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Remembering Friends Luminary Mary Ida Thomson

As many of you have already likely heard, Friends luminary Mary Ida Thomson passed away last week in Hastings. She was 92.Thomson’s contributions to Minnesota libraries were many and sundry. Near the top of that list, her drive and keen insights helped shape the Minnesota Association of Library Friends during its early formative years.

MALF exists to support Friends of the Library organizations throughout the state, but Thomson’s legacy left its most indelible mark in the Twin Cities. As a representative of First Bank, she served on the board of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library for thirteen years (1979 -1992), including the last six as president.

In this capacity, she memorably co-founded the wildly popular Minnesota Festival of the Book in 1988. The inaugural event lasted ten days and drew thousands to St. Paul to celebrate literacy and book culture. The Festival proved no small logistical challenge; success required the skilled coordination of nearly 100 organizations across the state. Thomson and colleague Leslie Wolfson accomplished this and much more with a budget that many would consider shoestring at best.

The first Minnesota Festival of the Book also saw the very first Minnesota Book Awards, a program which continues to grow year over year under the aegis of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.

Like many of MALF’s early leaders, Thomson realized that a strong library is the cornerstone of a strong community, and her volunteer efforts were not restricted to library initiatives as such. At various times, she also served on the boards of community organizations like the Charities Review Council, Minnesota Church Foundation, People Inc., and the St. Croix Valley Girl Scouts.

Mary Ida Thomson will be greatly missed by all who know her, but her influence will continue to be felt as organizations like MALF and the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library help guide Minnesota’s vibrant library community into the future.