The year 2011 turned out to be crucial for the Duluth Public Library. When state funding to the city was dramatically reduced, the fate of the West Duluth and Mt. Royal branch libraries hung in the balance. Plans to shutter them as of January 2012 were on the drawing board. The main library, which had been belt-tightening for years, was surviving on a shoestring.
The city parks were also suffering from a shortage of funding. When the city proposed a referendum asking citizens if they wanted to create a dedicated parks fund – which would also make it possible to re-designate existing general fund dollars for library operations – library advocates sprang into action.
In the fall of 2011, members of the Duluth Library Foundation, the Friends of the Library, and the Library Board pulled together. They coordinated fundraising and publicity efforts with parks advocates. Working as a team, they urged the citizens of Duluth to pass the Parks Referendum, using information tables, street theater, mailings, and fliers. The referendum passed overwhelmingly.
In January 2012, the two library branches, West Duluth and Mt. Royal, opened to the public full-time, and the downtown library was able to offer more to the community that had expressed its bold commitment to the library.
And once the libraries were open full-time, the response from the community was staggering. Thousands of people signed up for new library cards. Children and parents showed up in droves for storytime sessions. New programming started for teens – and teens showed up. The use of the library computers tripled.
This was a shining moment for Duluth, a city that treasures its libraries.