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In honor of our 50th Anniversary, we're catching up with our original partner libraries. We've asked staff members from each library to reflect on their shared history with Minitex and update us on how their institutions have grown and changed over the years. This week, we're checking in with Carla Powers, Library Manager at Duluth Public Library.

A photo of the exterior of the Duluth Public Library.

Minitex is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. How has your library's relationship with Minitex changed over the years? How does the partnership affect the services you offer your patrons?

Carla Powers: In the 12 years I’ve been at the Duluth Public Library – and long before that, I’m sure – Minitex has been a strong and reliable partner. Our staff and patrons have benefitted from interlibrary loan services, access to databases and ebooks, training opportunities, and cooperative purchasing agreements. Without Minitex, DPL’s ability to meet the needs of our community would be greatly diminished.

Can you describe your vision for the future of libraries in Minnesota?

CP: I think that libraries in Minnesota are and will continue to be key resources for the communities that we serve, perhaps in ways we can’t even imagine yet. Libraries are incredibly adaptable at meeting people’s changing needs, while staying true to the mission of helping all people in the community improve their lives. I believe that libraries in our state have an opportunity and a responsibility to help close the achievement gap in Minnesota’s schools, to work toward dismantling structural racism, and to do even better at being a welcoming place for everyone.

What drew you to working in libraries? What makes this work unique and meaningful to you?

CP: I have loved libraries for as long as I can remember. As a child I was happy being among the books, amazed and delighted that my library card made them all available to me. In my teen years I discovered that I enjoyed customer service. In my 20’s I combined these interests by taking a circulation job at my local public library and soon realized I had found my niche. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work in many different positions at several libraries. Library work is usually interesting, sometimes challenging, and always meaningful. I feel fortunate to work for an organization and with people whose values align with my own.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about many challenges for libraries. Are there any changes or implementations that your library made that you see continuing to impact your library in a positive way in a post-pandemic world?

CP: It’s always nice when you can find a silver lining, and in our case there are three Covid-inspired changes that we hope to continue. First is curbside pickup. We kept this service going at the Main Library even after we reopened for regular business by installing a pickup window near the circulation desk. Many of our patrons enjoy having this option, and I’m glad our staff found a way to continue offering it. Second is online programs. Some of the programs we’re offering on Zoom get a better turnout now than when they’d been held in person. I can see us continuing some programs in an online format to meet this new demand. And third is outdoor programming. Duluthians love the great outdoors, so I think that programs in our parks and outdoor spaces will remain as a warm(er) weather option in the future.

What is one project your library is working on right now that you’re excited about?  

CP: A couple of years ago DPL initiated a large community-wide early literacy initiative after this need was highlighted by community members in our strategic plan. Called Every Child Ready Duluth, the initiative kicked off in 2020. Even in the midst of pandemic-related adaptations, the work has proceeded thanks to the creativity and perseverance of our staff, as well as ongoing support from the Duluth Library Foundation. I am excited about this project because it combines the work of many partner organizations and will achieve a very important long-term goal of the Duluth community: helping all children arrive at the first day of kindergarten ready to learn.

Written by

Elizabeth Loetscher
Resource Sharing Assistant