Shakopee and Scott County officials still at odds over social services at library

Scott County and City of Shakopee officials are still at odds over how the local library should be used.

The city owns the building, but the county operates the library, and in recent months local officials have been at odds over whether the county should offer certain social services in the space.

Shakopee executives recently drafted a new license agreement that would only license literacy-related library services – such as viewing books, holding English lessons and using computers – at the library, unless the county requests special permission. Scott County Council rejected this proposal.

At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Scott County Commissioner Mike Beard told council the deal was not acceptable, but offered further talks and council agreed to meet with council County.

County Administrator Lezlie Vermillion called the proposed deal “disappointing”. The old, long-standing deal described a partnership, but this new one says “here’s what you can do and we’ll figure it out,” she said.

The intention, she said, was to oust the Family Resource Center from the library.

Scott County began operating a family resource center in the Shakopee Library building in recent months. The center shares information about social services available through the county and local nonprofits and aims to help residents get help before problems become serious and require county intervention, officials said. responsible.

As part of a separate county initiative, a non-profit dental clinic provides dental services to young people in the library meeting room.

Some council members, as well as City Administrator Bill Reynolds, objected to those uses earlier this spring, saying only more conventional library services should be allowed.

“I think over time there’s been a shift in what some people see as the definition of library service,” Reynolds said at a board meeting in early May. “The county came here and basically said anything could become library services.”

Reynolds noted that the agreement that governed library operations dated back to the 1970s – before the existing library was built, and some city leaders questioned whether it was still valid. Approval of a new agreement would remove any ambiguity and define the “fundamental nature” of library services, he said.

Reynolds specifically lamented that the county used the meeting room often, perhaps preventing residents from booking it.

“It’s a public meeting room and it’s not another county office,” he said.

But Vermillion said the county uses the hall primarily during the day, which is not a time when the hall is in high demand. She doubted anyone had been turned away for using the resource center.

City Councilman Jay Whiting wondered why the county wasn’t using its own office space for the resource center.

The county also has family resource centers at the Jordan Food Shelf and the River Valley YMCA in Prior Lake.

The Shakopee disagreement prompted the county to seek another location for a family resource center, instead of renovating the periodicals section of the library to accommodate it, Vermillion said. One option, she said, could be to remodel the Marschall Road transit station.

But not all towns in Scott County object to having a resource center in their library.

Scott County officials presented the concept for the family resource center at a May 9 Savage City Council business meeting, suggesting the Savage Library as another possible location. Mayor Janet Williams, formerly director of the county library system, said the council was interested in the idea.

Librarians are already answering questions about various local services, Williams said.

“It’s a good way, I think, for people with needs and questions to get answers,” she said.

An earlier version of this story misstated who owns the library and who operates it.

Richard F. Gandhi