February 17, 2018

Library Crisis Rises to Top of Minneapolis Agenda

By LJ Staff

The dire straits facing the Minneapolis Public Library – potentially drastic cuts in hours and/or buildings – has gained the attention of Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City Council, both of which may bolster library coffers to stave off the worst scenario. After a city council meeting, "I saw an engaged discussion about libraries for the first time in my experience here," library director Kit Hadley told board members, according to the Star-Tribune. "I saw an attempt to find permanent funding increases, and I hadn’t heard that before." Indeed, council member Elizabeth Glidden called the library budget crisis "the defining issue of this term." This year, the library’s Friends group bought two out of every five books acquired by the library.

To balance its budget for next year, the board voted 6-2 to close three of 15 branches, and to close the new downtown Central Library on Mondays. Mayor R.T. Rybak offered $1.1 million that could keep the library from selling three neighborhood libraries it plans to close. Multiple sources of new funding are needed, Rybak said, and he supports a link of some sort with Hennepin County, which has its own library system. "Particularly since Minneapolis contributes more to the state treasury than it gets back, we should not hesitate to demand complete restoration of the $2.7 million in annual library funding cut by the state," he said. Final budget decisions will be made in December.