Minnesota Association of Library Friends

2018 Library Legislative Forum: You're Invited!

Posted by jim on July 03, 2018

brookdale.jpgIn today’s unsure funding climate, public advocacy for library funding is more important than ever. We occasionally hear that Friends are uncomfortable championing their library in this way, are inclined to write off advocacy as the responsibility of other stakeholders, or simply don’t know where to begin.

Fortunately, this summer is the perfect time to dip your toe in, learn the ropes – choose your metaphor! The Minnesota Library Association is co-hosting the annual Library Legislative Forum on Wednesday, August 8. Friends of the Library are cordially invited to join library staff and trustees for this traditional start to the library community’s legislative year.

Forum starts at 9:00 and will conclude by 3:30. The day will center around in-depth discussions about MLA's proposed Legislative Platform for the important 2019-2020 budget cycle. (Priorities are likely to include bonding for library buildings, expanded broadband access, and net neutrality – but the particulars must be worked through by those present!)

confab.jpgMLA leadership will also discuss advocacy tactics and priorities. Please consider attending, particularly if you are an advocacy novice. Learning by doing really is the best way!

The Library Legislative Forum will be held this year at the Hennepin County Library - Brookdale Public Library. Lunch is provided free of cost to advance registrants. Make sure to register by Friday, August 3.

'Stand Up Friends': One Month Mark!

Posted by jim on June 26, 2018

While only one winner comes away with the Evy Nordley Award, every Friend of the Library group in Minnesota can claim a 2018 ‘Standout Friend’ simply by submitting a candidate they feel strongly about.

Stand Up for Standout Friends is, in essence, MALF’s equivalent of an Unsung Hero Award (a popular award of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and like-minded charities across the country). In thanks for ‘standout’ contributions to their work, each MALF member organization is invited to put forward the name of one individual for this special yearly honor.

Among other perks, every honoree will receive a certificate of achievement from MALF, plus recognition at this year’s Minnesota Library Association conference. MALF will also send notification letters to the mayor’s and/or county commissioner’s offices of all winners, and add their names and stories to a growing 
“Gallery of Friends” on our website.  

Applying is easy. Fill out and submit
 this form to our office, together with a cover letter addressing why your candidate is a Standout Friend. (Explanation of reasoning and qualifications should run a minimum of 100 words, and 200-300 words is advised.) Submit no later than Friday, July 27.

According to the Library and Book Trade Almanac, a staggering 21,878 children's book titles were published or rereleased last year. Unfortunately, if not unsurprisingly, these books are more accessible to some children than to others.

Public and school libraries play an important role in equalizing access, of course – but in poor and underserved areas, a library’s collection budgetwill only stretch so far. If your library serves a high proportion of underprivileged youth, Lisa Libraries wants to help!

The Lisa Libraries is a 501c3 private foundation, started by The Babysitters Club author Ann M. Martin in 1992 to honor the memory of a friend. It provides a selection of new fiction and nonfiction books (K-6) to small libraries and “other small grassroots organizations” – daycare centers, prison visiting areas, homeless shelters, and third party after-school programs.

If your library can make a case for such a gift,
 please apply. Be prepared to supply statistics on the number of children you serve and the socio-economics status of your service area (e.g., eligibility data for Title 1 and Federal School Lunch programs).

MALF Workshop Teaser Video: Focus On Relevancy

Posted by jim on June 11, 2018

Friends of the Library groups large and small often suffer from a handful of common problems: dwindling and aging membership, mediocre fundraising success, and perhaps most pernicious of all, mission creep

You should take some amount of solace in the knowledge that these issues are not unique to you. Indeed, they are not unique to Friends. In today’s nonprofit landscape, 501c3’s of all types and stripes experience these same stressors.

Long-time nonprofits coach and consultant Sandy Anderson knows this better than most. “We’re living in a time when charities are expected to do more with less.” Some degree of burnout is inevitable – especially if the core group of people doing your organization’s ‘heavy lifting’ is relatively small.

But assuming that a fresh infusion of donors and volunteers is not forthcoming, where does that leave us? Explains Anderson: “In short, we need to shift the conversion from doing more with less, to doing what’s relevant.”

Naturally, this pivot is easier said than done, but it is most certainly attainable.

With this in mind, MALF cordially invites you and your Friends colleagues to join Sandy Anderson this summer for a hands-on workshop: “Strengthening Your Organization: Create 'Tables' That Fuel Relevancy and Impact.” We’re bringing this free, engaging session to Duluth (August 28), Saint Michael (August 29), and Northfield (August 30). Registration opens Monday, July 9.

In the meantime, we encourage you to view this 3-minute overview video of the upcoming MALF workshop, specially tailored by Anderson for Friends of the Library audiences. It may make you ask: Where do tables and coffee filters enter the equation? Well, you will just have to join us August 28-30 to find out!

Great Stories Club 2018-2019

Posted by jim on June 04, 2018

Speaking of July 9, that same Monday marks an important deadline. Between now and then, ALA's Public Programs Office invites public libraries to apply for the September 2018 - August 2019 cycle of its NEH-funded Great Stories Club (GSC).

Unfamiliar with the program? Great Stories Club’s raison d'être is to give underserved youth (and particularly those facing significant challenges) the opportunity to read, reflect, and share ideas on topics that resonate with them. The popular program has reached more than 750 libraries – and more than 30,000 young adults – to date.

Grantees host reading and discussion events for curated book titles (usually for a core group of 6-12 young people) that fit with the GSC’s ongoing theme. Books, support materials, and support services will be provided free of charge.

This year, for the first time, the American Library Association has announced not one, but two themes to choose from: Empathy and Heroism. Eleven eligible book titles truly run the gamut, covering everything from intergalactic diplomacy, to irresponsible time travel, to the underappreciated role of the Navajo tribe in World War II. Intrigued by that capsule description? We hope so.
 Click here to read more.

Kris Lindahl, Contributing Writer

Did you know that the state of Minnesota once boasted a total of 65 public libraries built with grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York? (One additional grant was awarded to Hamline University for an academic library.) It’s true! Between 1886 and 1919, the steel tycoon and renowned philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gifted $45 million to fund 1,579 libraries across the country, and Minnesota claimed her fair share.

Remarkably, of the original 66 libraries located in cities and towns throughout Minnesota, 50 still stand. Twenty-three continue to function as libraries. Others have been converted into galleries, art centers, offices or commercial space. For example, the former library in Montevideo now serves as community space, while the Carnegie Library built in Pipestone in 1903 enjoys new life as a senior center. All of these beautiful, historic libraries contribute much to their communities’ aesthetic, and are one of many amenities prospective residents can look forward to when moving to Minnesota.


Standout Carnegie Libraries

Although many of Carnegie's initial grants were to communities where he had personal ties, 25 Minnesota towns were recipients of library commissions between 1899 and 1903. Duluth received the state's first commissions, for three quote "free public libraries." Minneapolis received four grants; three of these libraries are still in operation. Saint Paul, recipient of four grants, still counts two 1917 buildings as active libraries. 

Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of my favorites.


Stillwater.jpgStillwater, just across the St. Croix River from Wisconsin, is sometimes known as the "birthplace of Minnesota.” It was the site of a territorial convention in 1848 that led to Minnesota statehood, so it seems fitting that it became the site of one of the first public libraries to be built in the state. On July 3, 1901, Stillwater received a Carnegie grant in the amount of $27,500.

Interestingly, Stillwater previously had a library association and maintained a lending library which supplied reading materials for a fee. In 1897, however, the city passed a referendum calling for taxation to fund a public library. When Carnegie funding for a building became available, Stillwater was therefore "first in line," so to speak, spurred on by an all-woman library board. 

The library opened the following year, and it is still operating. Although it has been enlarged and renovated, Stillwater Public Library still bears the stamp of its original Beaux Arts design, and carries on the tradition of its early years.

Little Falls

Distinguished by its Craftsman architecture, the Carnegie Library in Little Falls continues to serve residents some 113 years after its opening. The city received approval of its grant application in 1902, began construction of its library in 1904, and opened the doors in February 1905. Little Falls Public Library recorded 1,415 registered borrowers that inaugural year. 

Nowadays – after extensive renovations and updates to add public computers, etc. – the library is part of the Great River Regional Library System, and serves upwards of 8,300 regional borrowers.


The Hutchinson Free Public Library was dedicated and opened in June 1904. Built of Kasota limestone and brick in the popular Classical Revival style, construction was made possible by a $12,500 grant from Carnegie. Nearly 100 years later, in 2003, an extensive restoration of the original Carnegie portion of the building began.

During the intervening years, the existing space was nearly tripled. Some of the original features, including original shelving and decorative woodwork, are still intact. The library – although changed and sporting a new entrance – still has a prominent place on Hutchinson's main public square.

Sauk Centre

sauk.jpgIn early 1903, citizens of Sauk Centre used $10,000 in grant funding to build the Bryant Public Library. (Its name honors American poet William Cullen Bryant.) It opened the following year.

An additional $1,000 Carnegie grant was awarded in 1907 to replace the original roof. A cupola was added in 1909 to increase the interior's natural light.

Today, the library is known as the  Sauk Centre Public Library. It was expanded in 1998 with two wing additions and interior renovations. New entrance steps were added in 1992, but the building retains its original brick Renaissance Revival façade— highlighted by a low-hipped roof, square-hipped cupola, and central entrance projection that boasts an impressive arched opening. 

Crookston and Morris

Two of northern Minnesota's early libraries are still open, and served for decades as their counties’ only libraries until they were purchased by their county historical societies.

Crookston.jpgCrookston was first offered $12,500 by Carnegie to build its library – but negotiated an increase to $17,500. They won their bid in November 1903. It took several more years to move the project forward, however. Although the cornerstone bears a date of 1907, the library did not open to the public until 1908. Typical of so many Carnegie Libraries, this is a Classical Revival style single-story building with a raised basement and an entrance staircase. A new, larger library was constructed on an adjacent site in 1984. Now the former Carnegia Library contains the Polk County Historical Society's archives.

Similarly, the Morris Public Library was relocated to new quarters in 1968, while the older building became headquarters and a museum operated by the Stevens County Historical Society. The original Classical Revival building, which opened in 1905, has been extensively renovated.

A 2005 addition nearly doubled existing display and storage space, and moved the entrance to another street. The new entrance was designed as a replica of the original, including period columns, quoining, parapet and pediment. The building still prominently features the Carnegie name.

These "free libraries" were never free to the communities that benefited from them. Rather, they were supported by taxation, a somewhat novel concept for the time. Learn more about Minnesota libraries by visiting Minnesota Carnegie Libraries Tour.

“Minnesota Nice” is well understood and documented, but we would contend that “Minnesota Modesty” is no less pervasive. Every day, Friends of the Library work tirelessly but unassumingly to better their local libraries. They rarely receive the recognition that their selfless contributions deserve.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits knows this, too. For the past three years, the organization has offered its Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Award, “in acknowledgment of the recipient’s role in creating a positive impact on Minnesota.”

While the award is a competitive one, top prize includes $10,000 and a special recognition at MCN’s annual conference in November. Candidates must be Minnesota residents, and self-nominations will not be accepted. Otherwise, eligibility criteria are few!

Click here to access application procedures and read up on 2015-2017 recipients, to better gauge if the colleague you have in mind would be competitive. Submit by Friday, May 25. As always, good luck!

2018 Nonprofit 'Mission' Awards

Posted by jim on May 08, 2018

Even when a Friends organization boasts an Unsung Hero worthy of statewide recognition, their successes still invariably represent a group effort. For this reason, MCN also invites nominations for its 2018 Nonprofit Mission Awards.

As the name suggests, Mission Awards recognize outstanding organizational achievements in further of a nonprofit’s objectives. They are granted annually, and in four categories: Responsive Philanthropy, Anti-Racism Initiatives, Advocacy, and Innovation. In particular, these last two are well suited to Friends of the Library priorities and accomplishments.

In this case, Friends leaders are welcome to submit their own organization for consideration (although formal affiliation is not required to put forward a nomination). A Minnesota Council of Nonprofits panel will winnow down the list of nominees to a set of finalists, which will be voted on by MCN membership.

As with the Unsung Hero Award, you can read up on previous years’ winners, to determine if your Friends of the Library are a good fit. 
Click here to learn more. Submit your application no later than Monday, May 21!

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