From the Field: Saint Paul Public Library

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Over the last 14 years, Library Strategies has worked with nearly 200 libraries across the country, ranging from small, rural libraries to large, multi-branch, metropolitan systems.  We’ve learned a number of lessons in this work, and the first is, that the despite the differences, libraries share in their missions, purposes, approaches and core services.  That said, we have also learned just how unique and different each library and community is, and that influences governance, funding, services, and so much more. 

In these unusual times due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social upheavals we are all struggling to answer difficult, challenging questions. 

These challenges will be unique for each of us, yet we all know that we can from learn from each other.  Thus, we here at Library Strategies, are beginning a new series – From the Field – which will highlight how different libraries are addressing shared concerns. We hope this is illuminating and helps facilitate your work. We begin the series with learnings from our hometown institution, the Saint Paul Public Library.

1. Remember the relationships you already have. These can be larger, institutional relationships, but they can also be one-on-one connections made by a library staff member calling up a family they know might need help with an aspect of navigating the current world of virtual teaching, telehealth, and rent assistance.

One Saint Paul Library branch manager has tried for years to get information about rental assistance into local apartment complexes, and because of calls already made, building managers are now reaching out, asking for those resources.

2. Look for those who want to help. Many foundations and corporations are looking to make a direct impact in their communities right now. Saint Paul Public Library has received a grant to expand digital inclusion, by turning our Bookmobile into a roaming hotspot.

Where are there resource gaps? If you can think of a way for the library to be the means to facilitate filling that need, reach out and see if you can fund it.

3. Start with what you know. Whether that is curbside lending or information phone lines that connect the community to health and wellness resources.

The library provides context. There is no other organization that does this. Not just content, but the means with which to put together a path from A to Z. The central role the library plays in many communities makes it an ideal institution to turn to in times requiring clarity, but also comfort.

Last week, as many in our community took to the streets to protest long-standing injustices, the Saint Paul Public Library shared widely their Resources on Race reading and video list and reminded us of the human life lost in a moving storytime.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Thanks, as always, for your engagement with us.

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