Original article published in the Mower County Independent, Thursday, October 13, 2022. Reprinted with permission and gratitude.
By Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Fair warning: If one goes to the Spring Valley Public Library, Colleen or Linda may not be on the shelves, and James is circulating like crazy.
“Right now, we can’t keep Colleen Hoover or Linda Castillo on the shelves. We are ordering in as much as we can from other libraries, but we are seeing wait lists on both of those authors. William Kent Krueger came out with a new book in his Cork O’Connor series recently, too – he’s a local Minnesota favorite. And James Patterson continues to circulate like crazy. Gail Kittleson, our soon-to-bevisiting author’s books are also going out quite a bit,” stated Spring Valley Public Library (SVPL) Director Jenny Simon, summarizing the who’s who and who’s in or not at the library as of late–whether a patron will find Hoover’s, Castillo’s, Patterson’s or Krueger’s books on the library’s shelves or simply on an interlibrary loan (ILL) waiting list.
Simon and SVPL staff spent the summer keeping books in the hands of the library’s youngest patrons through the work of the children’s summer reading program, and after taking a break in August and early September, she and SVPL’s library assistants have plenty to look forward to this fall, be it new or re-readable books arriving at the library or an author, such as Gail Kittleson, who wrote “Land That I Love: A Novel of the Texas Hill Country.”
Simon stated, “Gail Kittleson, a historical fiction author from Iowa, will be coming for an author talk about her book, ‘Land That I Love,’ that deals with World War II and love and loss, the racism and bigotry during times of war and still now. She will be confirming an exact date with us soon. We have a lot in the works, and dates are still being figured out for some, but what I do know is that we will be having some great programs coming up. The library will be hosting some seasonal in-house craft programs for different ages, run by library staff. The joy of working on a project alongside others is just what the season is about.”
She continued, “We will be advertising for sign-ups on the library’s website and social media soon. And attorney Shawn Vogt Sween is coming on Nov. 3 at 6 p.m. to discuss estate planning, with a focus on parents; however, all are welcome to attend. We hope to attract parents who want to know more about the benefits of early estate planning, those who have been meaning to get to it but haven’t, and those who just need a refresher about it. Some sample topics covered will be wills, power of attorney, and medical power of attorney.”
“We still have a fall tiny art show on our list, but to make it happen the way we want to, we may push it back to spring,” Simon added, “And of course, our children’s story time is back on the first and third Friday of each month at 10:30 a.m. for the littles. Join us for stories and songs and a take-home craft.”
Fall brings a shift in how young patrons visit the library, and Simon and SVPL staff are prepared for their needs and interests, too. “We saw so many kids over the summer…it was wonderful. We had great attendance at our programs and activities. Kids are still coming in now with their families to continue to check out books, and soon we will have another picture scavenger hunt for them to do. The library has purchased a bunch of new board games, so we are excited to be able to offer the kids a chance to play them. We have new manga books in for the young adult crowd to explore and puzzles to do, places to do homework, and somewhere to sit and relax for a while after school.”
And to assist patrons who would like to try new activities, SVPL is “working on gathering items to offer a ‘library of things,’ … for patrons to borrow, [such as,] tennis rackets and balls, a disc golf set, board games, a mini popcorn machine, a Cricut, a Cuttlebug, stamps and more. We need to get things labeled, packaged, and borrower contracts drawn up. Details are still being determined as far as lending limits and locations, but we are very excited to offer this at the library.”
The director acknowledged that budgets for libraries everywhere have become squeaky tight, meaning that creativity gains priority. “The Spring Valley library, like most other libraries, is struggling to keep up with inflation and the rising costs of everything. As hard as we have been working to keep those issues from directly affecting our patrons, it is getting much harder. The library board and director will be working diligently to apply for grants to programs, using Southeast Libraries Cooperating (SELCO) vetted performers as much as we can, as they are paid for with Legacy funds, and using creative ways to get things done. We are always looking for people to offer a program or a story time. What is your skill? Is it something you can share with others? With our budget being tight, it’s so nice to find people who will share their talents with a group. We are always willing to help with supplies at reasonable costs. This fall, we would also love some help with raking our leaves once they fall, as that is something that we often don’t get done.”
She went on, “We also plan to hold some fundraisers at the library. That being said, we are beginning the 2023 year in deficit. The line items that increased for the library include personnel costs, property insurance, medical insurance and utilities. The line items we reduced were the DVD budget and the book budget by $500 each. Our primary book supplier, Baker and Taylor, was hit with ransomware in August and was shut down for over a month— that means we had a good streak without getting any new books in—and the new books are flowing again, but it just reiterates my stance that any book you haven’t read is a new book to you. We are left with little where else to cut but materials and hours. Opening on Saturdays for three hours is still a goal we are aiming for, but without additional funding, we will not be able to accomplish that.”
She remarked that the library has investments that will help bolster its finances and in turn shore up its services. “We want to remind our community that we are happy to accept monetary donations and memorials at the library, and we also have a SELCO Foundation account that can accept donations. Donations made directly to the library go into the budget revenue and are used for expenses related to running the library unless otherwise designated. Funds that are donated to the Spring Valley Public Library SELCO Foundation fund are completely separate from our general budget, and we have a lot more flexibility on how we use them. We withdraw money from that account for special programs, expenses that don’t fit the budget at the time, extras and specialty items. The Foundation account is made up solely of donations. Donations can be made to either or both accounts and are equally as important. If you have questions about where or how to donate to the library, please reach out to me.”
Furthermore, she stated, “We are going to be applying for a library construction grant through the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to repair the exterior of the building, windows and gutters, however, the funding for the grant was not approved in the last legislative session, so we wait for the next.”
All is not gloomy, though, as Simon pointed out, “In good news, we are so thankful for the Spring Valley Kiwanis Club for raising funds for us to purchase a picnic table for outside the library. This has been a longtime dream of ours. The table will help with outdoor programs and give patrons who want to enjoy the nice weather a place to do so …” including pedal bikers who might stop to eat and refill their water. “The Kiwanis Club is a very strong supporter of children and books, so the library is very thankful to have their help. They have donated hundreds of books to the library over the years and continue to do so.”
Simon listed the services that SVPL has to offer its patrons and visitors. “The library has free Wi-Fi access from the parking lot 24/7. We offer free Wi-Fi inside, or desktop computers for patrons to use. We have four computers available for patron use. Copies, faxes and printing can be done for a small fee, and scanning is always free. Many people are enjoying our services of being able to print directly from their wireless device or phone to our copy machine. On our website, www.springvalley.lib.mn.us under ‘resources,’ there is a plethora of information that patrons may find useful…everything from information on the food shelf and senior housing to MNSpin, which is streamable music from Minnesota artists. We also have an app for SELCO libraries that makes it so much easier to manage and order your library items. You can find and add the app by searching ‘SELCO Libraries’ in your app store. And we have a large conference room that is available for meetings for our community. There is no charge to use the room for non-profits and community clubs. There is a small kitchen attached with a sink available to use as well. Always be sure to give us a call first to reserve it, as the room is used during various times during the day and evening.”
The library is a community center in its own right, according to Simon, and that means that patrons’ comfort is a top consideration. “Most of all, we want the library to be a place where people come together, where everyone feels welcome, and where people can find answers and help with things they need. We are always looking for ways to expand services that are within our means,” and she encouraged those without a library card to stop in and check out the library. “You might be very surprised at all we offer.”
Now, the hard part…getting Colleen, Linda, William and James to stay on the shelves.
The Spring Valley Public Library is located at 121 W. Jefferson St., Spring Valley, and its hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Fridays and from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. For more information, call 507-346-2100, e-mail email@example.com, or log onto the library’s Facebook page.
Courtesy of the Mower County Independent, 135 E Main St. LeRoy, MN 55951, (507)-324-5325