Library Stories: Maureen

In a recent announcement, Mayor Carter named Maureen Hartman as the next director of the Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL). Maureen Hartman joined SPPL in 2017 as the Deputy Director for Public Services before being appointed Interim Director in 2022. Her hiring comes at a time of growth for Saint Paul libraries as the city embarks on multiple improvement projects within the next year to continue welcoming all residents into libraries that are vibrant, safe, inclusive, and responsive to community needs. Before Maureen formally steps into her role on May 20, she sat down to answer some questions about her vision for libraries and her new position as director: 

Q: What brought you to libraries?

Public libraries were a regular part of my childhood growing up outside of Boston and my family visited our local library regularly. I started with books, of course, and also remember when our library started circulating VHS movies in the 1980s. Every week, we would get to pick out a new one to watch as a family. We watched Disney favorites Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Apple Dumpling Gang over and over. As I got older, our public library had a tiny Young Adult section hidden away in another section of the library. There was one chair, two shelves of books and bad lighting, but it felt really special to me. I volunteered in libraries as a teenager and briefly after I graduated from Macalester College, when I spent a few weeks as a volunteer at Merriam Park Library while I tried to figure out what to do next with my English degree. I was so lucky to find out that libraries were so much more than I thought they were, and that my strengths and interests were so well-aligned with the evolving work of public libraries. 

Q: What excites you about your new role as director? 

I’m extremely excited to continue to build together with our team the next chapter of SPPL and welcome more community members back to library services and programs. I look forward to continuing to work on our community-first safety efforts in partnership with other city and community partners and launch the new role of Library safety specialists later this year. I’m thrilled to have the support from both the City of Saint Paul and The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library in our Transforming Libraries work to re-envision three well-loved, well-used, and well-worn location – Hamline Midway, Hayden Heights, and Riverview – and improvements in technology and play and learn spaces in all our locations. I'm honored to continue to support our team of amazing staff and strengthen our internal culture, too. 

Q: How do you think libraries improve communities?

It’s incredible that a combination of private and public funding supports library spaces in Saint Paul neighborhoods that are open, accessible, and free! You can come into the library to use the internet, read the newspaper, and check out a book. You can also come into a library and see you and your identities reflected and celebrated. In these incredible spaces there are people who can help you apply for a job, get connected to resources, host an event that brings neighbors together, and recommend a new book to read.

Q: As you step into this new role, what’s your vision for libraries? 

Libraries are continuing to evolve based on the needs of our residents. The next few years are exciting opportunities to invite all Saint Paul residents into our libraries and help more of our community members learn about the wide variety of services in our public spaces. Libraries are far from irrelevant – they are critical points of connection for all of us living and working in community together.