Saint Paul Public Library Receives National Recognition and Investment through Major CARES Act Grant

SAINT PAUL, MN, October 7, 2020 – The Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL), working in partnership with The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, has received a $225,242 federal grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The grant, funded through the emergency CARES Act, supports the library’s role in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, the grant awarded to SPPL will allow the library to continue to provide culturally responsive services to Saint Paul’s ethnic and racially diverse communities through December 31, 2021 by supporting staff cultural liaisons representing the Karen, Somali, and Latinx communities. The grant will also fund additional support resources and technologies like wifi hot spots, as well as ongoing program evaluation.

“The relationships our cultural liaisons have with families and the services they provide have been vital during COVID,” said Community Services Coordinator, Phasoua Vang. “Since March our liaisons have had over 4,500 community interactions, including storytimes for kids, offering technology help, and providing one-to-one help with navigating unemployment and COVID information. This funding will allow us to increase this support.”

SPPL’s award was one of only 68 proposals funded from an extremely competitive pool of 1,701 eligible applications.

"Saint Paul Public Library's work to provide services through Library Cultural Liaisons is based on big questions about the role of libraries in community: How can libraries support community ways of knowing and community cultures? What are ways in which people use their culture as a resource, and how can libraries support this practice?” said Catherine Penkert, Saint Paul Public Library Director. “We are honored and thrilled that IMLS recognizes this work as essential in addressing the specific challenges our communities of color face during COVID-19."

This grant comes at a time when the City of Saint Paul faces extreme budget constraints, and when residents who need access to critical public support and services (education, workforce, digital access, and more) rely on the public library more than ever. The grant exemplifies the public-private partnership model that has allowed SPPL to initiate innovative work for and with the community. The Friends previously secured grants from the Minnesota Department of Education using federal funding from the IMLS Grants to States program, as well as the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, which have supported the development of the Cultural Liaison program through a three-year pilot program begun in 2018, culminating today in this major national investment and recognition.

For additional information about this grant award, or the Community Services and Cultural Liaisons program of the SPPL, contact Rebecca Ryan, Public Services Manager, at 651-266-7065

About Saint Paul Public Library
Saint Paul Public Library welcomes all people to connect, learn, discover, and grow. Saint Paul residents can enjoy free access to technology, Career Labs, virtual programming, books, movies, music, and more. We are at 12 neighborhood libraries, George Latimer Central Library, the Bookmobile, and online at, opens a new window.

About The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library
Celebrating 75 years, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library acts as a catalyst for libraries to strengthen and inspire their communities. An independent, nonprofit organization established in 1945, The Friends invests in the Saint Paul Public Library through fundraising, advocacy, and programming; as a result, our Library is a nationally-recognized leader in serving its community. The Friends also serves libraries across the country and internationally through its consulting services, Library Strategies, and promotes literacy, reading, and libraries statewide as the Library of Congress’s designated Minnesota Center for the Book. For more information, contact The Friends at 651-222-3242 or visit