Public Library Service in Minnesota


Table of Contents


I.                   Introduction

II.                Organizational Structures

III.             Funding Structures

IV.              Resource Sharing

V.                 Resources and Educational Opportunities

VI.              Statutes, Legislative Issues and Statewide Organizations

VII.           Automation and Technology

VIII.        Other Programs

IX.              Suggested Resource List



I.                   Introduction.


What follows is a brief overview of public library service in Minnesota. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to offer a library employee new to the state, or someone without a statewide perspective, a sense of the organization and structure of public library services in Minnesota. This document is meant to whet the appetite of the curious, and to provide suggestions for expanded information sources.


As of 1996, there were 361 public library buildings in Minnesota, serving a state population of 4.6 million people. Minnesota ranks high nationwide in library usage, but somewhat lower in funding.


II.                 Organizational Structures.


Libraries in Minnesota are a diverse group that includes local city (municipal) libraries, county libraries, multi-county libraries, and regional libraries and library systems. Such diversity is both a strength and a challenge. A strength in terms of allowing the library's organizational structure to suit local or area needs and situations. A challenge in the sense that there is no "basic model" for libraries in Minnesota. One size does not fit all.


By the late 1970s, Minnesota's 87 counties had been arranged into thirteen regional public library systems. That number was reduced to twelve in the 1980s when two regional systems consolidates as one. The Minnesota Legislature determined that each county had to become a participating member of the designated regional public library system effective in 1990. Several regional systems existed prior to that time, starting with the establishment of the East Central Regional Library (headquartered in Cambridge) in 1959. Regional systems in Minnesota have been organized in two different manners, although there tends to be variations within those two types.


Consolidated regional systems were organized as one centralized administrative unit (and board) for libraries in that region. That centralized administration is responsible for operating and staffing all public library outlets in the region. Each library then operates as a "branch" of the library system. Generally speaking, in a consolidated region the local library dollars are controlled by the regional system.


Federated regional systems were organized where local public libraries already existed and were determined to maintain that control over local funds. Each participating library then maintains that local financial and administrative autonomy, while working with the regional system to develop cooperative services with other participating libraries. Some federated systems provide services only to participating libraries, while others also provide services directly to the public in some parts of the region.


Within the federated systems, a library can be a city library, a county library, a multi-county library, or a library jointly operated by a city or a school district. Criteria for organizing a public library are located in Chapter 134 of Minnesota Statutes. As of 1996, there were also ten local public libraries in Minnesota that were not formally affiliated with a regional public library system.


Public library buildings also vary greatly. Some libraries are stand-alone facilities, others share buildings with various agencies. Bookmobiles are currently being operated by regional library systems, as well as city, county, and multi-county public libraries. Many also maintain deposit collections in assorted locales within their respective service areas.


III.             Funding Structures.


In Minnesota, the organizational structure usually determines the flow of funding. As noted above, in consolidated regional systems, local funding (a city and/or a county levy) is controlled by the regional system. In federated regions, local libraries are funded according to their organizational structure (city, county, multi-county). Some federated regions receive local (county) funding in order to provide direct public service within that local area. Minimum levels of support for library service are outlined in MS Chapter 134. At least one of the 'unaffiliated' libraries are funded by bequests and/or endowments.


State funding for public libraries is divided into two general types. Regional Library Basic System Support Grants are allocated to the twelve regional public library systems, with the funds distributed based upon a formula whose factors include population, geographic area, assessed property valuation, and a portion shared equally. These funds are administered by the Office of Library Development and Services (LDS) located within the Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning (CFL).


State library funding also take the form of targeted grant programs, again administered by LDS. While the exact grant programs can vary, current programs in 1998 include Public Library Accessibility grants, Librarians of Color grant, Children's Library Services Collaborative grants, and Family Service Collaborative grants. In most instances, local libraries are eligible to apply directly for these grant programs, using the regional library system for consultation and approval. Funding levels can vary depending upon annual and biennial Legislative appropriations.


The Public Library Accessibility grants enable public libraries to remove architectural barriers from a building or site through a matching grant program. The purpose of these grants is to improve accessibility to public library buildings. The Children's Library Services Collaborative grants encourage public libraries to collaborate with other community agencies in designing innovative services for children.


Federal library funding through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) is administered by LDS and is to be available to all types of libraries in competitive grant program targeted for specified categories and purposes.


IV.             Resource Sharing


Minnesota has a proud history of establishing mechanisms for sharing library resources. The current system is likely to change as a result of evolving technology and the advent of the proposed MnLINK system and its Gateway network (see MnLINK description below). The current system encourage the sharing of resources between libraries within a regional library system. Requests not supplied within the region can then be submitted to the MINITEX network to utilize other libraries throughout the state. MINITEX is located at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Requests are channeled from each region by designated "nodes," both to ensure consistency of request format and to indicate that all local and regional resources have been exhausted. Other types of libraries (academic, special, school) also participate in resource sharing. The seven Multicounty, Multitype library cooperatives (more familiarly, the multitypes) coordinate resource sharing arrangements within their regions. MINITEX provides for a delivery mechanism to get materials to various regions on a timely basis. In most regions, the regional public library system then provides for delivery of materials to and from its member libraries.


V.                Resources and Educational Opportunities.


At the present time, no Minnesota educational institutions fully provide an ALS-accredited Master's degree in Library and Information Science. Still, educational opportunities seem to be steadily increasing. The College of St. Catherine (St. Paul & Minneapolis) "has developed a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program in cooperation with Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. Courses are taken on both the College of St. Catherine and Dominican University campuses. The degree, accredited by the American Library Association, is awarded by Dominican University." Graduate degree programs in (Library) Media Education are also available from Mankato and St. Cloud State Universities, and the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.


Minnesota has also developed a Voluntary Certification Program for Public Library Employees < In addition various local, regional, and state library organizations provide continuing education opportunities such as workshops and training sessions. Such sessions may or may not be associated with the Voluntary Certification program.


The Minnesota Library Association (MLA) and the Minnesota Educational Media Organization (MEMO) both host annual conferences. The Office of Library Development & Services (LDS) is also involved in educational opportunities, and maintains of library collection of materials of special interest to library workers.


VI.              Statutes, Legislative Issues and Statewide Organizations.


Public libraries, regional public library systems, and Multitype systems all fall under the auspices of the Office of Library Development and Services (LDS) at the Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning (CFL). In the Minnesota Legislature, responsibility for most library programs falls under the House and Senate K-12 Education Committees.


The two statewide library associations, MLA and MEMO, currently develop a legislative platform each through the efforts of their respective legislative committees. Librarians and library trustees from around the state then participate in advocating that platform.


The Office of Library Development and Services (LDS) is Minnesota's state library agency. In addition to administering state and federal grant programs for libraries, LDS is responsible for certifying public library levies, statewide library planning, and collection of public library statistical information. LDS also operates the Minnesota Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.


The Minnesota Library Planning Task Force (LPTF) was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 1994 to help libraries take advantage of computer and telecommunications technologies. The LPTF is composed of both librarians and knowledgeable people from other professions. The Minnesota Legislature originally charged the LPTF with the responsibility of reviewing all capital requests for funds to plan, remodel, add on, or construct library facilities requested with state funds. In 1956, the Minnesota Legislature requested a review of funding sources in the light of the state's growing interest in strategically addressing information technology development. In August 1996, the LPTF completed the Sources of Library Funding Report outlining recommendations on the structures of library funding in Minnesota. The MnLINK project was proposed to respond to the LPTF vision, and a mandate by the 1996 Minnesota legislature, to "develop a statewide on-line information system for libraries."


Chapter 134 of Minnesota Statutes deals almost exclusively with public libraries and regional public library systems. Other chapters and sections of interest include 609.541 (dealing with overdue library materials, 13.40 (privacy of library data), 138.17 (retaining library records), and 270A (Revenue Recapture Act). Also of significant interest to public library employees is Chapter 179A, also known as the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA).


VII.           Automation and Technology.


One of the principle services offered by most of Minnesota's regional public libraries are shared integrated library automation systems. The goal being to provided automated services to all libraries in each region. As of the preparation of this document, bibliographic holdings for all twelve regional public library systems were loaded onto online databases and accessible over the Internet.


MnLINK is the proposed statewide library information system and network, and will consist of two main components. The first is an integrated library automaton system to be shared by the University of Minnesota libraries (all campuses), the libraries of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) System, and various other public and school libraries from around the state. The second component is a Z39.50 compliant Gateway linking other designated library automation systems around the state.


The Minnesota Education Telecommunications Council (METC) is a statewide body responsible for the Learning Network of Minnesota. The Network connects all public higher education campuses electronically via two-way interactive video, increasing the availability of degrees and programs throughout the state. METC is also charged with the task of administering the Telecommunications Access Grant (TAG) program [see also: Minnesota Statutes 1124C.74]. The TAG program has enabled the installation of high-speed telecommunications connections into public libraries open to the public at least 20 hours per week. This has provided Internet access for most public library buildings in Minnesota. In addition, TAG funds have provided several public library buildings with interactive television (ITV) connections to the Learning Network.


VIII.       Other Programs


Minnesota has had the distinction to be home to not one, but two, well-developed summer reading/library programs. What originally started as a cooperative summer program for several regional library systems in Minnesota, has now become the multi-state Cooperative Summer Library Program (CSLP). The other program was developed by the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), the regional public library system serving the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The MELSA program include art work from professional children's book illustrators, and is marketed to libraries throughout the U.S. In 2001, all regional public library systems will participate in a Minnesota state-wide summer reading program with artwork from a professional children's book illustrator.


IX.             Suggested Resource List.


Some suggested publications and documents for additional information include: Standards for Minnesota Public Libraries: Essential, Enhanced, Excellent (LDS: 1996); Minnesota Public Library Statistics & Directory (LDS: annual); and, Minnesota Public Library Trustee Handbook (CFL: 1998). Another valuable resource is the Long Range Plan/Technology Plan prepared biennially by each of the regional public library systems. Current version of Minnesota Statutes and Minnesota Rules are available free on the World Wide Web.

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