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Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #10: Friends of the St. Peter Library

In 1998, the town of Saint Peter suffered wide-ranging damage in one of the most devasting tornadoes to hit Minnesota in living memory. Among other casualties, the town lost its historic downtown library facility. For years after the so-called Comfrey - Saint Peter tornado, patrons resorted to using a FEMA trailer set up on the property to pick up and return books.

strands.jpgNeedless to say, residents were elated when a new, 16,400-square-foot library finally opened to the public four years later. Moreover, the facility offered a variety of amenities and aesthetic advantages that its predecessor did not. More windows and copious amounts of natural light rank high among these.

Last year, The Friends of the Saint Peter Public Library gifted their library a one-of-a-kind colored glass mosaic to accentuate that natural asset. Titled “Strands of Knowledge,” the 23-piece work of art now graces the library’s expansive entryway.

The Friends landed on this beautification project in consultation with lead librarian Doug Wolfe and a special entryway enhancement committee established for just this discussion.

nicollettco.pngAfter some preliminary due diligence research, the group selected Saint Peter-based glass artist Bob Vogel to design Strands of Knowledge. Vogel’s striking commercial work can be seen across Minnesota – at a college in Mankato, hospital in Slayton, and churches dotted across the state.

For his hometown library, Vogel chose a colorful double helix design that symbolically links knowledge, books and art. Library staff landed on the apropos name.

Design and fundraising work began in earnest in January 2018. “Expenses for this project really involved only three entities: the artist, the installer, and the engraver for the recognition plaque,” explained project lead Margie Nelsen. “For this reason, it was possible to get reasonable and precise installation costs early.”

The Friends, who committed themselves at the onset to cover the entire project fee (minus only a small public stipend from the City), brainstormed on how to reach the $13,000 target required by Strands of Knowledge. Helpfully, the group was able to get nearly halfway there by reallocating $7,000 from its general operating budget.

For the remainder, Friends leadership adopted an internal, versus external approach. Instead of a general, city-wide call to action, the campaign focused on the organization’s general membership. In all, 35 different members raised $4,045 collectively. A generous, $1,500 match grant offered by another Friend allowed the campaign to hit its goal.

Installation occurred before year’s end, in time for a November 28, 2018 dedication ceremony. The Friends spent $60 to prepare and mail special invitations to city councilmen and other public officials.

“The value or effectiveness of this type of project is always difficult to measure,” noted Margie Nelsen. “However, we’ve received nothing but positive feedback about the beauty and appropriateness of this new addition to the Saint Peter Public Library.” Indeed, some visitors stroll in for the express purpose of glimpsing Strands of Knowledge!