Like you, I am mourning the death of George Floyd, killed just over a week ago now. His name joins too long a list of people whose lives and promise have been cut short by systemic violence and inequity toward people of color. I am inspired by courageous protesters, disheartened by violence and looting, and all the while asking myself, “What can I do personally? What can The Friends do as an organization?”
I speak for all of the staff and trustees of The Friends when I tell you that we are more committed than ever to supporting one of our most beloved and trusted institutions: the public library.
As The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, we are very fortunate to advocate, raise funds, and support programming for an institution that is grounded in racial justice and equity. The library’s values – a belief that learning is a human right, in connection, in curiosity, and in the power of belonging – have long been reflected in the daily work of the library. They are the foundation for the library’s radical reinvention of its service delivery model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And they will serve as guiding principles for both The Friends and the library as we commit to our roles in addressing systemic racism and inequity and creating meaningful change in our communities.
For 75 years, the work of the library has inspired and informed the work of The Friends. It is why we exist and do the work we do. The Friends has a legacy of support for the library that includes providing the financial catalyst that launched dynamic programs like the Bookmobile, the Homework Centers, Storytimes, Trauma-Sensitive Library Work, and Community Cultural Liaisons. But, we also have a legacy as a historically homogenous institution. In fact, we have benefited from this privilege while not fully reflecting the very communities we exist to serve. As a nonprofit organization, independent of the library, we have to intentionally be part of the solutions. We can do better, we can do more, and we will.
The Friends is committed to keeping the Saint Paul Public Library strong so that it can continue to serve as a safe source of connection and education for all people, no matter their race, age, or background. We are grateful for partners like you who share this belief and who make this work possible every day. Thank you.
With sincere appreciation,
Beth Burns, President
P.S. If you’re looking for resources to spark brave conversations of your own, the library has put together a list of books, videos, and information that can help.