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Evy Nordley Candidate Spotlight: Virginia, Minn.

Thank you to all the members who submitted entries for this year’s Evy Nordley Award. Our judging committee has a tough call ahead of them! They will convene later this summer, and a slate of three finalists will be announced in the run-up to the Minnesota Library Association conference.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite, it’s our privilege to profile the 2018 contenders, one at a time. First up: 


The Friends of the Virginia Public Library ("The Book Lovers Tea")

Virginia, Minnesota is home to fewer than 8,800 residents. Looking at the high level of activity at the Friends of the Virginia Public Library, you sure wouldn’t know it.

For nearly twenty years, the Library and its Friends have hosted a Hot Reads for Cold Nights series. Perfect for long, frigid and dreary winters on the Iron Range, this series is geared toward adult audiences and aims to combat adult alliteracy.

The Library and Friends have embraced more unconventional, less passive programming ideas, as well. One, with the tongue-in-cheek title Cook the Book, is a twist on the traditional potluck. Residents are encouraged to visit the Library and select a recipe out of a cookbook set aside by staff for that month’s Cook the Book. Participants try the recipe out at home and bring the dish to the Library for a sometimes cohesive and always fun communal meal.

​Last but not least, The Friends of Virginia Public Library host an annual event called The Book Lover’s Tea. At its heart, this bash is an opportunity for area bibliophiles to gather together around their shared love of literature (and savory snacks).

Volunteers first conceived of The Book Lover’s Tea – their Evy Nordley Award nominated program – nine years ago. While it started as a modest enough affair, “this has since transformed into an annual highlight headlined by an established Minnesota author,” explained board member Carol Gunderson. It is held each February, usually the week of Valentine’s Day.

Previous guests have included comedienne and New York Times bestselling author Lorna Landvik, popular children’s illustrator Chris Monroe, novelist Sarah Stonich, and Scandinavian chef Bea Ojakangas. This year, they doubled down on the culinary theme by hosting food and lifestyle writer, memoirist, and gourmet chef Beth Dooley.

While The Book Lover’s Tea is free and open to the public, space constraints limit attendance to fifty guests. Given the high demand in recent years, “regulars” know to make their reservations well in advance.

“Our members take great pride and joy in decorating our auditorium and preparing the delightful food,” Gunderson said. Staples include finger sandwiches, pastries, desserts – and, of course, an array of English teas!