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.
Friends in small and rural areas are often tempted to use the modest size of their library, community, or member roster as excuses not to “think big.” Friends of the Elmore Public Library are proof positive that, with pluck and ingenuity, small Friends organizations can accomplish truly great things.
Located an hour south of Mankato along the Iowa state line, Elmore is a farm town of only 600. Unsurprisingly, as of last year, membership in the local Friends was among the lowest of any organization in southern Minnesota.
Consequently, many in the community voiced doubts when the Friends announced their intention to organize a large book basket silent auction as part of Elmore’s summer Horse and Buggy Days weekend celebration.
“Someone on our Board of Directors had seen another library do this sort of fundraiser, where they created baskets themed around a book title,” explained secretary Kristin Travis. “We decided to expand on that idea, by reaching out to the business community and asking them to donate either baskets or money for a silent auction.”
While the partnership opportunity sounds straightforward enough on paper, it is a tall order for Elmore – a town with no grocery store, no bank branch, and little commercial activity to speak of. At present, Elmore sustains only six active businesses.
Hoping to cast a wider net, “our Board brainstormed what businesses in nearby towns and cities benefit from the residents of Elmore shopping or patronizing them – or anyplace connected because owners or employees are alumni,” Travis recalled. (Elmore High School ceased graduating seniors in 1994, but Faribault County is full of town alumni working in various leadership positions.)
In total, the Friends compiled a list of 88 recipients for a letter requesting basket donations for the library’s silent auction. Impressively, 53 of those contacted wished to take part!
Kristin Travis attributes this response in part to flexible participation options. Donors did not have to devote time and effort to a themed basket if they did not want to. A cash donation option eliminated that barrier. In those cases, the Friends assembled an appropriate basket.
All these efforts reaped a range of dividends. Exposure helped the Friends boost their profile and nearly double the size of their Board (from 5 to 9). Every auction item sold during Horse and Buggy Days weekend, allowing the Friends to buy a computer and needed software for the library. Moreover, “Basket Book-nanza” raised so much that the Friends had enough left over to buy the facility a new Cricut machine and about $200 worth in DVDs.
This last acquisition brought with it an encouraging ripple effect. Elmore Public Library recently weeded its outdated VHS collection but had little to offer by way of new and in-demand DVD titles. This post-auction donation helped change that situation. DVDs now in rotation account for nearly 50 percent of the library’s entire circulation. “It has also fueled an interest in community members willing to donate movies,” noted Travis. (Approximately 1,300 are now available, up from just 100 last July.)
Friends of the Elmore Public Library is eager to try their hand at this fundraiser again – but next go around, they aim to reach out to an expanded contact list of nearly 150 businesses.
MLA is celebrating its ‘Quasquicentennial,’ and MALF wants YOU to be a part of it! Join us in Duluth for a full day of programming targeted specifically at Friends of the Library. You will learn about successful Friends grants, fundraising opportunities, community partnerships, member campaigns, and more. Register now!
→ When? Thursday, September 29, 2016
→ Where? Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, 350 Harbor Drive
→ Cost: $65/person if purchased before 8/29; $85/person after [Friends rate]
8:50-9:50 // Being the Voice of an Organization: A New Approach to Advocacy
Advocacy is a long-time MALF and MLA focus area, and guest speaker Sam Walseth knows the territory better than anyone. As a VP of one of the state’s lead governmental affairs consultant agencies, Walseth has championed public library priorities in state government for years. Attendees will come away with tips on how to advocate, individually and organizationally.
10:55-11:55 // Forming a Partnership Between Community Partners of Libraries
In addition to dedicated staff, libraries rely on the tireless efforts of three sometimes overlapping groups: (1) Friends of the Library, (2) Library Foundations, (3) Library Board / Trustees. Each has its own functions, but all are ultimately working towards the same goal: strong libraries. MALF and MLTA will spend a productive hour examining ways that these different organizations can better work in tandem.
12:05-1:35 // Lunch Keynote: "Relevance," with Nina Simon
In an interactive address, author Nina Simon will share inspiring examples and practical theories on how to make your work more vital and valuable to diverse communities.
1:45-2:45 // MALF Annual Meeting + Idea Exchange
Back by popular demand, MALF is bringing its “popcorn style” Idea Exchange to MLA. Share ideas, and learn about: successful membership drives, creative fundraising, advocacy and more. MALF will devote the second half of the hour to the organization’s annual meeting. Stay and learn what MALF has been up to in 2016!
3:50-4:50 // Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of the Library
MALF will spotlight three exceptional projects made possible by member Friends groups between January 2015 and January 2016. Representatives from three finalist groups will offer 10-minute overviews of their projects before the big winner is announced. Attendees are guaranteed to come away with at least one replicable idea!
Sally Gardner Reed, executive director of United for Libraries, will lead and keynote half-day workshops in four locations across Minnesota in September. We will hold sessions of "Refresh and Revitalize Your Friends Group" in:
Austin Public Library
323 4th Ave NE, Austin, MN, 55912
Wednesday, September 14 (11 a.m.-3 p.m.)
(ACL) Rum River Library
4201 6th Ave, Anoka, MN, 55303
Thursday, September 15 (10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
(DCL) Wentworth Library
199 Wentworth Ave. E., W. St. Paul, MN, 55118
Friday, September 16 (10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Douglas County Library
720 Fillmore St., Alexandria, MN, 56308
Saturday, September 17 (11 a.m.-3 p.m.)
In addition to the keynote, attendees will participate in small group roundtables, plus have a chance to share their thoughts and experiences during an hour-long idea exchange session – a MALF workshop staple, and one of participants’ best opportunities all year round to network and share with Friends from across Minnesota.
"Refresh and Revitalize Your Friends Group" is FREE to attend, and it is not necessary for you to be a member of MALF or any Library Friends organization to do so. A complimentary lunch will be provided at each location. Pre-registration is required, to ensure the appropriate number of lunches and informational packets.
Hundreds of library advocates from all walks of life converged on the U.S. Capitol in May for National Library Legislative Day (NLLD). Organized each year by the Washington office of the American Library Association, NLLD is one of the nation’s premier library advocacy opportunities. MALF president Judy Schotzko made the trek this year as a member of Minnesota’s “delegation.” She came away impressed with the advocacy event – and even more impressed with NLLD as an advocacy education opportunity.
“Meeting with congressional representatives and their aides is the highlight, but the organizers prepare you well on the Sunday before – and that training included replicable advice that anyone can use at home,” Schotzko explained. Among other speakers, ALA’s briefing and training session featured a keynote by former Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ).
Here is a list of NLLD “best practices” you should keep in mind, when meeting with public officials and advocating for libraries at the local, county and state levels.
1. Champion specific bills, actions, and priorities. Voicing general support for libraries is not typically effective. Most governmental officials support the continued existence of public libraries, and very few have a negative view of the institution. Championing specific priorities (e.g. allocation of funds to purchase and maintain more computer consoles) is far more likely to be heard and heeded.
2. Research the person you are speaking with. Do not go blind into any meeting with elected officials. Your time with them is almost definitely going to be limited. In order to maximize that time and leave the best possible impression, research that person beforehand. Find out how he or she has voted in the past, and what their funding priorities appear to be. As best you can, tailor your pitch accordingly.
3. Leave something behind. (No, don’t go forgetting your hat or coat.) If you can spare the time, draw up a one-page summary of your key talking points. Going this extra mile affirms your seriousness, serves as insurance if you forget something, and saves your audience from having to take many notes. Print and bring several copies; one or more aides may be in attendance. At a minimum, be prepared to leave a business card.
4. Don’t underestimate aides and other assistants. If you set up a meeting with the office of a state or federal official, do not be surprised if you do not get to meet the congressman or woman in person. Their time and attention are at a premium, and this sort of work is often delegated to trusted aides. Do not feel cheated, or give your meeting anything less than your best effort. Aides are influential, and their bosses respect their opinions. Having an aide paraphrase your key points can be a powerful thing indeed.
5. Don’t feel self-conscious about what you don’t know. As a Friend, you likely do not know the ins and outs of the library world as well as library staff. Think of this as an advantage. When librarians approach elected officials about library priorities, many assume they are speaking primarily out of self-interest. When a Friend makes the same pitch, however, their motives will not be questioned.
If anything, this last point is most important, according to Schotzko. “In my experience over the years, whenever staff lobbies for something, it is presumed they are lobbying for their job. Volunteers ask only because they care. These are the people that can have a huge impact.”
As we gear up for a busy fall, MALF is thrilled and fortunate to welcome two new members to our expanding Board of Directors. Skip Levesque and Virginia (Ginny) Copeman recently joined our ranks.
Ginny Copeman comes to MALF with a broad-based communications and graphic design background. She serves currently as interactive marketing director for Saint Mary's University in Winona. In that capacity, she manages the university's top-tier social media platforms, maintains a dynamic university newsblog, and provides faculty and staff trainings on best practices for these and other e-tools (among other key duties). Prior to assuming that post in 2013, Ginny contributed her skills set as a graphic designer in the Communications Service Division of the Rochester Public Library.
Skip Levesque, formerly of Maple Grove, moved to St. Michael after retiring three years ago. He became an active member of the local Friends of the Library (St. Michael, Albertville and Hanover) shortly thereafter, and has since stepped into a leadership role during a pivotal growth phase for that organization. Since assuming the presidency in May 2015, Skip has led the local Friends through an inaugural Founders Recognition celebration and their highest grossing book sale to date. As part of our Board, he looks forward to contributing to MALF’s expanding statewide and national advocacy efforts.
We will also take this opportunity to bid a fond farewell to Board member Sheila DeChantal. DeChantal is an active force in the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library. Among other accomplishments, she led that organization through its first successful “Wine & Words” annual fundraisers. The inaugural event, held in 2013, won Brainerd the Evy Nordley Award for Best Project in 2014. In her time with MALF, DeChantal contributed that same passion for programming to MALF’s programming committee.
As a poet once said, “The only thing that never changes is the fact that everything changes.”