Evy Nordley Finalist Spotlight: Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library

In 2015-2016, the City of Northfield – together with numerous community partners and donors – financed a $3.4 million renovation to the Northfield Public Library. Private support accounted for an impressive 45 percent of that price tag.

MN_Rice.pngThe Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library played an integral role in seeing this public-private partnership through to its conclusion. Not content to rest on their laurels, however, the Friends remain hard at work promoting the newly expanded facility and all that it has to offer.

Two recent, overlapping book bag promotions are emblematic of the Friends’ tireless community outreach efforts.

Northfield Public Library owns several pieces of artwork by local artEvyists, including the iconic Jubilante by St. Olaf professor emeritus John Maakestad. Library staff rolled out a “brand refresh” to coincide with their facility’s grand reopening, and used Jubilante as something of a centerpiece: on library cards, a new website, and more.

With the permission of the Maakestad family, the Friends used the masterwork as the design for a new line of totes, as well. They sold these, at the reopening celebration and afterwards, for $15 each (in order to keep the tote affordable to all) – but encouraged a $5 “extra” donation.

Meanwhile, the Friends of the Northfield Library targeted their second book bag initiative at an underserved population: residents who speak English only as a second language. After applying for and receiving a $1500 grant from Women in Northfield Giving Support (“WINGS”), the Friends assembled more than 100 blue-and-white bags stuffed to the brim with outreach resources. Goodies included Spanish-to-English flash cards, spelling and math activity books, pamphlets about the library, and bus vouchers. (Northfield Public Library is located close to a major bus line. Organizers included complimentary bus tokens to invite visits from community members who do not have other easy transportation options.)

Careful grant fund management allowed the Friends to assemble 150 full totes (versus the 100 originally projected). They targeted recipient families with able assistance from area schools and the local Community Action Center.

As the Friends noted in their recent Evy Nordley application, they had hoped that this outreach push would “incentivize visits from families who do not regularly use the library’s programs, services, and resources.” Happily, multiple tote recipients were in evidence among the 2,200-strong crowd at the library’s rededication ceremony – indicating that they are having the desired impact.

Jubilante also made its mark. The Friends sold out of their initial order relatively quickly, and just as quickly reordered more. They intend to market the colorful, waterproof tote heavily as part of future holiday fundraisers.