On a summer day in 1977, a girl named Beth Burns roamed the library in Austin, Minnesota, before picking up Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Burns got a sticker for reading it, part of a summer literacy program. Three decades later, Burns has this and other stickers, for reading Misty of Chincoteague, Heidi and Charlotte’s Web, hanging in her office.
Burns is now president of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, a nonprofit that supports programming at public libraries in St. Paul.
She says she is an advocate for libraries that work to build communities, pointing to Rondo Community Outreach Library as an example. Rondo’s tutoring programs help kids while its workforce programs target adults. “Libraries are essential for social equity,” Burns says. “If you can’t read, you can’t navigate society.”
Even in a digital age, libraries like Rondo “offer something so rare and wonderful to communities: free gathering places,” she says.
The Friends produce citywide endeavors such as the Minnesota Book Awards and the Opus & Olives networking event.
At home in Saint Paul, Burns’ current reads include The Trespasser by Tana French and Cherry by Mary Karr.
On April 8, the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library are hosting the 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards. For details on this and other events, visit the website here.