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Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #6: Milaca Friends of the Library

Located between Saint Cloud and Hinckley, the town of Milaca is home to 3,000. While the local Milaca Community Library is heavily used, only a handful of those residents counts themselves as a bona fide Friend of the Library. As is the case in so many communities of this size, the Milaca Friends of the Library are always on the lookout for ways to change this.

milaca.pngEarlier this year, they stumbled on a perfect – albeit outside-the-box – pretext to interface with patrons face to face and share information about The Friends and what they do. They capitalized on a little-known holiday called “National Donut Day.”

National Donut Day is a silly tradition with serious roots. The Salvation Army created it back in 1938, as a yearly memorial to the droves of volunteers who followed American troops to Europe in World War I to bake and distribute comfort foods to the Allied forces.

Creativity notwithstanding, what might be most impressive about Milaca Friends of the Library’s effort is the speed at which they put this in-library celebration together. “We’ve been looking for ways to expand our membership, and make more people aware of the group in general,” explained organizer Ardy Becklin.

“We’ve toyed with doing three or four pop-up events each year, [part informational, part thematic fun], in hopes of getting into a cycle where people begin to look forward to the next one.”

Once someone suggested National Donut Day as the perfect, quirky tie-in for the kickoff pop-up session, there were only a few weeks left to plan.

First and foremost, The Friends explored all their options for acquiring a mammoth order of doughnuts. After bulk discounts, they purchased more than enough for a mere $48 – the only monetary expense associated with this event, as it happened.

national-doughnut-day.pngWhile there was no time to explore the possibility of outside community partnerships, library staff pitched in in several ways. They promoted the event heavily, especially during Milaca’s popular summer reading events. Staff also helped make sure the Library looked appropriately “festive.” Any and all books about doughnuts – be they cookbooks or children’s materials – were pulled from the stacks for display.

The Friends added to the ambiance with a giant inflatable inner tube (of a doughnut, what else?), posters, and printouts of book passages pertaining to the confection (such as a detailed description of pioneers baking the treat in Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder).

When the big day – Friday, June 7 – came around, residents turned out in droves to learn about The Friends and indulge. This included a mix of patrons who had business at the library anyway, plus people who heard about it through grassroots promotions efforts.

Becklin says that the true impact of this event cannot be measured immediately. However, the experiment was promising enough that The Friends have already committed to doing subsequent pop-up, informational events in the near future.

Moreover, “all the doughnuts were picked up, which is surely a good sign!”