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Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #1: Friends of the Cook Public Library

Across the country, more than 90 percent of public library facilities offer a dedicated teen space. For some, however, getting teenagers to actually visit and use that space is a perennial challenge. Last year, the Friends of the Cook Public Library landed on an innovative and decidedly memorable way to engage area teens with the library and its programming.

cook.jpgLet’s back up for a moment. Located 90 minutes north of Duluth and an hour from the Canadian border, the town of Cook is as isolated as any in Minnesota. This is doubly true during the long winter months. In order to help residents through the worst of the season, the Friends of the Cook Public Library collaborate with library staff on a so-called Adult Winter Reading Program. Typical events include author visits, movie screenings, and other logistically straightforward offerings.

For the 2018 finale, however, the Friends partnered with the library’s standing Teen Advisory Board on something entirely different. On March 8, these co-organizers invited patrons to a Roaring Twenties soiree – gone horribly wrong.

In the middle of the party (held at the library), one of the guests was “unexpectedly murdered.” Naturally, it then fell to the other attendees to discover whodunnit, and why!

Teen Advisory Board members, together with a few Friends and staffers, dressed the part and carried the night’s plot forward. Costumes and props, purchased inexpensively from the local thrift shop, added a sense of realism to their 1920s personas.

cookmoose.pngVisitors were encouraged to mingle with this cast of characters, asking questions and reconstructing the lead-up to the heinous crime. At the end of the night, the actors reenacted the scene point for point, allowing participants the gratification of knowing how close they were to the mark.

Lead librarian Crystal Phillips had sketched out the story line ahead of time, and made sure that each volunteer knew how they fit into the central narrative. “Crystal wanted to expand on that winter’s adult reading them of mystery books, and create a grand celebration to cap off the programming series,” explained Friends president Kathy Sacchetti.

The Friends supplied a budget of $200 for costumes, table decorations, and snacks. (They asked for and received additional refreshments as an in-kind donation.)

groupcook.jpgIn such a small town, The Friends felt it was a reasonable goal to reach everyone in the community with word of the murder mystery. If they didn’t succeed, they at least came close! In addition to social media and web promotions, they received nice coverage in the local Cook News Herald. For good measure, volunteers also conducted a good old-fashioned poster campaign across town. Word of mouth, plus a follow-up feature in the newspaper, continued the buzz after the fact.

“Staff received wonderful, positive remarks for weeks afterwards, and several people made it a point to say they wanted a sequel in 2019,” Sacchetti recalled. The Friends obliged in March 2019, with an even more ambitious premise: the murder of the titular Count of Monte Cristo of Alexandre Dumas fame!