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Paynesville Press - March 03, 2004

St. Martin looking at creating a city library

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Mayor James Rothstein thinks the residents of St. Martin deserve a public library. If his persistance pays off, they will get one.

An informational meeting, regarding a public library in St. Martin, will be held on Thursday, March 4, at 7 p.m. in the parish hall. Rothstein and library supporters have already met a couple times to discuss the need for a library. Thursday's meeting will be the first public forum on their proposal.

St. Martin - a city of 278, according to the 2000 census, though Rothstein estimates the current population as closer to 300 - is growing, said Rothstein, with one new subdivision filling up with new homes and another currently in the planning stages.

According to Rothstein, St. Martin is 10 miles from everywhere. Currently residents drive to Albany, Paynesville, or Richmond to use a library. This can be especially difficult for children who have homework - but no ride - on weekends and for elderly residents who can't or don't want to drive to a library, said Paul Hughey, a St. Martin resident who is a library supporter.

Rothstein believes a library would bring the city together and would be a great asset to the community. A library would also help draw new residents to the city, he added.

The city has two options for its proposed library. The first option╩would be to join the Great River Regional Library system, which has 32 libraries in five counties, including branches in Albany, Richmond, and Paynesville.

The Great River Regional Library system - with a catalog of nearly 900,000 materials - would provide books, music, movies, books on tape, newspapers, magazines, and computers. Entry into the system would stock the library shelves in St. Martin and allow it access to all the materials in the system.

Rothstein estimated it would cost $250,000 to build a library and make it part of the library system. Just to join the Great River Regional Library system would cost $100,000. Rothstein estimated it would cost the city another $100,000 towards a building and fixtures and another $50,000 for long-term maintenance.

Before being admitted to the Great River Regional Library System, the city would need to provide a building, would need to have an ongoing tax commitment to the library, and would need to convince the library system board of the city's need for a library. As part of the regional system, the city would be responsible for maintaining the building and grounds.

Library supporters have identified two buildings on Main Street in St. Martin as possible locations for the proposed library.

The second option - if the proposed library is not accepted into the regional system -╩would be for St. Martin to build an independent library, said Rothstein.

To go independent, the city would have to provide its own books and materials, but the city could use the $100,000 library system fee for buying those items instead. Costs could be kept down by purchasing books and other materials directly from publishers, and by using older materials and fixtures where possible, said Rothstein. The city also would have to maintain a building for this option.

Rothstein does not want to pay for a library with city money, however. He hopes to raise the money from endowments and grants. If it is accepted by the system, the city may be eligible for matching funds from the state for building the library, added Rothstein.

One of the objectives of Thursday's public meeting is to organize a booster club to focus community support and to raise money for the proposed facility.

Rothstein and a group of library supporters hope to engage St. Martin's students in a letter-writing campaign to raise money. Students will be encouraged to contact benefactors and government grant agencies. The letter-writing campaign won't begin until after a library board is elected and a booster club is formed, but parents are encouraged to attend Thursday's meeting and get their children involved, said Rothstein, who believes the money is out there and it's just a matter of finding it.

Area school districts will also be asked to help out with the proposed library project, but not necessarily with money, said Hughey. Instead, they can donate fixtures, shelves, furniture, or other materials.

According to Rothstein, not everyone in St. Martin supports a library. He has heard comments that the city can't afford a library and that a library just isn't needed in the small city. "We heard those same comments years ago when the fire department was getting started," said Rothstein. "Now nobody in town can imagine not having it."



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