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.
In 2015-2016, the City of Northfield – together with numerous community partners and donors – financed a $3.4 million renovation to the Northfield Public Library. Private support accounted for an impressive 45 percent of that price tag.
The Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library played an integral role in seeing this public-private partnership through to its conclusion. Not content to rest on their laurels, however, the Friends remain hard at work promoting the newly expanded facility and all that it has to offer.
Two recent, overlapping book bag promotions are emblematic of the Friends’ tireless community outreach efforts.
Northfield Public Library owns several pieces of artwork by local artEvyists, including the iconic Jubilante by St. Olaf professor emeritus John Maakestad. Library staff rolled out a “brand refresh” to coincide with their facility’s grand reopening, and used Jubilante as something of a centerpiece: on library cards, a new website, and more.
With the permission of the Maakestad family, the Friends used the masterwork as the design for a new line of totes, as well. They sold these, at the reopening celebration and afterwards, for $15 each (in order to keep the tote affordable to all) – but encouraged a $5 “extra” donation.
Meanwhile, the Friends of the Northfield Library targeted their second book bag initiative at an underserved population: residents who speak English only as a second language. After applying for and receiving a $1500 grant from Women in Northfield Giving Support (“WINGS”), the Friends assembled more than 100 blue-and-white bags stuffed to the brim with outreach resources. Goodies included Spanish-to-English flash cards, spelling and math activity books, pamphlets about the library, and bus vouchers. (Northfield Public Library is located close to a major bus line. Organizers included complimentary bus tokens to invite visits from community members who do not have other easy transportation options.)
Careful grant fund management allowed the Friends to assemble 150 full totes (versus the 100 originally projected). They targeted recipient families with able assistance from area schools and the local Community Action Center.
As the Friends noted in their recent Evy Nordley application, they had hoped that this outreach push would “incentivize visits from families who do not regularly use the library’s programs, services, and resources.” Happily, multiple tote recipients were in evidence among the 2,200-strong crowd at the library’s rededication ceremony – indicating that they are having the desired impact.
Jubilante also made its mark. The Friends sold out of their initial order relatively quickly, and just as quickly reordered more. They intend to market the colorful, waterproof tote heavily as part of future holiday fundraisers.
What a turnout! Nearly 150 devoted Friends of the Library came out last week to hear Sally Gardner Reed, director of United for Libraries, speak about best practices to refresh and revitalize Friends groups (among other workshop highlights). That is a new record for MALF’s growing fall series. Members, look for a full feature in the next MALF newsletter.
Our thanks to the Friends at Anoka County Library – Rum River, Austin Public Library, Dakota County Library – Wentworth, and Douglas County Library for your partnership on “Refresh and Revitalize Your Friends Group.” If you would like to partner with MALF to bring a workshop and national caliber speaker to your library sometime in 2017, we’d love to hear from you. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are your library's staff and supporters interested in pursuing more grant opportunities, but intimated by the research and reams of paperwork some applications seem to entail?
Here’s your point of entry. In celebration of 25 years servicing the library market, TEI Landmark Audio is rolling out a one-time-only Literacy and Programming Grant. Later this year, 25 libraries will receive $1,000 each to support their youth literacy endeavors. You'll find that the application is quite manageable: only one page in length!
Applications must be received by Tuesday, November 15. A contract or other purchasing relationship with TEI Landmark Audio is NOT required to be eligible, and individual branches within larger library systems are welcome to apply. However, while Friends may partner on an entry project, funds will only be awarded to libraries themselves – and your library director must sign off on the proposal.
Winners will be announced by December 15, with the expectation that funds will be used for their intended purpose by July 1, 2017. Click here to read over the one-page application, and to learn more.
Last fall, for one night only, the Pipestone Area Friends of the Library (PAFL) transformed the local Meinders Community Library into southwest Minnesota’s most innovative museum.
Pipestone’s library is a relative rarity in today’s landscape, notes director Jody Wacker. It is a combined school and public library facility; it serves the Pipestone Area Schools, as well as the 4,000-person community at large. “We are therefore in a unique position to create ties inter-generationally, and across the cultural and socio-economic divides common in our town,” Wacker explained.
PAFL did just that on November 20 with its inaugural “Night at the Museum” – the largest ever library event hosted inPipestone.
Inspired loosely by the popular movie of the same name, the event’s dovetailing goals were to give students an opportunity to showcase their artwork, bridge generation gaps, and get people into the library. “Students have few people with whom to share their art and academic success with, as school projects that take time and effort are then typically crammed into backpacks and are often seen only by teachers and parents,” Wacker explained.
Planning and promotion began in September. All told, 216 area students (3rd-12th grades) contributed a total of 91 exhibits to Night at the Museum. These varied widely, from canvas art and educational displays, to short feature films and podcasts – and even a cheesecake-making demonstration and a scone taste-testing!
A turnout of over 160 attendees beat expectations – despite the night coinciding with the year’s first big snowfall. After the main event, 50 students and adults stuck around to watch “Night at the Museum.”
For a program with so many moving pieces, PAFL’s event could not have been more cost effective. The Friends provided about $35 towards refreshments, but most other costs were picked up by local media and patron donors. Naturally, the students did most of the set-up and tear-down work.
Building on this first year’s success, Jody Wacker feels that as little as $500 for paid promotions would go a long way towards making any “sequels” even bigger community affairs.
By all accounts, Night at the Museum is an achievement worth repeating. “We successfully brought together two demographics within our community that typically have little interaction and great misconceptions of each other: our youth and our elderly,” Wacker said. “All night – and for months afterward – we heard how much people enjoyed spending time with the youth and seeing them in a whole new light. The impact was significant enough that the library continues to highlight student projects.”
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.