From the Star Tribune, January 19, 2009
by Mark Ranum, Minneapolis; Legislative Chair, Minnesota Library Association
Gov. Tim Pawlenty believes in sharing resources to create efficiency. So do I. He wants to create 15 new “regional enterprises” to manage and run human-services programs. If he wants a successful, working model for these regional enterprises, he should look to the tremendous 50-year history of Minnesota’s 12 regional public libraries. The system was created by the Legislature in 1959 when three counties in east-central Minnesota decided they could save money by working cooperatively to share materials, staffing and services. Over the next 20 years, the rest of the state followed suit. Librarians have created shared collections and services, use new technology wisely, and effectively manage our committed human resources. Librarians and library workers have a terrific track record of creating collaborative and cooperative services to benefit Minnesotans. Local cities and counties provide 90 percent of the funding for library staffing and services. Through cooperative purchasing efforts, we save money on books, magazines, computers and supplies. Local governments already know how much better local library services can be when they come together and share resources. Minnesotans are so used to seamless library services that interlibrary use is now commonplace. When you want to take the book you checked out in Worthington on your vacation to Grand Marais, you can return the book to any library along the way. When you get off work in Roseville, you can stop at the local library to check out that book on CD you listen to while commuting to Eagan. When you want to ensure your child is ready for school, librarians can provide expert early literacy tips and training, fun story times, and new or old favorite books every week for bedtime. And you can choose the library you want to visit based on your home, school or work schedule. All of these benefits come with one library card which you can use at virtually every public library in Minnesota. That’s what I call regional enterprise!