As the Saint Paul City Council prepares to pass its 2021 budget, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library acknowledges the incredibly difficult challenge faced by the Mayor and City Council to create a budget that meets our community’s greatest needs within the constraints of the current economic climate. We know this is hard and we are grateful for the service of our elected officials.
The Friends, however, remains deeply concerned that the originally proposed 2021 city budget underfunds the Saint Paul Public Library in a way that is going to hurt those who need the library the most: families, job seekers, and all people who seek a safe and welcoming space to connect, learn, and grow. We believe that investment in our public library is an investment in public safety, education, digital inclusion, social connection and more.
The Library continues to be one of our most innovative, nimble and responsive public institutions. Even now, with an altered service schedule and programming, the Library and its incredible staff are showing up every day for the community in remarkable ways.
City Council leadership has – in recent weeks – signaled a recognition that the Library needs to be sufficiently funded to meet the community’s needs in 2021, especially once the Library is able to fully re-open with a more robust service model than the pandemic currently allows.
We – representing thousands of proud library supporters across our city – strongly encourage city leadership to prioritize additional Library investment as they put the finishing touches on the budget. Additional library investment will allow this vital, trusted, and effective public institution to:
- Open branches across the city on Sundays and Mondays (something the current budget does not afford).
- Support student learning through homework assistance, one-on-one reading tutors, summer learning programs, and more.
- Support public safety by providing access to social workers, community cultural liaisons, and more.
- Support job seekers by offering computer and Internet access, resume and job search assistance, and connection to employment resources.
- Support critical social connection for individuals of all ages who have been isolated by the pandemic and disconnected from their community.
- Support the full reopening of safe, welcoming environments across the city in a post-pandemic environment.
The path forward for Saint Paul must include a public library sufficiently funded to meet the ongoing and increasing needs of our community.
Ted Davis is on the board of Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, which is an independent, nonprofit organization that acts as a catalyst for libraries to strengthen and inspire their communities.
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