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Evy Nordley Nominee Profile: Dinosaurs, Donuts & Dads

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Posted by jim under Evy Nordley

Dinosaurs have not roamed Minnesota for millennia – with one recent, notable exception, courtesy of the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library. 

On March 19, the Friends hosted an exceedingly imaginative event dubbed “Dinosaurs, Donuts and Dads.” Geared towards Isanti County children aged 4-7 and their dads (or grandfather or uncle), the special event easily garnered attention and media coverage in the Cambridge community, population 8,300.

While it may seem oddball at first pass, the unique theme is very much in keeping with the Friends’ philosophy. Bolstering children’s programming is a key tenet in their long-standing mission statement.

Themed activities ran the gamut, from storytime and finger puppet plays, to dinosaur songs and dance, to crafts galore. Afterward, to burn off energy, the youngest participants were given dinosaur masks to wear, and told to follow dinosaur footprints around the Library in search of special surprises.

The Friends enjoyed able assistance from library staff in orchestrating these dinosaur-themed festivities.

Unlike previous Friends programs, including their 2013 Evy Nordley Award winning
 “Saving the Library Budget”campaign, “Dinosaurs, Donuts and Dads” was not targeted at augmenting the Library’s budget per se. The explicit goal was to drive families to the downtown library who do not otherwise make stops part of their regular routine. It is for this reason that organizers added donuts to the mix; an extra, sugary incentive never hurts!

They were certainly successful, driving more than the usual amount of traffic that Saturday. In light of this success, Friends of the Cambridge Library already have additional program ideas up their collective sleeves. These include an equally imaginative children’s program: “Moms and Muffins.”

Evy Nordley Nominee Profile: Wentworth's Sign-Up Revolution

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Posted by jim under Evy Nordley

Friends organizations come in all sizes, but are united by two things: a shared love of libraries, and reliance on volunteers to coordinate their fundraisers and programming. The Friends of Wentworth Library in W. St. Paul are certainly no exception.

As a case in point, The Friends’ most recent book sale, held over the course of three days, required 15 shifts and 90 volunteer time slots to carry out. In total, 30 volunteers turned out to fill those 90 slots, and the fundraiser went off without a hitch. Approximately 500 happy shoppers left with at least one new used book in hand.

This high-level overview belies one of the most significant challenges associated with putting on such a large endeavor: filling all those shifts! Until recently, notes member Karen Griffin, the event coordinator or coordinators did this with pen and paper. Griffin and her colleagues found that process cumbersome and time-consuming.

In preparation for the group’s October 2016 and April 2017 book sales, leaders explored online alternatives. Ultimately, the growing volunteer tool “SignUp.com” struck them as the best option, in terms of user intuitiveness and expense. They determined to pilot it and share their findings with other Friends facing these same challenges.

Happily, the move paid almost immediate dividends – and exceeded their original expectations. “Using ‘SignUp,’ we quickly found we could better track volunteer hours, send messages like reminders and thank yous, and generate reports after the fact,” Griffin said.

The Friends highly recommend that other groups take advantage of their upfront research and “sign up” (pun intended!) for this free and easy tool.