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MALF Blog

Minnesota Association of Library Friends

Evy Nordley Revamp; 2019 Application Window Open!

Posted by jim on February 01, 2019

Anyone privy to national news about Friends of the Library can attest that Minnesota stands a cut above the rest. That’s something worth celebrating. Over the past twenty years, MALF has acknowledged and publicized exemplary achievements of local Friends groups through our Evy Nordley Award.

As we gear up for this flagship program’s third decade, we are happy to roll out a new, standardized application form. Built on years of participant feedback, this new template will be of benefit to applicants in several ways.

First, in lieu of a free-form project narrative, the new Evy Nordley template breaks project description down into its constituent parts: planning, publicity, evaluation, and so on. In this way, otherwise strong applications are far less likely to be docked points for accidentally omitting some critical piece of the puzzle. Second, those categories tie directly to judging criteria and panel discussion areas, lending added transparency to the process.

As in years past, supplementary materials are welcomed. Common examples include photographs, newspaper clippings, letters from program partners or beneficiaries, and budget summaries. However, these are not required.

Remember, any Friends-supported project is eligible, provided that (1) project implementation began after January 1, 2018; and (2) either the Friends or their library was the primary beneficiary. (In other words, efforts jointly developed with or sponsored by non-Friends organizations are qualified under many circumstances.)

Common project types include special events, successful fundraisers, membership drives, and stellar advocacy campaigns – but the sky is the limit! If you have specific questions about the eligibility of a particular project, call 651-366-6492 for clarity.

All entries must be postmarked or emailed by Friday, June 21. Applicants will be notified of finalist outcomes by mid-August. Representatives from the three finalist Friends groups will be asked to give a 10-minute presentation on their project Thursday, September 19as part of the annual MLA conference (to be held this year in Prior Lake, with additional details TBA).

February 26 is Minnesota Library Legislative Day

Posted by jim on January 30, 2019

Did you know? Every public library in Minnesota benefits from a state Office of Higher Education appropriation which earmarks funds for statewide interlibrary loan delivery (ILL). It's one of dozens of ways in which state dollars impact local library service.

Crucial services like these are easy to take for granted - but we do so at our own peril. Without continued support in the state legislature, there is no guarantee that the government will sustain libraries in this way in perpetuity. With that in mind, the Minnesota Library Association maintains a standing Legislative Committee. (You can learn more about its work here.)

This body organizes an annual Library Legislative Day at the Capitol in Saint Paul. It is perhaps our best opportunity all year round to champion the valuable work of libraries in front of an audience well positioned to safeguard library funding. MALF will be there in force – and we hope to see you there!

Mark your calendars now for Tuesday, February 26, and stay tuned for further details (including how to request specific appointments). Note that, as in years past, the event will kick off with a morning legislative briefing to get attendees up to speed on bills and other measures of import to libraries. There will also be an informational library fair on site. You can make a day of it!

All too often, budgetary constraints prevent our public libraries from orchestrating the creative, top-notch children’s programs that staff and patrons wish to see. Equally frustrating, while myriad grants exist to defray programming costs, most are fairly restrictive in scope and intent. Fortunately, every year, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation offers a solution.

Named after the bestselling and Caldecott Award- winning illustrator, this Foundation offers 70 annual “mini-grants” to public libraries and schools, to put on whatever children’s program they desire. Since the Foundation’s inception, the program has awarded nearly $1,000,000 – that’s a lot of mini-grants!

Need inspiration? The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation’s recently remodeled website is chock full of replicable examples. For instance, the most recent Minnesota grantee (Beaver Lake Education Center in Maplewood) self-published a “collage homage” of a favorite Keats book, by having each classroom contribute a page in a different artistic medium (paper mache, oil paints, etc.)

Mini-grants are capped at $500. Applicants seeking consideration in 2019 should submit their materials online by March 31.
 Click here to learn more.

Please note, a Friends of the Library organization is ineligible for this program unless partnering directly with their affiliate Library. If, for whatever reason, this presents an issue for your hoped-for program, consider MALF’s own Chris D. Olson Event & Programming Grant as an alternative!

ALA Programs Office Introduces "Thinking Money"

Posted by jim on January 10, 2019

MALF has maintained a blog since 2011. In that time, news about the American Library Association’s traveling exhibit opportunities routinely rank among our most popular posts. In light of that clear and continual interest from Friends, we are thrilled to share word about the ALA Programs Office’s newest exhibit: Thinking Money.

As the name suggests, Thinking Money aims to teach the fundamentals of financial literacy – budgeting accurately, spending responsibly, and investing wisely. ALA’s newest interactive exhibit is geared towards younger patrons, aged 7-11, in hopes of instilling those lessons early. (However, parents and other patrons are sure to learn a little something new and useful, as well.)

Comparable to past exhibits, ALA’s pre-fabricated displays require 1,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Each regional co-host will display Thinking Money for a six-week period sometime between late 2019 and 2021. Libraries selected as regional co-hosts are expected to organize at least four on-site programs on topics related to personal finance during their six-week window. Each will receive a $1,000 programming stipend to defray costs, as well as an expenses-paid staffer trip to Washington D.C. for orientation (during the 2019 ALA Annual Conference this June).

Think you might be interested? 
Click here to learn more, and to apply. Be sure to do so before the rapidly approaching cutoff date: Friday, February 8!

Get the Scoop on TechSoup

Posted by jim on December 17, 2018

Is your Friends group in need of a computer, software upgrade, or cloud storage solution for its files? Investments such as these can get expensive, and quick. Before taking the plunge, be sure to register your 501(c)3 with TechSoup to explore subsidized options.

TechSoup is a popular online nonprofit network. Among other services, it offers approved nonprofits a platform to purchase needed hardware and software at lower-than-retail prices. Discounts regularly exceed 50 percent!


Click here to peruse the product catalog, which includes in-demand products from Adobe, Dell, Microsoft, and many other reputed vendor. In order to register, you will need to submit paperwork corroborating your 501(c)3 status. We can attest, it’s worth the effort; consider it an early Christmas present to your Friends!

Note: If your Friends of the Library is not incorporated, you are ineligible to use TechSoup. Consider applying for MALF’s own
 Goss-Nordley Start-Up Grant to defray costs associated with 501(c) incorporation.

MALF Grant Funds "WONDERFUL" BEA Reads

Posted by jim on December 01, 2018

wonder.jpgOver the last decade, we’ve witnessed libraries truly come into their own as nexuses for public congregation and collaboration. This is perhaps best exemplified by the explosion in library-led “community read” (or “one read”) initiatives. In practice, community read programming takes a multitude of forms – and the concept is extremely scalable. At their heart, however, all such initiatives aim to bring different segments of the community (be it a school district, city, county, or even state) to read and learn from the same book together.

Several cooperating libraries, and their Friends groups, have built such a program in Faribault County. Blue Earth Area Reads is now in its fourth year. Historical fiction favorite Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline; Ordinary Grace by mystery phenom William Kent Krueger; and the semi-autobiographical The Things They Carried by Vietnam War vet Tim O’Brien served as a focus for BEA Reads in 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively.

For 2018, the partnering libraries hoped to up their game, and turned to MALF for help. The Friends of the Blue Earth Community Library sought, and received, a financial award through MALF’s members-only Chris D. Olson Event & Programming Grant to expand BEA Reads.

Organizers selected award-winning Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, as the basis for the One Read. While a work of fiction, it is grounded in the real experiences of people with rare birth defects. Young protagonist August "Auggie" Pullman suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome. Facial abnormalities cause him to have difficulties transitioning from home schooling to public school. Palacio’s book has been adapted into a 2017 feature film, starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson.

Community Reads participants across the country have already found Wonder to be a perfect entrée into candid and empathetic discussions about physical deformity, ableism, and bullying.

With assistance from MALF, the Friends of the Blue Earth Community Library (along with a second long-time MALF member, Friends of the Elmore Public Library) saw to it that these important discussions did not begin and end with the book.

Faribault.jpgIn April 2018, they hosted public film screenings, themed storytimes for preschoolers, and special gatherings for teens at libraries in Blue Earth, Elmore and Winnebago. Each library also hosted a “Wonder Day,” anchored by interactive stations that play off the many teachable themes in Wonder.

Like the three previous years, the Friends sought a Minnesota tie-in (though in this case, the book did not automatically suggest one). Ultimately, the Friends invited guest speaker Steve Bensen in to speak at each of the partner libraries. Bensen, a Twin Cities resident transplanted from South Dakota, suffers from mandibulofacial dysostosis – a condition very like Auggie Pullman’s in Wonder. Since birth, Benson has undergone ten surgeries, and even been outfitted with prosthetic ears – rare experiences he is more than happy to talk about. (He is married to a Blue Earth Area High School alum, which brought him to the attention of BEA Reads organizers.)

Thanks to MALF’s financial assistance, for the first time ever, The Friends had the wherewithal to purchase ad placements to promote this impressive slate of events.

Interested in hosting your own Community Read? Visit read.org, a web resourced maintained by the Library of Congress, for a primer. Remember, if your Friends of the Library group is a MALF member, you are also eligible for the Chris D. Olson Event & Programming Grant!

Membership Renewal Reminder

Posted by jim on November 27, 2018

MALF is a membership organization, and your dues underpin our ability to orchestrate Friends-specific programming, offer a wide range of member grants and awards, and so much more.

As a reminder, MALF’s membership year is equal to the calendar year. Consequently, all members who have not yet renewed for 2019 are asked to do so by December 31.

If you haven’t already received it, check your mail in the coming days for a 2019 renewal notice. As always, you can also visit our website for more details. Please direct any questions to info@mnlibraryfriends.org or 651-366-6492.

Submit 'Friends of Libraries Week Award' Noms Today

Posted by jim on November 15, 2018

Did your Friends of the Library observe National Friends of Libraries Week on October 21-27? If you did, United for Libraries (the Friends arm of the American Library Association) wants to hear from you.

Every year since 2007, UFL has honored at least two participating Friends organizations with an (aptly named) Friend of Libraries Week Award. This special acknowledgment comes with a $250 cash prize and significant national press.

United for Libraries conceptualized National Friends of Libraries Week as a two-fold opportunity: for Friends to raise community awareness about their contributions to the local library (and solicit memberships), and for library staff and trustees to celebrate their Friends.

That’s a broad framework, and deliberately so. Creativity in execution is strongly encouraged!

In years past, Friends have marked National Friends of Libraries Week with everything from a pet photo contest in Rutherford, N.J., to a first-of-its-kind Native American storyteller program in Glendale, Ariz., to a pumpkin decorating competition in Escanaba.

Even if your commemoration was on the more conventional side, be sure to apply for this year’s award. Do so by Tuesday, December 4.
 Click here for instructions. Miss the "holiday" this fall? Not to worry - National Friends of Libraries Week 2019 is already slated for October 20-26, 2019. Mark your calendars!

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