Icicles force closure of library entrance

Updated: January 22, 2009 - 1:37 pm

The Minneapolis Central Library has closed most of its Nicollet Mall entrance because of icicles forming and falling from the building’s distinctive “wing.”

Many people think the design of the building and wing is to blame, and someone should have foreseen this problem.

“I think whoever designed this should be held responsible for it,” said Craig Jenkins, who said he visits the library regularly. “They should have known there would be icicles in Minnesota, especially with the way [the wing] was designed.”

Dave Johnson, who visits the library about once a week, echoed Jenkins’ concern about the wing’s design.

“You’d think they would think about the fact that we’re in Minnesota, and we have winter,” Johnson said. “It’s dangerous. Tons of people come here every day.”

Nathan Lief, senior facilities operations manager for the library, said they “kind of inherited the problem,” when Minneapolis merged with Hennepin County on the project.

When the building was built, reports said the wing would be equipped with a snow-melting system that would filter runoff and prevent icicles from forming, but Lief said he wasn’t aware of a system like that currently in place. He said the library has hired a consultant and is in the preliminary stages of finding a solution to the problem, but he added that it’s a complicated process.

“The roof is a 50-100 year roof, so we want a 50-100 year fix,” he said. “We want to make sure that this solution is permanent.”

Another problem aside from falling ice is the blocked entrance and ice debris.

“They just block it off and leave it until spring,” Jenkins said. “It’s an inconvenience for any taxpayer.”

Lief said the staff has occasionally worked to scrape off icicles that provide immediate danger or are easy to reach, but “we have to keep our staff safe too,” he added.  

“We almost have to wait until spring, because of the height and design [of the wing] and the temperature outside.”

Ultimately, the ice proves to be an inconvenience, but doesn’t keep many people from visiting.

“Obviously, people are still here,” Johnson said. “It’s annoying, but we still want to use the library.”