ST. CLOUD -- An event highlighting the importance of libraries was held in St. Cloud on Tuesday afternoon.

Local lawmakers and library advocates gathered at the St. Cloud Public Library to discuss the effect local libraries have on their surrounding communities.

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Representative Dan Wolgamott was one of the speakers at the event. He says the list of resources provided by local libraries goes on and on.

Minnesotans of all ages use our libraries, whether it's checking out a book, or using the computer to apply for a job, coming to a cultural program, or coming to a community gathering, everyone in our community benefits from investments in our library.

Wolgamott says the demand for library services has stayed high even in the digital age and increased substantially during the pandemic.

Especially in the digital age with job applications and access to information, we have to make sure that Minnesotans in every corner of our state, in all the 347 public libraries, have access to that information.

Like others around the state, the Great River Regional Library system got creative and changed the way they provided services during COVID including adding curbside pickup and a hotline. They also helped close the digital divide by providing computer and internet access to people who needed it.

Sarah Mueller, WJON
Sarah Mueller, WJON

Other speakers at the event included GRRL Board of Trustees Member Zurya Anjum, Ottertail County, and Community Development Director Amy Baldwin, and Viking Library System Director Erin Smith. They say libraries not only provide physical resources, but also a safe, equitable community gathering space.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis also spoke, providing some history on the different libraries that have existed in the city. The earliest dates back to 1865 when a group of women called the St. Cloud Reading Room Society began a library association, collected books, and lent them out to borrowers. Later, the first St. Cloud Public Library was established by the city council in 1884. The current library was built in 2008.

Wolgamott also used his time to promote a bill he authored and first proposed during the 2021 legislative session that would increase funding for libraries statewide by $2 million each year. If passed, the bill would mark the first increase in funding for Minnesota’s 12 regional library systems since 2007.

Sarah Mueller, WJON
Sarah Mueller, WJON

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