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Shakopee, Scott County officials still disagree over social services at library

Shakopee, Scott County officials still disagree over social services at library

Officials from Scott County and the city of Shakopee 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 disagreed over whether the county should offer some social services in the space.

Shakopee leaders recently drew up a new license agreement that would only allow literacy-related library services — like checking out books, holding English classes and using computers — at the library, unless the county sought special permission. The Scott County Board rejected that proposal.

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Scott County Commissioner Mike Beard told the council the agreement wasn’t acceptable, but proposed further discussions, and the council agreed to meet with the county board.

County Administrator Lezlie Vermillion called the proposed agreement “disappointing.” The earlier longstanding agreement outlined a partnership, but this new one says “here’s what you can do and we’re going to determine it,” she said.

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

Scott County started 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 issues become serious and require county intervention, officials said.

As part of separate county initiative, a nonprofit dental clinic offers youth dental services in the library’s meeting room.

Some council members, along with 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 slip in what some people determine to be the definition of library services,” Reynolds said at a council meeting in early May. “The county actually came here and basically said that anything could become library services.”

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

Reynolds specifically lamented that the county was using the meeting room often, possibly keeping residents from booking it.

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

But Vermillion said the county used that room mostly during the day, which isn’t a time the room is in high demand. She doubted anyone had been turned away because of the resource center’s use.

City Council Member Jay Whiting wondered why the county didn’t use 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 has prompted the county to look for 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 remodeling the Marschall Road Transit Station.

But not every Scott County city objects to having a resource center in their library.

Scott County officials presented the Family Resource Center concept at a Savage City Council work session May 9, suggesting the Savage library as another possible location. Mayor Janet Williams — previously the director of the county’s library system — said the council was interested in the idea.

Librarians already field questions about various local services, Williams said.

“This is a good way for, I believe, the people with needs and questions to get them answered,” she said.

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

https://www.startribune.com/shakopee-scott-county-officials-still-disagree-over-social-services-at-library/600174809/