BEST LIBRARY (2001)
At first it seems a smidge intimidating. You climb the marble stairs to the second floor of the Minnesota History Center and tiptoe through the stunning rotunda toward the library, home to 500,000 volumes covering everything from church histories to local labor organizations to the explorers of the Great Lakes. As you step up to the registration desk, you face the high arched windows across the foyer, and a view of the Capitol--a grand reminder that you're here to study the history of the 32nd state. The process is complicated, but the cheery attendant at the desk explains it all, registering you and handing you a library card. And then you go in. The Weyerhaeuser Reference Room is on your right, and once you step through the glass doors it's as if you've been swallowed by the gentle hush of history. Researchers browse through the card catalog and online database, then huddle over the many blond-wood tables, spreading out maps of Minneapolis from a century ago, paging through yellowed ledgers, whispering to one another over the oral-history notebooks and the volumes of Minnesota statutes. You cross the foyer once more and enter the Ronald M. Hubbs Microfilm Room, filled with the gentle whir of unfurling rolls of history. Here you can pore through death records, naturalizations, and millions of issues of 4,000 newspapers published in the state since 1849. The reference staff is always eager to help with questions as you research your family or house history, and the library also offers numerous classes to explain its resources. Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday (9:00 a.m to 9:00 p.m. Tuesday); closed Sunday and holidays.