Original article published in the Mower County Independent, Thursday, July 27, 2023. Reprinted with permission and gratitude.
by Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Spring Valley’s library board got stucco this past Thursday evening on whether to use specific funding to repair the library’s exterior or to wait and find out whether the Spring Valey Public Library (SVPL) is chosen for the State’s library construction grant.
The SVPL building’s exterior is covered by a stucco-like material, EFIS, that was available in the early aughts but is no longer used, and its obsolescence has been the cause of headaches for the board and library director Jenny Simon because finding a reasonable means by which to patch holes has been very difficult. Simon has consulted with numerous contractors and received widely varying advice from each over the past few years, leaving her admittedly confused about how to approach the effort, as essentially, her job is to manage books, media and people, not worry about of what the building’s outer layer is comprised. Some contractors have recommended steel siding, and others, patching the growing holes or using alternative materials to upgrade the structure’s façade. Additionally, securing funding, be it grant or library maintenance monies, is another confusing maze that the director has had to navigate, though with the help of the library’s building committee for both aspects of the project.
Most recently, the library has been set forth as a contender for the State Library Construction Grant Program, a limited pool of funding that will be distributed to libraries that demonstrate specific need for assistance in meeting structural maintenance or improvement. No matter whether those funds require a matching amount from the library’s own finances, the board and Simon spoke of being cautious about how they would be used if SVPL were to be chosen as a recipient. The board discussed at length how to proceed with repairing the building while perusing a quote from a local contractor for stuccoing the library or using similar materials, and Simon informed the board members that she would be requesting the official Spring Valley Building Fund use parameters for a coffer set aside to help with building upkeep but for which she was needing such information.
The board concurred that obtaining details on what is and isn’t necessary or allowed for each funding outlet would be most beneficial to the work ahead of them, particularly as the exterior and other projects will require the board’s attention so that the proper individuals or companies may be hired. Simon will return to the board with further itemization of potential revenue streams at the next meeting in September, as the library board does not meet in August because the library is a busy Ag Days meeting center.
The board moved on to talk about the budgeting process and submitting a balanced budget to the City council for consideration by the end of September, the point at which a preliminary budget is due. Members felt it necessary to invest extra caution as the board prepared its preliminary budget because of a rather heated 18-minute meeting at the end of 2022 that led to board members and City councilors disagreeing on how to approach drafting a budget. The board asked for clarification from the council and administration on how to propose the library’s funding, aiming for optimism and improved lines of communication between its membership and that of the city’s elected officials. Additional conversation on the budget may be forthcoming, but the board did reach a decision to delay hiring a new Saturday hours staff member at this time as it had planned to do once the summer winds down, namely because of expected budgetary decreases and the availability of staff who is willing to open the library on Saturdays–with hours already included in the current budget for that individual’s employment–if the board voted to proceed with such. An existing staff member may soon be put to work overseeing operations on Saturdays, however, and Simon expressed her anticipation that patrons could soon return to choosing media and accessing library services at least twice a month on Saturdays from late morning to early afternoon.
Next, Friends of the Spring Valley Public Library President Sarah Hansen attended the meeting, bringing an update on the group’s activities. She cited that the Friends have been at Wednesdays on Broadway in June and July, selling ice cream and inviting people to stop in at the library and/or to join the Friends as they work to lift some of the everyday operation tasks from the library staff’s hands. Volunteers have made themselves available for cleaning the library, and Hansen is grateful for their generosity and willingness, but she remarked that perhaps it may be helpful for the group to have people who “adopt” a part of the library for a month and maintain it, or for people to donate specifically toward a custodial or janitorial fund to hire someone who can clean the library if no volunteers are available. Simon and board members thanked Hansen and the Friends volunteers for their dedication to making SVPL a destination that residents and visitors will enjoy.
The annual children’s summer reading program is now finished for the year, meaning that Simon and library assistant Jeanette Ramaker are able to step back and feel accomplishment and relief. Simon extended her thanks to Ramaker for sitting on the Southeast Libraries Cooperating (SELCO) Vetted Program Committee to lend input on which presenters would be appreciated by reading program attendees and meet the library’s goal of keeping youngsters engaged in reading throughout the summer, or that of introducing the smallest to the stories that live inside books.
Upcoming library events include a pet painting session with Pet Painting with Willomina, which has a full class and a waiting list for Aug. 3, and author visits that will be set up for fall and early winter. Simon held up a brochure for the Testify Exhibit that will arrive at the library, highlighting that it is an exhibit relating to the experience of Black Americans. She concluded by thanking Marilyn Matson for a donation to SVPL in memory of Ray Lemke.
The Spring Valley Public Library is on Jefferson Street, just behind First National Bank in downtown Spring Valley. Library hours are Monday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. The friendly library staff is available to answer most questions about how to find or use media within the library’s collections. For more information, stop in, call 346-2100, or log onto the library’s website at www.springvalley.lib.mn.us
Courtesy of the Mower County Independent, 135 E Main St. LeRoy, MN 55951, (507)-324-5325