Traveling Libraries in Minnesota: A Case Study on the Spirit and Potential of Library Friends Organizations

One of this year’s stand-out nominees for the Evy Nordley Award for Best Project (and ultimately one of the two 2012 runner ups) was the Friends of the Houston Public Library. Houston, Minn., is located in the far southeastern tip of the state. At population 990, it is, in the words of library director Liz Gibson-Gasset “smaller than small.”

Recently, the Friends of the Library in Houston spearheaded a multifaceted community initiative to raise funds (plus in-kind donations) towards major renovations. You can read about it in this October article from the MALF blog. In short, the success in Houston shows what good a relatively small but dedicated cadre of library friends, staff and volunteers can do for a small and rural community.

Minnesota boasts a solid track record in this department. As a recent MinnPost article points out, one cogent example is the case of traveling libraries, which have been around since the 1890s. 

Traveling book collections in Minnesota owe their genesis not to state funding (early bills were struck down in both 1895 and 1987), but to turn-of-the-century Library Friends - women's clubs in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Mankato, and Rochester.

Perhaps we can all learn a little something from their innovative spirit!

**The MinnPost story comes from research on traveling libraries done for MNopedia, the online encyclopedia on all things Minnesota developed and curated by the Minnesota Historical Society. You can read the entry in its entirety (including bibliography) here.