The Minnesota Association of Library Friends is closing in on its fortieth anniversary – a major milestone, and one that many nonprofits never get the opportunity to celebrate. We owe our longevity and success to the active involvement of Friends generally, and the long-term support of several individuals in particular. Barbara Byers undoubtedly ranks near the top of this list.
“Barbi Byers has been active in MALF from its earliest days, serving first as liaison to the group for the Washington County Library system,” notes MALF President Mary Ann Bernat. Barbi worked as a librarian in Washington County for most of her career (from 1971-1995). Fortunately for all of us, her affiliation with MALF has lasted even longer.
Barbi’s involvement culminated in 1998, when she became president of the MALF Board of Directors. She would lead in that post until 2010, and then serve another three equally productive years as Secretary.
Among other highlights, Barbi spearheaded the push for what would become MALF’s flagship honor, the annual Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of the Library.
MALF has not been the only beneficiary of Barbi’s largesse over the years. She is incredibly active with the Minnesota Library Association and its Library Trustees and Advocates (MLTA) division. MLA has even named Barbi a recipient of its President’s Award.
Barbi has also served time as a citizen representative on the State Library Advisory Council, and collaborated with the state Department of Education on the production of a first-of-its-kind publication about managing small and one-person libraries.
Barbi’s generosity does not stop with libraries. From 1998 to 2012, she sat on the board of the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education. For about a decade, she also coordinated a drive to send surplus hospital supplies to medical clinics in Malawi.
On October 8, in recognition of her many and varied contributions – both to MALF and the Minnesota library community more generally – MALF named Barbi Byers the ‘Library Friend of the Year’ at the 2015 Minnesota Library Association Conference.
“I arrived at the conference early, ostensibly for a MALF nominating committee update during breakfast,” Barbi said. “I was completely surprised when Mary Ann Bernat stepped up to the podium and presented me with this meaningful award, complete with a beautifully engraved walnut bookend.”