MALF connects Friends of Library organizations, provides valuable resources to support their work, and is a strong voice for Friends of Library groups and libraries throughout Minnesota.




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Between the annual MLA conference in September, MALF’s seasonal workshops in October, and Give to the Max Day in November, fall is going to be a busy time for Friends of the Library in Minnesota. Even so, it’s important to remember what is happening on the national stage, as well. October 20-26 is 2019 National Friends of Libraries Week!

Friends of Libraries Week is sponsored and coordinated by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association and MALF’s national counterpart. Its two-fold purpose is to: (1) foster an environment conducive to promoting your Friends group and its projects, while also (2) offering an opportunity for your library, Board of Trustees and community officials to recognize your group for its ongoing support.

To these ends, United for Libraries has posted on its website a number of stories and downloadable resources to help you get started.
 Click here for posters, sample letters to the editor, template public proclamations, and much much more.

As those who have participated in previous years already know, this week-long celebration is an extremely customizable one. Apart from the overall mission sketched out above, appropriate ways to celebrate Friends of Libraries Week are nearly as many and varied as are Friends groups! In years past, these have ranged from the simple and straightforward, like week-long membership campaigns and fundraising drives, to the unexpected and sometimes 
wacky – like an in-library demonstration from a world champion chocolate strawberry dipper!

For many, gift wrapping is an essential part of the Christmas experience. According to studies conducted by 3M and Hallmark, nearly $2.8 billion is spent on festive wrapping paper and related supplies each holiday season. On average, Americans self-report wrapping 15 gifts every year. One in four claims that gift wrapping even puts them more in the “holiday spirit” than shopping does!

crowwingco.pngThese same fun studies corroborate something most of us already know: While it’s a staple of the Christmas experience, many gift-givers procrastinate on shopping and wrapping until the very last minute.

With this paradox in mind, the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library decided to add a special spin and incentives to their 2018 open house.

As with any open house, core objectives included making residents aware of The Friends, and inducing at least a few to enlist. In this case, Friends who joined up (or renewed their membership) at the holiday open house received free on-site gift wrapping services.

In order to ensure that everyone had something to wrap, vice president Dawn Stattine worked out a partnership deal with children’s book publisher and distributor Usborne Books. Usborne set up shop at the Brainerd Public Library to sell an array of its bestselling titles.

Usborne’s offerings – which have a reputation for being colorful, durable and often interactive – drew parents and other shoppers to the Library who would not otherwise have attended a Friends open house, explained president Sheila DeChantal.

christmaspres.jpgThese efforts paid immediate dividends, and in several forms. More than 250 people attended the open house over its six-hour run. The Friends netted ten new members, and a further 17 members already in the fold took the opportunity to renew their commitment for the following year.

In addition, The Friends received a percentage from Usborne Books’s robust sales. Given the choice between a cash payout or a larger contribution paid out in new book stock, organizers chose the latter.

In this way, The Friends were able to donate $800 worth of new and in-demand materials to the Brainerd Public Library’s children’s collection. They ceded the responsibility of selecting the exact titles to the children’s librarian, who naturally knows the target audience best.

usbourne.pngThis high traffic, high impact event cost only $50 in general operating dollars. The bulk of that went towards refreshments. Friends members and other community boosters donated the wrapping paper, bows, tape and other supplies needed to equip the wrapping station.

While the organizers have not yet committed to an encore holiday event in 2019, it’s certainly on the table. “We had a ‘wrap up’ meeting (pardon the pun!) at our next board meeting, and all felt overwhelmingly positive about the experience,” DeChantal said.

In late 2017, a photography enthusiast in Blue Earth unexpectedly “gifted” the local library 42 boxes of historic negatives and proofs. Although the Blue Earth Community Library lacked the funds and staffing bandwidth to do anything meaningful with this treasure trove, leadership desperately hoped to do something with the unique windfall. The Friends answered that call, and far exceeded the Library’s expectations for what could or should be done with these artifacts.


Beginning in January 2018, four intrepid volunteers began the arduous process of sifting through the 30,000 proofs and negatives contained in those boxes. Most were housed in aging envelopes, nearly all of which had faint or otherwise indecipherable handwriting. After a few weeks, the team could boast a (more or less) complete inventory and accurate classification scheme.

The Friends were committed not just to finding a home for these photographs, but the best home for each. Fortunately, the lead volunteers were well positioned to accomplish this. As long-time Blue Earth residents, they were able to identify people, locations and events beyond the barebones information available from photo captions. They often knew personally, or else knew how to reach, the appropriate next of kin.

Furthermore, two of the project managers also co-lead a popular local genealogy group (which goes under the tongue-in-cheek name Dead Relatives Society). This enabled The Friends to tap into a still larger brain trust to make sense of the 42 boxes – which represented the combined holdings of not one or two, but eight different defunct photo studios.

bleuearth.JPGThis front-end work, which was daunting enough on the face of it, was made more difficult still by a self-imposed February deadline. The Friends chose this timetable so that they could promote the rehousing project during their ever-popular Friends Valentine Tea. As part of that event, guests were invited to go into a back room and hunt for photos featuring relatives and old friends.

Similarly, later in the year, The Friends promoted the photo project (eventually dubbed “The Negative Effect” with deliberate irony) at their yearly Wine Walk in downtown Blue Earth – plus at their twice-a-year used book sale. A glowing feature in the Faribault County Register created nice buzz, as well.

Although the materials were not assigned specific price points, the organizers strongly encouraged free will donations. In this way, the organization has raised $1,800 to date.

The Friends used those proceeds to purchase a sturdy metal cabinet to safely store the remnants of the photo collection. Money left over went towards handcrafted book display cabinets for the children’s section, plus a special grid system to hang promotional items in the library.

As it stands today, these diligent efforts have winnowed the 30,000 artifact collection down to just 10,500 proofs and negatives in need of a good home!

Let’s face it. Your library can boast the best facility and collections in the world, but it all counts for little without top-notch staff. In recognition of this fact, the American Library Association created its popular “I Love My Librarian” campaign and award.


As the name suggests, this long-standing program recognizes the service of exemplary public, academic, or school librarians. Ten individuals are honored each year, and awarded $5,000 each (plus a travel stipend to attend a December recognition ceremony).

Click here to learn more, and to nominate someone. Be sure to do so before Monday, October 21. Note that applications must be submitted online, and in just one browsing session. (In other words, you cannot save and return to your work.) Your candidate must hold an MLIS degree from an ALA-accredited university, and be practicing in the field currently, in order to be eligible.

Pro Tips: Valuable application tips from ALA can be found here. And if you nominated a candidate in years past, you pull up and resubmit their application on the program website!

Across the country, more than 90 percent of public library facilities offer a dedicated teen space. For some, however, getting teenagers to actually visit and use that space is a perennial challenge. Last year, the Friends of the Cook Public Library landed on an innovative and decidedly memorable way to engage area teens with the library and its programming.

cook.jpgLet’s back up for a moment. Located 90 minutes north of Duluth and an hour from the Canadian border, the town of Cook is as isolated as any in Minnesota. This is doubly true during the long winter months. In order to help residents through the worst of the season, the Friends of the Cook Public Library collaborate with library staff on a so-called Adult Winter Reading Program. Typical events include author visits, movie screenings, and other logistically straightforward offerings.

For the 2018 finale, however, the Friends partnered with the library’s standing Teen Advisory Board on something entirely different. On March 8, these co-organizers invited patrons to a Roaring Twenties soiree – gone horribly wrong.

In the middle of the party (held at the library), one of the guests was “unexpectedly murdered.” Naturally, it then fell to the other attendees to discover whodunnit, and why!

Teen Advisory Board members, together with a few Friends and staffers, dressed the part and carried the night’s plot forward. Costumes and props, purchased inexpensively from the local thrift shop, added a sense of realism to their 1920s personas.

cookmoose.pngVisitors were encouraged to mingle with this cast of characters, asking questions and reconstructing the lead-up to the heinous crime. At the end of the night, the actors reenacted the scene point for point, allowing participants the gratification of knowing how close they were to the mark.

Lead librarian Crystal Phillips had sketched out the story line ahead of time, and made sure that each volunteer knew how they fit into the central narrative. “Crystal wanted to expand on that winter’s adult reading them of mystery books, and create a grand celebration to cap off the programming series,” explained Friends president Kathy Sacchetti.

The Friends supplied a budget of $200 for costumes, table decorations, and snacks. (They asked for and received additional refreshments as an in-kind donation.)

groupcook.jpgIn such a small town, The Friends felt it was a reasonable goal to reach everyone in the community with word of the murder mystery. If they didn’t succeed, they at least came close! In addition to social media and web promotions, they received nice coverage in the local Cook News Herald. For good measure, volunteers also conducted a good old-fashioned poster campaign across town. Word of mouth, plus a follow-up feature in the newspaper, continued the buzz after the fact.

“Staff received wonderful, positive remarks for weeks afterwards, and several people made it a point to say they wanted a sequel in 2019,” Sacchetti recalled. The Friends obliged in March 2019, with an even more ambitious premise: the murder of the titular Count of Monte Cristo of Alexandre Dumas fame!