Hennepin County Library: Ian Stade

Ian Stade

Ian Stade is a Special Collections Librarian at the Minneapolis Central Library and the curator of this week’s Tumblr pick, Hennepin County Library.


Why did you start Hennepin County Library?

We were looking for a way to blog about all the interesting things we find in our collection, and Senior Librarian Meg Knodl (who is now with Hennepin County Public Relations) suggested Tumblr. It was the perfect way for us to post images and write a little bit about Minneapolis.

Sean Daley Yearbook Photo

What’s your favorite post of all time?

It is hard to pick just one, but the Slug (of Atmosphere) High School Photo put us on the map – that was a lot of fun and built buzz around the Tumblr.

Otherwise, my favorites of all time are probably the ones that feature the writings of Gratia Countryman, the founder of Hennepin County Library, and John H. Stevens, the first settler in Minneapolis proper (on the western side of the Mississippi). I just like the voice they have in their writing, and they were so important in the creation of the city and the libraries I love.

What, in your opinion, is the best library in Hennepin county?

No doubt, it’s the Pillsbury Branch. It was built in 1904 and is, in my view, the most regal library-looking building that was ever part of either the Minneapolis Public Library or Hennepin County Library systems.

It was built out of marble and furnished with mahogany. When Central Library moved from 10th and Hennepin to 300 Nicollet Mall, it became a redundant library as far as geographical access.  A credit union building was converted to become Southeast Library (opened December 26, 1967) and the Pillsbury Library building was sold. For quite a while it was an art gallery, now it is home to the Phillips Foundation.

Ford Runabout Manuel circa 1907

What are some of your favorite Tumblrs?

I have quite a few, including Thomas Lowry’s Ghost and Stuff About Minneapolis, but most recently I have been digging Dave Kenney’s Tumblr, MN70s. As far as non-Minneapolis (but library-related) Tumblrs go, I especially like UC San Diego Special Collections and New York Public Library.

What is your favorite book? Favorite author?

I have a few favorite authors, but I just reviewed my Goodreads account, and my highest rated books are by Phillip K. Dick. They are science fiction books, but there is a lot of philosophy in them as well. I am due to read The Divine Invasion again. Dick specializes in creating characters who aren’t sure what reality is. I have those Phillip K. Dick moments in my life – is this really happening? Do I deserve this? Do you ever have a string on coincidences that seem to be predestined? Do we have as much free will as we believe?

My favorite book is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read it in my teens, twenties and thirties and each time it told me something about myself and American culture. The great American Novel has already been written, and it so effectively demonstrates the folly that can lie in the pursuit of the “American Dream.”

What do you love about Minneapolis?

Every winter my wife and I read a book together. In the past we have read Russian literature (War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, etc), but this year we read an American classic, The Magnificent Ambersons. It is about the Ambersons, a family that helped found an unnamed Midwest city. In the book,  Georgie, a 3rd generation Amberson, gets his comeuppance when he looks at the newly published city history and finds that his family is not even mentioned.

Block E circa 1973

Minneapolis has many examples of similar issues: Franklin Steele, who owned quite a bit of real estate and developed the water power of the east side of river, is mostly forgotten in our local history books, while George Draper Dayton, who built a department store on Nicollet Avenue in 1902, is very much remembered. While some of its heritage was destroyed in the name of progress, Minneapolis still has some great historical buildings and now, with help from the Heritage Preservation Commission, we have a process to protect our historic areas, and the names of the people who helped make Minneapolis what it is today.

I love being able to go to any part of this city and find its history – this whole city has a story. It can be as simple as finding where an old general store was or where the Minneapolis Millers first played (the Butler Square block next to Target Center).  Last fall my wife and I gave a tour of our Minnehaha neighborhood to Janelle Nivens, who was touring all of the Minneapolis’ neighborhoods, and it gave me a newfound appreciation for the history and uniqueness of each different neighborhood in this city.

Also, I love the musical, theatrical, artistic and culinary culture of our city – there is always something new to see, hear or eat.  I’ll never forget the first time I went to First Avenue (a Helmet/Quicksand concert in 1994) or the first time I ate a Jucy Lucy from Matt’s Bar (1996).


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