The Shakopee library offers what most visitors expect: books, story time and literacy classes for kids, community workshops on topics from birding to the art of rosemaling.
Since August, it has also been the site of a Scott County Family Resource Center, where visitors can learn from county staff about social services provided by the county and local nonprofits.
But city leaders are objecting that infusion of social service offerings, including signing up children for preschool screenings and holding information sessions on mental health services, plus a separate program that brings a children's dental clinic to the library. Some City Council members, who note that the city owns and maintains the building, want to revisit a decades-old agreement governing library operations with the county, which staffs and runs the library
The city takes issue with any library activities that aren't "traditional library services," said Bill Reynolds, city administrator.
"The city provides the library for library services, not human services," Reynolds said in an e-mail. "The county has other buildings it can use for human services. This is a library."
County Administrator Lezlie Vermillion said the goal of the Family Resource Center at the library is twofold – increasing the strength of relationships between nonprofits, the public and the county, and trying to address families' social service needs in a preventive way rather than through more serious interactions with county departments like child protection or juvenile corrections.
"It's really about trying to get people those services before they get deeper into the system," Vermillion said.
The county opened two other Family Resource Center sites in August at the River Valley YMCA and the Jordan Food Shelf for several hours a week each. In March, the Family Resource Center expanded its time at the Shakopee library from four to 20 hours per week.
"The Shakopee [library] site has been very successful," Vermillion said. "The goal eventually is to have it led and operated by nonprofits and then it's all preventive type work."
City Council Member Jay Whiting said the county's use of the library for human services "happened out of the blue."
"I would rather see a library used to teach kids how to read," he said. "I just don't understand why they have to take the library's space."
Vermillion said libraries are changing and the expansion of uses is part of that.
"They have become gathering spaces," she said.
Not everyone is comfortable in government buildings, she said, because some have had negative experiences there.
But Whiting said if people don't like visiting county buildings, that's a customer service issue that needs to be addressed.
City Council Member Jody Brennan cited another problem: "I think the fact that the city really has no say in what's happening is really the issue."
Several council members mentioned one service performed at the library as problematic – dental work done in a meeting room.
Vermillion said the monthly dental screenings by the nonprofit Children's Dental Services are through the public health department, not the Family Resource Center.
Reynolds said it's irrelevant which county department sponsors the dental cleanings. The library "was never conceived as a place to conduct dental services," he said.
Brennan said the city should possibly be receiving rent from the organizations using its space. She questioned whether the nonprofits affiliated with the Family Resource Center — a list that includes Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, the Southern Valley Alliance and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota — had been properly vetted.
Reynolds said there may be another issue — the current agreement was made before Shakopee built its new library in 1997, so there's a legal question as to whether it still applies.
Reynolds said he's drafting a new agreement that the City Council will present to Scott County that will "limit the use of the city building to library services," he said. Any use not specified in the agreement would require approval from the council.
Vermillion said the city and county are working to define "library services."
"I think the county and city, just like multiple things that we work on, we have to work through that understanding," she said.