teen zone, a classroom-style space and a community room. The resource center for jobs and homework will be expanded as well.

The remodeling will also bring the library’s technology out of the pre-Internet world and into the 21st century.

“This building was built in 1969 and opened in 1970,” Winderlich said. “Nobody anticipated back then that the computer revolution would happen. We don’t have enough electricity availability that’s needed.”

More space, better service

The Sun Ray library prides itself on the programs it offers to the community, such as computer classes, storytimes in four languages, childhood reading initiatives, video game activities, job search assistance and much more.

Winderlich said that the renovation will create for more spaces that are better equipped. For example, the main reading and book area will remain an open space but will now have a sound dampening system to limit the noise throughout the library, Winderlich said.

The library has been soliciting the public’s help in the project with surveys that are online and available at the library. The survey questions ask about current usages of the library, and the kinds of technology and programs that would be beneficial.

“We’re excited to see what the design looks like, and we’re having a great time talking to people about the program ideas,” Boldenow said.

Funding the project

The St. Paul Public Library system conducted a facility assessment in 2011, which spurred the renovation of two branch libraries - Sun Ray and Highland Park.

The city of St. Paul is funding part of the project, and the other funds are being raised privately. The St. Paul Public Library system is in the process of raising the funds, Boldenow said.

Winderlich looks forward to all that the renovated Sun Ray Library will offer to the community.

“I’m happy to see the city making investments in the East Side,” Winderlich said. “It shows a commitment from the city.”

Jill Yanish can be reached at or at 651-748-7825.

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