Library at St. Louis County Jail dedicated in honor of late donor

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Sheriff logo - Gordon Ramsay


Sheriff's Office • 100 North Fifth Avenue West • Duluth, MN 55802
Phone: (218) 726-2340 •

Gordon Ramsay

Date: October 4, 2023

Media Contact: Jessica Pete, Jail Administrator
(218) 725-6139

St. Louis County Jail Library dedicated in honor of late donor Leona Gifford

Leona Gifford was a longtime librarian who prioritized literacy and valuing all human life. Her background included working as a librarian for the Red Cross in the Phillipines during World War II, and later a lengthy career as a librarian in Boston.

She moved to Duluth in the mid '80s following her husband's death, and began volunteering at the St. Louis County Jail. She helped establish a library for inmates to use - first at the old jail site in downtown Duluth and later at the current jail on Haines Road. Residents of the jail affectionately referred to her as "the Library Lady."

Even before her death in 2002, she gifted an endowment to the Jail to ensure the library would continue to operate and provide services.

Earlier this year, jail staff learned that Leona Gifford is the great aunt of new St. Louis County Commissioner Annie Harala. Discovering that "the Library Lady" had family members still in the area inspired staff to create a plaque to permanently honor Gifford for her generosity and the opportunities she provided to justice involved individuals at the jail. Jail staff, including recent retirees who'd worked with Leona, gathered with Gifford's family on Tuesday afternoon to dedicate the library in her memory.

"If it wasn’t for Leona and her generous donation and trust fund that she left the facility, we would not have a library or library services to offer," said Jail Administrator Jessica Pete. "Longtime staff here still remember her as a wonderful lady who cared about each person she encountered."

Library services, including the opportunity to access even more books through the Duluth Public Library, are now part of the programming at the St. Louis County Jail, thanks to the vision and generosity of Leona Gifford.

Jail library dedication

Tamara Lemke, Program Facilitator at the St. Louis County Jail, stands behind a cart full of books as she talks about how much inmates appreciate having a variety of books to read.

Leona Gifford Library dedication

Jail staff and county leaders gather with the family of Leona Gifford inside the library that's now permanently dedicated in her name.

Annie and Mary Ann Harala

Leona Gifford's niece, Mary Ann Harala (left) and great-niece, Commissioner Annie Harala, stand outside the door to the library that now carries her name.