Acting as chair of the St. Paul Library Board, City Council Member Rebecca Noecker introduced a resolution on Wednesday aimed at stating, in no uncertain terms, that the city needs to put more money each year into acquiring new library books, music and movies.
Aside from last-minute emergency cash infusions, the St. Paul Public Library system’s collections budget hasn’t grown with time, even as inflation has greatly increased the cost of acquiring new materials, she said.
A likely dedicated funding source, she said, could be the city’s Cultural Star grant program, which provides grants and loans to cultural organizations with funding from the city’s half-cent sales tax. The council has scrambled almost annually to find ways to boost the library system’s collections budget, or at least offset cuts, dipping into the $2 million Cultural Star grant program for $175,000 both last year and years prior. A similar grant amount is likely on the table later this year.
“If we just maintain our budget line item, we’re actually decreasing purchasing power year over year,” said Noecker, whose non-binding resolution calls the library system’s collections “a direct public service that supports free access to information and learning in St. Paul.”
Even the cost of digital books, or e-materials, have grown 50% since 2019, according to her resolution, and locally-published books that reflect the cultures and history of the community tend to be even pricier than those published by large publishing houses.
Noecker emphasized that any permanent budget decisions would have to be made by the council when it meets in a budget capacity, and not by the library board, and her resolution is mostly a general statement of intent.
The city council, meeting as the library board, approved the resolution on Wednesday 7-0.