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Letter: It is time to reopen our public library

I have lived in Albert Lea for 13 years. I worked for the Albert Lea school district for five years teaching English at both the middle school and high school. I am choosing to raise my four kids in this community. I am speaking to our whole Freeborn County as an educator and a mom in the hopes that you will support reopening the Albert Lea Public Library.

The Albert Lea Public library has been closed for close to a year, and for many months it was impossible to obtain materials beyond a digital format. Whether you are a heavy patron of the library or not, I would assume there is a general consensus on the importance of reading in our children. I believe in the importance of reading and fostering that love. Reading is fundamental to the education of my children and the children in this county. Not having access to the library directly has impeded learning for early and blooming readers to become fluent readers. In research report entitled, “Becoming a Nation of Readers” (1985), scientists poured through thousands of research projects on the importance of reading and concluded: “The single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” 

We all want readers in our community, and the way to create readers is a constant flood of books and the ability for kids to find those books on their own in a safe environment. The answer is a library. There is a huge difference from a parent or library staff member or a teacher picking a book versus the delight in finding one for yourself. It is in these moments that children will be become lifelong readers. You will only find that love of reading through kids being read to by stacks of good books, allowing kids to search for books and an encouraging environment for this all to happen. If we have flourishing readers, then we have a future for our county, but we need a public library for this to happen.

Having the library closed for almost a year is absolutely destroying many kids’ chance for becoming lifelong readers and as a result hurting their chances of success at school. It is more than having schools open and learning basic phonics; kids need the opportunity to take reading into their own hands, which happens at libraries. Many other libraries in surrounding communities have had their library doors open for months. It is a travesty that we have not made steps forward for this to happen in our county.

On Monday night (Feb. 22), the City Council will meet and hear plans from our library director to reopen our library to limited borrowing (they will still offer curbside pickup). The City Council needs to hear the voices of our county. Please take time to email your city councilman or Peggy, our library director, that it is important to move forward. Jim Trelease says it best in the “Read Aloud Handbook”: “The least expensive thing we can give a child outside of a hug turns out to be the most valuable: words.”

Molly Grimmius

Albert Lea