With one small card, families in Minneapolis can unlock a world of castles, llamas, and “crafternoons.” That’s why Maggie Longsdorf is on a mission to make sure that the families in her school have library cards.
“Any time we have a school event, I have a table out where there are always library card applications,” Longsdorf says. She’s the City Connects Coordinator at Risen Christ Catholic School in Minneapolis, Minn. “I tell families, I can have a library card for you in a week.”
It’s easy to forget how much libraries have to offer, Longsdorf says. But a library card is a passport to a world of new opportunities at nearby Hosmer Library, a building that looks like a small castle outside and holds tons of resources and opportunities inside.
Longsdorf says the three most popular things Risen Christ families do at Hosmer Library is borrow books, participate in the tutoring program, and join in summer activities.
“Having access to all those free books is great. And the library is also a great resource for families who are looking for extra academic support for their children outside of school,” Longsdorf adds. “Since the pandemic, a lot of students have been trying to catch up, and it has been difficult to find free academic interventions and support.
“But at the library, there’s free tutoring. All you need is a library card. Once you have that, you can go to any of the libraries in the Hennepin County system and get tutoring. And at Hosmer Library, there are tutors who speak Spanish,” which is important because many of Risen Christ’s students also speak Spanish, including those who come from other countries.
The partnership between Risen Christ and Hosmer began last spring, when Longsdorf was looking for summer opportunities for her students and reached out to Mary Dubbs, the Youth Services Librarian.
“Public libraries are full of resources and services, but reaching every family is difficult,” Dubbs says. “Our City Connects liaison knows the families and is a trusted messenger. I love working with teachers and educators of all kinds, but it’s also really nice to have someone in the school who is the main point of contact, with their eyes on the school and families as a whole. It feels like a truly mutual partnership where each of us is helping the other achieve their goals.”
Now, Dubbs keeps Risen Christ supplied with library card applications in English and Spanish, and comes to school events.
Dubbs, whose role includes community engagement, recently attended Risen Christ’s Summer Registration Night to share information about the library’s upcoming summer programming, which includes providing free snacks and meals. Hennepin County libraries also offer a range of summer enrichment programs. Hosmer’s options include “Crafternoons,” a drop-in arts-and-crafts program; storytimes; and the chance to hang out with some curious and sociable llamas, thanks to a local farm called Carlson’s Lovable Llamas.
Many of these events take place at 3:30 p.m., filling a time period that day camps and other programs may not cover.
Longsdorf says a key part of the work is removing barriers. The library has options for children of all ages. And library programs are often drop-in programs, so parents don’t have to register. “It’s fine to just show up.”
Dubbs adds, “A single child using their library card can draw an entire family into the library. Parents soon discover our seed library, job help, technology assistance, or other services they didn’t even know were waiting for them.”
There are benefits for City Connects coordinators, too. As Longsdorf says:
“I used to go to the library all the time, when I was young. Since I started this partnership, I’ve gotten my first adult library card, and I realized, Oh, the library is full of so many cool things.”
Sharing those cool things with students is part of how City Connects helps connect students and families to supportive and fun community resources.