Minnesota Association of Library Friends

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!

November Brings Giving Opportunities Galore

Posted by jim on November 08, 2018

December may be the traditional “season of giving,” but here in Minnesota, the month of November gives it a run for the title. November offers not one, but two ‘holidays’ over which you can celebrate and support libraries - and the nonprofits that keep them strong.

First, this coming Thursday, November 15 is Give to the Max Day (GTTM). GiveMN’s self-styled “Minnesota giving holiday” is now in its tenth year. In its run to date, GTTM has raised upwards of $150 million for a host of charities and schools. Friends of the Library of all sizes have been beneficiaries. 
Click here to see if your local Friends are participating, and here to read up on the advantages of donating as part of Give to the Max Day.

Friends Leaders: Click here to ‘claim’ your nonprofit, and to learn best practices for optimizing GTTM donations.

Second, mark your calendars for Giving Tuesday! Observed the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (memorably, right after Black Friday and Cyber Monday), Giving Tuesday is the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season. Thanks to grassroots momentum throughout (and recently, beyond) the United States, the holiday is slowly becoming a global phenomenon.

Friends Leaders: Want to know how to make the most out of Giving Tuesday? 
Click here for case studies and recommendations.

Last, we’d be remiss not to add that MALF also welcomes financial gifts in any amount. You can support our mission on Give to the Max Day, Giving Tuesday, or any other day by donating (see right side of homepage).

Like What We Do? Join Our Board!

Posted by jim on November 02, 2018

As any Friends veteran will tell you, financial gifts alone cannot keep Friends of the Library afloat. Your time and talents are no less valuable.

In this spirit, MALF invites you to put your name forward for our own Board of Directors. Our all-volunteer Board hail from across the state and represent many walks of life. Without them, our programming, grant work, and advocacy efforts would not be possible.

Would-be directors are asked to be present for half-day quarterly meetings in Saint Paul, and available (in person or remotely) for occasional committee sessions as needs dictate.  

If interested, please send a brief cover letter and resume to info@mnlibraryfriends.org. Our nominating committee chair will respond promptly to all inquiries.

MALF's 2018 MLA Conference Highlights

Posted by jim on October 24, 2018

Nearly sixty Friends and other library stakeholders from across Minnesota joined MALF in Saint Paul on Thursday, October 11 for a half-day of panels, presentations, and recognition events by and about Friends of the Library. As most of you already know, MALF co-hosts “Library Friends Day” as part of the larger, annual Minnesota Library Association conference.


Highlights included a full house for our 9:10 primer on Minnesota's political environment and effective library advocacy. Rep. Mary Murphy (D-Hermantown) joined us as a special guest. Other panelists included Amy Wilde and Jim Weygand from the Minnesota Libraries Trustees and Advocates (MLTA), and Friends of the Austin Public Library president Sue Grove.

We also recognized a new class of ‘Stand Up for Standout Friends’ recipients, representing Friends groups from Cook to Rochester, and many points in between. One of these, Priscilla Reineke of Friends and Foundation at Douglas County Library, joined us in person!

Members: Look out for MALF’s next quarterly print newsletter, which will include many more MLA highlights.

We hope to see you all September 19-20, 2019 at the Mystic Lake Center in Prior Lake for MLA 2019! Keep your eyes peeled in the New Year for further details.

For the second time in three years, Pipestone Area Friend of the Library came away with top prize in MALF’s annual Evy Nordley Award competition. Bestowed in recognition of outstanding Friends of the Library programs and accomplishments, MALF’s flagship honor is announced every fall at the fall Minnesota Library Association conference.

DSC_0341.JPGIn a moment of déjà vu from 2016 – when Pipestone won for innovative library/school partnership “Night at the Museum” – MALF president Nancy Guerino passed off a $1,000 check and commemorative plaque to library director Jody Wacker at the River’s Edge Convention Center in Saint Cloud.

Click here for detailed coverage of “Full ‘STEAM’ Ahead,” Pipestone’s equally impressive 2018 entry. Among other merits, MALF’s judging committee awarded this group top marks for project impact. The Friends hosted a one-day maker movement event at the Meinders Community Library, to serve as ‘proof of concept’ and justify construction of a dedicated, expensive makerspace within the Library.

Attendees turned out in droves. Moreover, this pilot allowed Pipestone Area Friends of the Library to seek – and receive – a $25,000 grant through the competitive State Farm Neighborhood Assist® program. (Out of nearly 2,000 submissions, Pipestone was selected as one of only 40 to get the full $25,000 amount.)

On October 11, MLA conference attendees also heard from runners-up Sheila DeChantal of Brainerd (“CLUE™ Book Club Murder Mystery Event”) and Kay Stait of Buffalo (“Library Outdoor Reading Space, Phase I”). No one came away empty handed. In fact, for the first time in Evy Nordley’s history, MALF recognized second and third place winners – versus two undifferentiated runners-up who each receive $250 in prize money.

Brainerd (like Pipestone, an Evy Nordley Award “alum”) took home second place and a $500 check. Click here for details on the design and implementation of both Brainerd’s and Buffalo’s projects.

Today, Meinders Community Library in Pipestone, Minnesota is home to a state-of-the-art makerspace – one that a public library in a community three times Pipestone’s size would envy. Its free resources range from 3D printers and stop motion animation equipment, to cricut machines and industrial staplers.


A well-equipped makerspace represents a significant financial commitment, and one that Meinders Library did not make lightly. In order to gauge interest for and demand in these cutting-edge library amenities, the Library turned to the Pipestone Area Friends of the Library.

On May 20, 2017, the Friends hosted “Full STEAM Ahead,” a celebration of science and creativity that showcased the various technologies available through a permanent makerspace. (For those unfamiliar with it, STEAM is an education acronym for Science • Technology • Engineering • Art • Mathematics.)

In total, the program featured more than 25 free activities and presentations. Crowd favorites included book binding, wool spinning, kite making and cricut crafting seminars.

Thanks to a robust publicity campaign and strong relationship with the area school, which adjoins the Meinders Library, more than 100 attendees of all ages participated in the day-long extravaganza. That healthy turnout approached the Library’s all-time event record – not bad, especially for a library with a programming budget of zero dollars in 2017.


However, as the saying goes, nothing comes from nothing. The Friends donated 100+ volunteer hours to the planning and execution of Full STEAM Ahead. Other community volunteers contributed another 20+. Local businesses provided a complimentary lunch and refreshments for all guests.  

Full STEAM Ahead proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Pipestone area was ready for a permanent makerspace. After the program’s resounding success, the Library applied for a $25,000 grant through the competitive State Farm Neighborhood Assist® program. The Friends’ resounding success with the Full STEAM Ahead pilot set it apart from other applicants. Out of nearly 2,000 submissions, Pipestone was selected as one of only 40 to get the full $25,000 amount.

This is a huge boon for the community, and in particular for Pipestone Area Public Schools. “Because the Library is attached, students are able to use the new [makerspace] for school projects,” said director Jody Wacker. “It’s doing much to equalize economic disparity.”

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