Friends Advocacy Letter

The Friends does more than raise funds to support the Library. We are also the citizen voice of support for the work of the library with our elected officials at City Hall. For decades, The Friends’ board, staff and volunteers have worked closely with mayors, city council members, and other elected officials to ensure that the City’s budget includes sufficient investment in the Saint Paul Public Library to meet the needs of our community. These efforts have resulted in millions of dollars in investment across our 13 library branches and the bookmobile. 

City leaders are going to be particularly challenged to develop a 2021 budget against the complex health, social, and economic factors shaping the community. The letter below represents the beginning of this year’s conversation about the Library and the budget. The Friends is working hard on our library’s behalf to make the case that our leaders should work to connect our City’s most important needs with our Library’s greatest strengths.

To:         Mayor Melvin Carter III
From:    The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library Advocacy Committee
Date:     July 13, 2020
cc:          Catherine Penkert, Library Director; Jaime Tincher, Deputy Mayor; John McCarthy, Finance Director; Jane Prince, Library Board Chair; Saint Paul City Council as the Library Board

Thank you for your leadership during these unprecedented times.

We write today on behalf of the Board of Trustees of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, in our capacity as citizen advocates for the needs and interests of the Saint Paul Public Library.

In lieu of our traditional request for a meeting to discuss and seek your support for specific library investments, this letter represents our strong belief in the potential for the Saint Paul Public Library to play a significant and community-centered role in helping our city heal, grow and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd’s murder, the destruction and disruption of the Midway corridor and other Saint Paul neighborhoods, and economic recession.

To that end, our efforts on behalf of the 2021 SPPL General Fund budget are less about carving out the biggest possible piece of a limited pie, and more about affirming the importance of library investment to achieve a broad vision for our whole community. We ask you to:

  • Talk about, and invest in, the LIBRARY when you RETHINK city-wide public safety.

The Library’s social worker, trauma-informed environments, out-of-school and summer learning programs for children and teens create safe, welcoming, and supportive space in 13 unique neighborhoods throughout Saint Paul.  Community-first public safety succeeds when people from all walks of life come together in community.

  • Talk about, and invest in, the LIBRARY when you WORK TO dismantlE systemic racism.

The Library offers Resources on Race, programming, and high-demand titles specifically to address racial equity and anti-racism. Library staff reflect the City they serve. Community Cultural Liaisons provide essential community services that are created by, for, and with Saint Paul’s immigrants and refugees.

  • Talk about, and invest in, the LIBRARY when you REBUILD THE WORKFORCE for a BROKEN ECONOMY.

The Ramsey County-SPPL Community CARES Career Labs are the most recent addition to the Library’s extensive array of programs and support for job-seekers. For decades, the Library has been a trusted resource for residents who seek space, services and staff to help them prepare resumes, learn new skills, apply for jobs, and navigate a technology-rich economy. The Library will be critical in helping get Saint Paul back to work.

  • Talk about, and invest in, the LIBRARY when you PURSUE EQUITY through DIGITAL ACCESS and INCLUSION.

Library branches, the bookmobile, and wi-fi hotspots are digital lifelines for Saint Paul residents who need access to computers and the internet to navigate every aspect of contemporary life – particularly during the pandemic: school work, medical and public health needs, news and information, banking and finance, job seeking, entertainment, social connection, voter registration, census participation, and more.

  • Talk about, and invest in, the LIBRARY when you work with our schools to CLOSE THE GAP around EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES.

More than ever, the Library Go library card is an essential digital resource for students, families, and teachers. Homework Centers, Reading Together programs, summer learning, maker spaces, pre-K family programs, and educational programs in multiple languages serve children and families in our neighborhoods and in the languages spoken in our homes.

  • Talk about, and invest in, the LIBRARY when you ENCOURAGE SOCIAL CONNECTION with neighbors and with strangers.

Author and sociologist Eric Klinenberg implores us to talk about ‘physical distancing’ rather than ‘social distancing’ because social connection is more vital than ever. The Library’s radical reinvention in response to COVID has brought people together for online storytimes, book clubs, concerts, and workshops – vitally important services to battle social isolation.

The Saint Paul Public Library is a city department poised to make substantial contributions to the larger needs of the City because it is already doing much of this work – efficiently, equitably, and well. And, at a time when public trust is a particularly scarce commodity, the Library is your ambassador to both our most historically disenfranchised communities and our community’s strongest leaders.

The Friends recognizes that the 2021 budget will be the most challenging in generations. As you reimagine the budget to create a portfolio of programs and services that meets today’s most urgent individual and institutional needs, we ask you to remember and lift up the Saint Paul Public Library as one of the most innovative, responsive, and capable levers you have to pull

The Friends remains committed to continuing our own effort to surround the library staff and Saint Paul residents with the services and resources they need through our own private fundraising efforts, and we seek to be a good partner to the library and the City as we do our own work to become a more equitable, representative organization. Thank you for your time and attention to this letter.


Ted Davis, Committee Chair, Board Member
Heather Anfang, Chair, Board of Directors
Jim Bradshaw, Board Member
Beth Burns, Friends President
Duchess Harris, Board Member
Kim Horton, Friends Staff
Melanie McMahon, Board Member
Jim Pearson, Board Member
Marcus Pope, Board Member
Vineeta Sawkar, Board Member
Der Yang, Board Member
Joe Bagnoli, Community Member
Triesta Brown, Community Member
Patrick Coleman, Community Member
Ann Regan, Community Member
Diane Rydrych, Community Member
Carol Walsh, Community Member