Robert Frost reminded us that “freedom lies in being bold!” I’m not sure if the stoic New England adoptee ever cheered, but if he did he would lead the cheer for the East Side Freedom Library which just last week celebrated its second year.
In something like the Miracle on Greenbrier Street the power of vision, passion and grit have transformed an abandoned public library building on St. Paul’s East Side. Phoenix-like, the once forlorn Carnegie Library is reborn as the East Side Freedom Library, a beehive of ideas, a hotbed of energy and a community resource of powerful potential. Much of the impetus and support for ESFL comes from organized labor — Somewhere Andrew Carnegie, whose legacy lives on in the magnificent building, is bemused by the triumph of the “working boys” for whom the library was originally intended.
Some time ago I posted a brief intro to the ESFL. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/east-side-freedom-library-gives-new-life-to-carnegie-library-st-paul-neighborhood/) Though the post is descriptive, it was third hand. At that writing I had not visited – and thus experienced – the vibrant life that’s thriving in the ESFL environment. My recent opportunity to spend an evening with the people of ESFL opens my eyes to the essence of a living dream with seemingly infinite facets and possibilities.
It felt just right that the primary focus of the evening was on stories – the stories of important people and events interpreted and shared by youth – young participants in History Day, a national initiative with which ESFL is closely involved. There were story boards, documentaries, web sites and live presentations, all bearing the unique mark of young scholars exercising their freedom to learn and share – boldly. Elected officials and ESFL founders Peter Rachleff and Beth Cleary shared their vision and a low-key narrative of ESFL to date, with clear and realistic comments on their accomplishments and dreams.
There is much more to learn about this living treasure – a gem that shares its vision with anyone exploring the freedom to learn and engage whenever and wherever. Locally, ESFL offers a host of ongoing programs including a challenging Summer Book Club that begins mid-June. ESFL also shares with the world online; one of the features last week was unveiling of ESFL’s digital online catalog of the unique resources that line the lofty shelves of the library collection.
The challenge of writing about ESFL is to keep up with what’s brewing inside the elegant library, reborn as the dynamic force it is on St. Paul East Side. ESFL is both a resource and a symbol of freedom to learn for the neighborhood and for the digital universe of which ESFL is a bold citizen.