St. Paul mayor joins DEED book club
Not many book clubs are able to report that a top elected official joined them for their latest meeting, but the Dept. of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)’s book club now has bragging rights to hosting St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III at its Feb. 12 meeting.
DEED librarian Dru Frykberg entered her agency’s book club into the Saint Paul Public Library’s Read Brave contest and DEED was chosen by lottery from more than 50 book groups to have Mayor Carter join members for a discussion of Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina.
“Mayor Carter is such an advocate for the libraries and reading. He was completely accessible and a great participant in the book discussion. It turned into a part-townhall meeting and led to a discussion about housing. He’s about to launch some campaigns to make St. Paul welcoming to all residents,” Frykberg said. “Meeting with the mayor was the most exciting meeting of our book club so far. We’re going to have to think hard to find something to top this!”
Frida Alvarez, an equal opportunity officer, founded DEED’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Book Club last year. The agency offers diversity or equity training monthly and Alvarez said she “wanted to offer another fun diversity and inclusion training and thought the book club was good for this.”
She said last May the group read the bestseller Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, “Someone working with Unemployment Insurance came down and talked about how they were able to do something different after reading the book. All of the books we read are relatable so you can get ideas to do things differently in your job.”
Forty people, mostly from DEED’s headquarters, participate in the book group. “People have reached out to me regarding a conference call option for those working outside the Twin Cities so we’re exploring this. I’d love to expand this book club to other agencies if we can find leaders there who are interested. If we can target a diverse array of agencies, who knows if the books will get others thinking and trying new ideas,” Alvarez said.
The Read Brave St. Paul program was launched last month after Mayor Carter asked Saint Paul Public Library leaders how a community can have brave, challenging conversations. The library partnered with the city, the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library and others to develop the reading program which includes books and dozens of events for readers of all ages.
Photo caption: St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III meets with DEED’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Book Club.
Photo credit: Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library