by Dennis Dalman
The Sartell City Council voted unanimously Oct. 12 to continue talks that might someday lead to the construction of a branch library in the city.
The council acceded to a request from the “Sartell Friends of the Library” group to continue talks with the Great River Regional Library staff and with representatives of the Friends for an “adequate centralized” library (separate from the community center), with a decision to be made hopefully this January.
At the Public Forum portion at the Oct. 12 council meeting, Friends spokesperson Nancy Van Erp informed the council a Friends petition started Oct. 5 has 340 signatures (as of Oct. 12). The petition has been circulating door-to-door and via electronic media.
Erp said to the council a library for Sartell has been years in the making and the people should get what they thought the extension of the half-cent sales tax would pay for – a library. A library, said Van Erp, is a vital part of the “full and abundant” lives that Sartell residents expect for themselves and their children, now and in the future. Education and library resources are essential to that kind of life, she added.
Since Sartell planners do not have experience with library construction or library programming, it is, Van Erp said, incumbent upon the council, city staff and others to seek expertise from the GRRL staff to make a library in Sartell a reality.
“We know we are a city of dreamers,” she said, after acknowledging the council has had to make a “hard choice” concerning a community center.
The artist sketches of the proposed community center are fine, Van Erp said, but she added that, in her opinion, there is a need to balance opportunities to learn and grow, along with recreational options.
Three other members of Friends spoke to the council at the Public Forum session. I-Jung Lee said 2,000 square feet would not be nearly enough space for a Sartell library, especially since the city’s population is in excess of 16,000.
Theresa Lau, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, said her 12-year-old son is passionate about the possibility of a library in Sartell, one that he could bike to. She said her family has used the St. Cloud Library but it’s hard to get there as often as they would like. Lau told the council it’s not a “great investment of our money” to put it into a “learning and innovation” space that is not really a library in the proposed community center.
Friends member Holly Wieber lives in Sartell and is a librarian in Becker. A library, she said, “is not just a bunch of books in a room.” It is “a cornerstone of the community.”
Without GRRL’s input and expertise, a library in Sartell would be “a joke,” she said.
“I hope the little kids across my street get the chance (to have) a library,” Wieber said.
The following is what the Friends’ petition states:
“We the undersigned citizens of Sartell, consistent with previous votes/surveys regarding a GRRL branch, call for the following:
- Cease inclusion of library space and services at the southern site chosen for the Sartell Community Center.
- Permit Friends of the Library and other Sartell citizens to work with City Administration and GRRL to determine adequate size, location and collection size with construction to begin in 2016 using funds from the half-cent sales tax.”