MALF Announces Minnesota’s Newest ALA “Literary Landmark”: Central Lakes College’s Jon Hassler Library

20080320_hassler_33.jpgWriters like Sinclair Lewis and, more recently, Garrison Keillor, have gained national renown for their portrayals of life in small-town Minnesota. However, no author’s depictions have resonated quite as strongly with native Minnesotans as those of the inimitable Jon Hassler.

Jon Hassler, a teacher by training, burst onto the writing scene in a big way in 1977 with the publication of his first novel, the perennial bestseller Staggerford. The debut garnered Hassler accolades from all corners – for a strong narrative voice, engaging plot devices, and, above all, a refreshingly authentic look at town dynamics in a small Midwestern town.

Over the next three decades, Hassler contributed another dozen novels to the corpus of Minnesota literature, in addition to several well-received nonfiction works, short stories anthologies, and children’s books.

While this high level of productivity is an achievement in its own right, it is all the more impressive for the fact that Hassler never gave up his “day job.” Far from leaving academia, he moved through the ranks – from a high school teacher, to a college professor at Bemidji State University and Brainerd’s Central Lakes College, to Writer in Residence and Regent’s Professor at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn.  

Hassler’s real-life experiences infused his fiction writing, with teachers (like Staggerford’s Agatha McGee) accounting for several of his most beloved characters.

Hassler passed away in 2008, at age 74, after a long and courageous battle with a Parkinson’s-like disease.

While his pluck and candor gained him famous fans in life, including Hillary Clinton and Angela Lansbury, no one mourned Hassler more in death than the small Minnesota communities that figure so prominently in his fiction. In September 2008, in recognition of this fact, Central Lakes College renamed its library the "Jon Hassler Library" in his honor.

MALF Will Recognize Hassler, Formally Dedicate a “Literary Landmark” in May 2014

United-for-Libraries-ll.jpgNext May, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF) will honor Hassler’s life and work by dedicating the Jon Hassler Library as Minnesota’s fourth and newest Literary Landmark.

Literary Landmarks are sites with a strong historical connection to prominent American authors, recognized through a partnership between United for Libraries' Literary Landmarks Assoc. and local affiliates.

While several hundred sites across the United States have been recognized in this way, Minnesota, to date, is home to only four. These include the Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home in Sauk Centre, Minn., which MALF sponsored and dedicated last July.

The Jon Hassler Library is a strong contender. It was during Hassler’s tenure at Central Lakes College (then Brainerd Community College) that he penned Staggerford. Moreover, the facility is home to many of the author’s personal effects, including a number of original writings. 

Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming dedication ceremony in Brainerd. We will pass along a date and details early in calendar year 2014.