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MALF Blog

Minnesota Association of Library Friends

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.

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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.

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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.”

Evy Nordley Finalist Spotlight: Brainerd, Minn.

Posted by jim on September 21, 2018

While board games are a popular pastime, they suffer from a drawback: the gameplay experience is a decidedly two-dimensional one. The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library turned that on its head last year with a wildly popular CLUE murder mystery event.

Hosted at the Brainerd Public Library (where else?), this first-of-its-kind role playing event brought to life the popular Hasbro game and its stately mansion setting.

The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library are no strangers to experimental programming. In 2014, they won the Evy Nordley Award for “Wine & Words,” an author gala fundraiser. Last year, they were runners-up with “Books, Burgers & Brews,” a truly unique literary dining experience held in Crow Wing County restaurants and pubs.

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However, while these previous initiatives targeted the public at large, invitations to the CLUE Event were restricted to just one special audience: members of area book clubs.

“You may think that creating an exclusive event for book clubs is preaching to the choir, but that is not true,” explained Friends president Sheila DeChantal.”Many book clubs do not utilize their local library – and more so, they do not know the resources that today’s libraries provide.”

In the run-up to the big day, each area book club received a “summons” (delivered in ornate envelopes appropriately marked Confidential). More than 100 book club members answered that call.

Many dressed in period costumes, complementing the Victorian veneer given to Brainerd Public Library for the day. “A local photographer loaned us backdrops, including bookshelves and a study, which really completed the setting,” DeChantal recalled.

The Friends organizers tasked guests with solving a murder by visiting sixteen themed areas within the Library. Just like in the board game CLUE, players used process of elimination to zero in on a murder weapon, the scene of the crime – and its perpetrator.

Going the extra mile, the Friends also secured an event liquor from the City and offered a free beer tasting. Hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and coffee were also donated by area businesses. Each attendee left with a Friends of the Library swap bag containing promo materials about the group and the Library, chocolates, and coupons for local breweries and coffeehouses.

Impressively, thanks to in-kind donations, the Friends were able to put on the CLUE Event with only $200 of their own money.

MLA Conference 'Early Bird' Window Closing Soon

Posted by jim on September 03, 2018

Before your Labor Day ramps up in earnest, take two minutes to pre-register for the Minnesota Library Association conference at the reduced Early Bird rates.

After the Wednesday, September 5 cutoff, the cost to participate jumps from $71 to $93 for those registering at the (Thursday-only) Friends rate. For folks inclined to stay for the conference’s full run, registration for non-MLA members jumps from $330 to $412.


On the fence? Take a look at MALF’s special, half-day track of Friends of the Library programming for October 11. You can also view the entire conference schedule, here

If you love your library enough to call yourself a Friend of the Library, odds are high that you have strong and positive feelings about the people who staff it, as well! If you think that your library boasts a librarian who is a cut above the rest, consider nominating her or him for the 2018 'I Love My Librarian!' Award.

As the name suggests, this long-standing American Library Association 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 in New York City).


Click here to learn more, and to nominate someone. Be sure to do so before Monday, October 1. 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. Click here for application suggestions from ALA.

MALF Announces 2018 MLA Programming Track

Posted by jim on August 02, 2018

MALF is proud to reprise our role as a premier sponsor of the annual Minnesota Library Association conference! 

Why? MLA is the library field’s best chance all year to brush up on best practices, learn about emerging trends in their dynamic field, and network with peers from across Minnesota. Day 1 of the Conference doubles as an invaluable opportunity for Friends of the Library to do the same! Join us in Saint Cloud on Thursday, October 11 for a half day of Friends-specific programming.  

9:10 – 10:00 a.m. | What Does ‘Library Advocacy’ Actually Look Like?* 

We’ve all heard, time and again, that healthy and sustained public funding requires active library advocacy. Our panel of experts will unpackage this catch-all term – what it means in practical terms, and where you fit in. Questions to be addressed include: Who are all the players, and what is the role of Friends of the Library? Can citizen advocates overstep? How do you develop effective advocacy plans? How do you approach members of the State Legislature? 

*Panel co-sponsored with the Minnesota Library Trustees Association (MLTA). Panelists will include, as a special guest, a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Stay tuned for the announcement!  

10:30 – 11:30 a.m. | Evy Nordley Award & Stand Up Friends Recognition 

MALF’s flagship yearly prize recognizes innovative and replicable Friends of the Library programs. Come listen to our 2018 finalists – Friends of the Brainerd Public Library (“CLUE Event”), Friends of the Buffalo Library (“Reading Space Project”), Pipestone Area Friends of the Library (“Full STEAM Ahead”) – share a little about their Evy Nordley candidates. Winner receives $1,000! We will also name and honor more than a dozen recipients of this year’s Stand Up for Standout Friends honor. 

1:00 – 1:50 p.m. | MALF Annual Meeting & Idea Popcorn 

Meet the Minnesota Association of Library Friends board of directors, and learn about the organization’s 2017-2018 highlights. After this brief meeting (open to non-members as well as members), we will have our always popular “popcorn- style” Friends idea sharing session. Typical topics include membership recruitment and retention, fundraising, and effective advocacy. Attendees are encouraged to bring samples and resources to share at this informal session. 

Registration is now open. Make sure to do so by September 5 to secure the early bird rate of $71. Friends pay $93 for a Thursday ticket after that date.  

Coming from out of town? Details on nearby hotels – and the conference’s discount lodging rate – are available here.  

Evy Nordley Candidate Spotlight: Rochester, Minn.

Posted by jim on July 31, 2018

Thank you to all the members who submitted entries for this year’s Evy Nordley Award. Our judging committee has a tough call ahead of them! They will convene later this summer, and a slate of three finalists will be announced in the run-up to the Minnesota Library Association conference. In the meantime, to whet your appetite, it’s our privilege to profile the 2018 contenders, one at a time. First up: 

Friends of the Rochester Public Library ("Magic Game Day")

Hobgoblins, trolls, werewolves and dragons have a villainous reputation in fantasy fiction, and deservedly so. However, on March 17, the Friends of the Rochester Public Library used this gallery of rogues as a force for good. On that day, the Friends hosted a gaming fundraiser around the perennially popular card game Magic: The Gathering.

The Friends organized this “magical” event to benefit Rochester Reading Champions (RRC). RRC is a literacy intervention program coordinated through Rochester Public Library. It provides trained, volunteer tutors to underachieving youth and low-literacy adults throughout Olmsted County. The Friends have supported RRC since its inception in 2014.

Recently, the Rochester Public Library received a matching grant opportunity to support Reading Champions. Staff turned to The Friends to meet the match threshold. They delivered – with their most outside-the-box program to date.

Pat Stephenson, a long-time volunteer, approached the local nonprofit Weirdcards about a potential fundraising collaboration. Weirdcards is a unique nonprofit social organization, originally formed at Mayo Clinic. It leverages the philanthropic spirit of the gaming community in southeast Minnesota to support area nonprofits and their causes. They jumped at the opportunity.  

While the board and card game market is flooded with hundreds of titles to choose from,Magic: The Gathering boasts an active fan base of over 20 million players, making the deck-building card game a logical focus for this inaugural fundraiser.

The Friends and Weirdcards co-hosted Magic Game Day at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Rochester. Players paid a $25 entrance fee. Concessions, provided by The Friends, raised additional funds.

Dozens of families, college students, and Mayo Clinic staffers turned out to test their Magic: The Gatheringskills. Magic Game Day raised $844 outright for Rochester Reading Champions. A match from The Valley of Rochester Scottish Rite Children’s Foundation doubled that contribution, to $1,688.

“These funds will directly impact undeserved people in our community, by paying for volunteer training, tutoring supplies, and student assessments,” Stephenson explained.

Event revenue, which exceeded organizers’ expectations, is the proverbial cherry on top for the high-performing Friends of the Rochester Public Library!

Evy Nordley Candidate Spotlight: Virginia, Minn.

Posted by jim on July 23, 2018

Thank you to all the members who submitted entries for this year’s Evy Nordley Award. Our judging committee has a tough call ahead of them! They will convene later this summer, and a slate of three finalists will be announced in the run-up to the Minnesota Library Association conference.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite, it’s our privilege to profile the 2018 contenders, one at a time. First up: 


The Friends of the Virginia Public Library ("The Book Lovers Tea")

Virginia, Minnesota is home to fewer than 8,800 residents. Looking at the high level of activity at the Friends of the Virginia Public Library, you sure wouldn’t know it.

For nearly twenty years, the Library and its Friends have hosted a Hot Reads for Cold Nights series. Perfect for long, frigid and dreary winters on the Iron Range, this series is geared toward adult audiences and aims to combat adult alliteracy.

The Library and Friends have embraced more unconventional, less passive programming ideas, as well. One, with the tongue-in-cheek title Cook the Book, is a twist on the traditional potluck. Residents are encouraged to visit the Library and select a recipe out of a cookbook set aside by staff for that month’s Cook the Book. Participants try the recipe out at home and bring the dish to the Library for a sometimes cohesive and always fun communal meal.

​Last but not least, The Friends of Virginia Public Library host an annual event called The Book Lover’s Tea. At its heart, this bash is an opportunity for area bibliophiles to gather together around their shared love of literature (and savory snacks).

Volunteers first conceived of The Book Lover’s Tea – their Evy Nordley Award nominated program – nine years ago. While it started as a modest enough affair, “this has since transformed into an annual highlight headlined by an established Minnesota author,” explained board member Carol Gunderson. It is held each February, usually the week of Valentine’s Day.

Previous guests have included comedienne and New York Times bestselling author Lorna Landvik, popular children’s illustrator Chris Monroe, novelist Sarah Stonich, and Scandinavian chef Bea Ojakangas. This year, they doubled down on the culinary theme by hosting food and lifestyle writer, memoirist, and gourmet chef Beth Dooley.

While The Book Lover’s Tea is free and open to the public, space constraints limit attendance to fifty guests. Given the high demand in recent years, “regulars” know to make their reservations well in advance.

“Our members take great pride and joy in decorating our auditorium and preparing the delightful food,” Gunderson said. Staples include finger sandwiches, pastries, desserts – and, of course, an array of English teas!

Registration For 2018 MALF Workshop Now Open!

Posted by jim on July 11, 2018

Registration is now open for MALF’s summer workshop series, “Strengthening Your Organization: Fuel Relevancy and Impact.” Long-time nonprofits coach and consultant Sandy Anderson will join us in Duluth, Saint Michael, and Northfield for a keynote and working session on relevancy geared specifically for Friends of the Library.

Session 1: 
Tuesday, August 28
Duluth Public Library520 W. Superior St., Duluth, MN, 55802

Session 2: 
Wednesday, August 29
Saint Michael Public Library11800 Town Center Dr., St. Michael, MN, 55376

Session 3: 
Thursday, August 30
Northfield Public Library210 Washington St., Northfield, MN, 55057

Attendance is FREE, and it is not necessary for you to be a member of MALF or any Library Friends organization to participate. Moreover, a complimentary lunch will be provided at each location. Registration is required, to ensure the appropriate number of lunches and info packets. Do so by Friday, August 17.

Last, if you’re so inclined, we’d love for you to help spread the word amongst your networks (press release | flier | teaser video).

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