Pride gem: Country’s 2nd queer library celebrates decades in Minneapolis

In the heart of the Twin Cities lies a hidden gem for the LGBTQ community.

Long aisles filled with books featuring queer characters define the Quatrefoil Library — the second oldest of its kind in the United States. But the nonprofit on Lake and 13th Avenue South is still somewhat unknown.

"There’s a lot of LGBTQ people who don’t know of us," said Quatrefoil board president Paul Kaefer.

The library got its name from the James Barr book Quatrefoil, which came out in 1950 and was one of the first books to positively portray gay characters.

Books, magazines, periodicals and a lot more are free to check out, just like at any library. But one specific book reflects how far the country has come since the days of founding fathers David Irwin and Dick Hewetson.

"One of them would read books and throw them out because at that time you could be arrested under the postal code," Kaefer said.

"I’m still blown away," said Karen Hogan, who has volunteered at the library since the late 1980s. "It was a tiny little office, maybe a couple of hundred books."

The Quatrefoil originally opened in north Minneapolis, moved to St. Paul, and then to its current home. 

No matter where it was, the library has always given Hogan a sense of belonging. As she pursued her own career as a librarian, she took pride in helping this one expand.

"There’s fiction and science fiction and fantasy and mystery and erotica and academic tones and theory and graphic novels and zines and music and just more than I ever thought possible," Hogan said.

The library also serves as a community center, hosting trivia nights and other events. But with no full-time employees, its hours are limited.

Kaefer is hoping to keep growing the collection of more than 24,000 items while also expanding hours and membership.

"I definitely see the library being a place where more people are here," he said.

It hasn’t always been this way, but membership is now free and easy. You can sign up at the library, at a pride event, or even online here

In fact, they have hundreds of books available digitally.