2022 Dakota County Commissioner election featuring Joe Atkins and Jimmy Francis

2022 Dakota County Commissioner Election: Libraries

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In Dakota County, the District 2 county commissioner—representing West St. Paul, South St. Paul, and parts of Inver Grove Heights—is on the ballot this year. We’ve asked the candidates a series of questions to see where they stand on the issues. We’ll share one question and the responses at a time leading up to the general election on November 8. See our 2022 voter’s guide for more.

Previously we asked about public safetyfinancesroadsparks, and elections. This time we’re asking about libraries.

We’ve seen libraries in the headlines for carrying specific titles—do you support banning books? Dakota County recently dropped overdue fines for children and youth materials—do you support dropping all overdue fines? Do you support expanding library services into areas such as internet access, maker spaces, tools, etc.?

Here are the candidates’ responses:

Joe Atkins

(campaign site)

Book bans backfire. Librarians, not politicians, should be the ones making thoughtful decisions on materials.

While fines for overdue materials encourage personal responsibility, the reality is that we now have so few overdue materials that assessing and enforcing fines is no longer cost-effective and is becoming a costly waste of valuable time of library staff.

With respect to expanded services, our award-winning libraries continue to draw record numbers of individuals and families because they innovate, offering services that our residents value and use to improve their lives.

Jimmy Francis

(campaign site)

Dakota County Library has a clearly defined process for when a library customer requests a book title be taken out of the collection. Simply, the customer completes a form which is then reviewed by the Library Advisory Committee. The committee makes a recommendation to the Library Director who ultimately makes the decision. In the normal process, a request to pull a title would not go to the Board and it is my understanding the Board has never expressed an opinion on any titles currently in the collection. Overdue fines are a barrier for some people using the library, and I hear this has been an ongoing discussion with the Board. The “fines” discussion should be part of the broader budget conversation and I believe they are reviewing if this year is a good time to eliminate the remaining library fines. I will support what the current board decides. It is also my understanding that overdue fines were an attempt to get back the books or materials checked out, not to keep people from using the materials inside a library. I support keeping fines to discourage people from taking books or materials out of the library. I also support moving people with fines to only being able to digitally download materials out of the library. There should be a mechanism in place for loss control, but not deny all access. I am in favor of libraries transforming and changing to fit the times and needs of the community it serves.  

Vote on November 8

The general election is on Tuesday, November 8. Learn more about where and how to vote. You can also vote early with an absentee ballot, either by mail or by stopping at the Dakota County offices.

See our 2022 voter’s guide for more on the candidates and other races.

Thank you to the candidates for taking the time to respond to our questions.

This local election coverage only happens thanks to the support of our members. Consider joining West St. Paul Reader to ensure local election coverage continues. Membership starts at just $3 per month.

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