"The past news cycle has been full of headlines about a proposed $72,000,000 investment in the Downtown Duluth Library. I want to be clear – I’m a fan of libraries. I lived in them as a kid both during the school year and over the summer. I was always trying to win the “read the most books” competition. As an adult I’m always reading something - usually several somethings. And browsing little free libraries makes me happy.
But, as I said in this LWV Forum before the primary (watch here: https://bit.ly/45tTOWr), it is simply not our top priority right now. We have to rebuild trust with Duluth taxpayers, and the way we do that is by setting priorities and aligning resources accordingly. The remaining American Recovery Act (ARPA) funds and state bonding dollars should go to streets and utilities. A significant one-time generational investment that is way overdue.
There ARE pressing safety and maintenance issues at our Downtown library. I did a walk-along through Lakeside on Friday night with a Duluth parent and his 9 mo-old. Along with far too many others, he said, “I’m not taking my kids to the downtown library the way it is now.”
So, what’s a practical tangible step? Create an independent library board. A Board that can assess needs, set a long-range strategic plan for both programming and the facilities, support staff and hold leadership accountable for those priorities, and advocate for funding–public and private. Private donors are reluctant to give the City money for a host of valid reasons. And, within City Hall, the library continues to rank lower on the list of really pressing issues. An independent library board gets outside that structure. It’s the both/and we need to make progress."