MALF Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of the Library: Winners and Finalists
“Night at the Museum” Wins Pipestone the 2016 Evy Nordley Award
Last fall, for one night only, the Pipestone Area Friends of the Library (PAFL) transformed the local Meinders Community Library into southwest Minnesota’s most innovative museum.
Pipestone’s library is a relative rarity in today’s landscape, notes director Jody Wacker. It is a combined school and public library facility; it serves the Pipestone Area Schools, as well as the 4,000-person community at large. “We are therefore in a unique position to create ties inter-generationally, and across the cultural and socio-economic divides common in our town,” Wacker explained.
PAFL did just that on November 20 with its inaugural “Night at the Museum” – the largest ever library event hosted in Pipestone.
Inspired loosely by the popular movie of the same name, the event’s dovetailing goals were to give students an opportunity to showcase their artwork, bridge generation gaps, and get people into the library. “Students have few people with whom to share their art and academic success with, as school projects that take time and effort are then typically crammed into backpacks and are often seen only by teachers and parents,” Wacker explained.
Planning and promotion began in September. All told, 216 area students (3rd-12th grades) contributed a total of 91 exhibits to Night at the Museum. These varied widely, from canvas art and educational displays, to short feature films and podcasts – and even a cheesecake-making demonstration and a scone taste-testing!
A turnout of over 160 attendees beat expectations – despite the night coinciding with the year’s first big snowfall. After the main event, 50 students and adults stuck around to watch “Night at the Museum.”
For a program with so many moving pieces, PAFL’s event could not have been more cost effective. The Friends provided about $35 towards refreshments, but most other costs were picked up by local media and patron donors. Naturally, the students did most of the set-up and tear-down work.
Building on this first year’s success, Jody Wacker feels that as little as $500 for paid promotions would go a long way towards making any “sequels” even bigger community affairs.
By all accounts, Night at the Museum is an achievement worth repeating. “We successfully brought together two demographics within our community that typically have little interaction and great misconceptions of each other: our youth and our elderly,” Wacker said. “All night – and for months afterward – we heard how much people enjoyed spending time with the youth and seeing them in a whole new light. The impact was significant enough that the library continues to highlight student projects.”
In 2015-2016, the City of Northfield – together with numerous community partners and donors – financed a $3.4 million renovation to the Northfield Public Library. Private support accounted for an impressive 45 percent of that price tag.
The Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library played an integral role in seeing this public-private partnership through to its conclusion. Not content to rest on their laurels, however, the Friends remain hard at work promoting the newly expanded facility and all that it has to offer.
Two recent, overlapping book bag promotions are emblematic of the Friends’ tireless community outreach efforts.
Northfield Public Library owns several pieces of artwork by local artEvyists, including the iconic Jubilante by St. Olaf professor emeritus John Maakestad. Library staff rolled out a “brand refresh” to coincide with their facility’s grand reopening, and used Jubilante as something of a centerpiece: on library cards, a new website, and more.
With the permission of the Maakestad family, the Friends used the masterwork as the design for a new line of totes, as well. They sold these, at the reopening celebration and afterwards, for $15 each (in order to keep the tote affordable to all) – but encouraged a $5 “extra” donation.
Meanwhile, the Friends of the Northfield Library targeted their second book bag initiative at an underserved population: residents who speak English only as a second language. After applying for and receiving a $1500 grant from Women in Northfield Giving Support (“WINGS”), the Friends assembled more than 100 blue-and-white bags stuffed to the brim with outreach resources. Goodies included Spanish-to-English flash cards, spelling and math activity books, pamphlets about the library, and bus vouchers. (Northfield Public Library is located close to a major bus line. Organizers included complimentary bus tokens to invite visits from community members who do not have other easy transportation options.)
Careful grant fund management allowed the Friends to assemble 150 full totes (versus the 100 originally projected). They targeted recipient families with able assistance from area schools and the local Community Action Center.
As the Friends noted in their recent Evy Nordley application, they had hoped that this outreach push would “incentivize visits from families who do not regularly use the library’s programs, services, and resources.” Happily, multiple tote recipients were in evidence among the 2,200-strong crowd at the library’s rededication ceremony – indicating that they are having the desired impact.
Jubilante also made its mark. The Friends sold out of their initial order relatively quickly, and just as quickly reordered more. They intend to market the colorful, waterproof tote heavily as part of future holiday fundraisers.
Friends in small and rural areas are often tempted to use the modest size of their library, community, or member roster as excuses not to “think big.” Friends of the Elmore Public Library are proof positive that, with pluck and ingenuity, small Friends organizations can accomplish truly great things.
Located an hour south of Mankato along the Iowa state line, Elmore is a farm town of only 600. Unsurprisingly, as of last year, membership in the local Friends was among the lowest of any organization in southern Minnesota.
Consequently, many in the community voiced doubts when the Friends announced their intention to organize a large book basket silent auction as part of Elmore’s summer Horse and Buggy Days weekend celebration.
“Someone on our Board of Directors had seen another library do this sort of fundraiser, where they created baskets themed around a book title,” explained secretary Kristin Travis. “We decided to expand on that idea, by reaching out to the business community and asking them to donate either baskets or money for a silent auction.”
While the partnership opportunity sounds straightforward enough on paper, it is a tall order for Elmore – a town with no grocery store, no bank branch, and little commercial activity to speak of. At present, Elmore sustains only six active businesses.
Hoping to cast a wider net, “our Board brainstormed what businesses in nearby towns and cities benefit from the residents of Elmore shopping or patronizing them – or anyplace connected because owners or employees are alumni,” Travis recalled. (Elmore High School ceased graduating seniors in 1994, but Faribault County is full of town alumni working in various leadership positions.)
In total, the Friends compiled a list of 88 recipients for a letter requesting basket donations for the library’s silent auction. Impressively, 53 of those contacted wished to take part!
Kristin Travis attributes this response in part to flexible participation options. Donors did not have to devote time and effort to a themed basket if they did not want to. A cash donation option eliminated that barrier. In those cases, the Friends assembled an appropriate basket.
All these efforts reaped a range of dividends. Exposure helped the Friends boost their profile and nearly double the size of their Board (from 5 to 9). Every auction item sold during Horse and Buggy Days weekend, allowing the Friends to buy a computer and needed software for the library. Moreover, “Basket Book-nanza” raised so much that the Friends had enough left over to buy the facility a new Cricut machine and about $200 worth in DVDs.
This last acquisition brought with it an encouraging ripple effect. Elmore Public Library recently weeded its outdated VHS collection but had little to offer by way of new and in-demand DVD titles. This post-auction donation helped change that situation. DVDs now in rotation account for nearly 50 percent of the library’s entire circulation. “It has also fueled an interest in community members willing to donate movies,” noted Travis. (Approximately 1,300 are now available, up from just 100 last July.)
Friends of the Elmore Public Library is eager to try their hand at this fundraiser again – but next go around, they aim to reach out to an expanded contact list of nearly 150 businesses.
“Holiday Book Sale” Wins Austin the 2015 Evy Nordley Award
Austin, Minnesota – like hundreds of communities its size across the country – lost its last independent bookstore several years ago. Area booklovers feel that loss acutely, particularly during the holiday season. In 2014, the Friends of the Austin Public Library stepped in to fill this void in a new and innovative way.
The Friends began by tapping an invaluable relationship. “Earlier in 2014, we had struck up a partnership with staff at the Barnes & Noble store in nearby Rochester,” explained president Sue Grove. “This allows us to provide new books for sale at author presentations in our library, as well as at the annual Austin Artworks Festival.”
After these initial forays into new book sales proved successful, the Friends sat down with the Barnes & Noble community outreach liaison to plan something much more ambitious. “While brainstorming new ways to leverage this connection, board members came up with the idea of hosting a special holiday book sale at the library.”
They reasoned that such a program would allow residents to, once again, buy new books in Austin – while simultaneously drawing people into the library and boosting the public profile of the Friends. “Our board has sponsored two successful used book sales every year for many years, so this really seemed like a natural extension,” Grove said.
Barnes & Noble welcomed the opportunity to expand their reach in this market, knowing that not all readers in Austin are willing to make the 40-minute trek out to their Rochester store.
“We hoped to appeal to all ages, and so enlisted the help of people from various backgrounds and with varied interests to select book titles,” Grove explained. For instance, a retired kindergarten teacher picked out an assortment of in-demand children’s books. In total, the Friends spent a full five hours in Barnes & Noble pulling together merchandise retailing at about $7,000 for resale. “We bought so much that the 20 percent discount promised was increased to a 25 percent discount!”
A strong promotions blitz augured well for the three-day event. In addition to distributing flyers and posters, the Friends made appearances on local television and radio stations. The Austin Daily Herald gave the book sale front-page billing on two separate occasions, and Barnes & Noble coordinated web publicity.
“The event succeeded beyond our wildest dreams,” Grove explained. “Everyone was so excited about the first ever event of this kind… The room was packed throughout the sale. On the first day, people were even lining up 45 minutes before we opened!” Inventory sold so quickly that Barnes & Noble reps trucked additional books in from Rochester on the second and third days.
At the end of the event, the Friends let Austin’s collection development librarians select books they wanted for circulation. Barnes & Noble accepted back whatever remained, meaning that the Friends lost no money on unsold items.
While fundraising was a secondary objective, the Friends of the Austin Public Library raised over $1,250 through the holiday book sale. They intend to make it an annual tradition – albeit next year, in a much larger room!
F. Scott Fitzgerald died 75 years ago, but the literary luminary and St. Paul native would have felt right at home last February at the Friends of the Ramsey Co. Libraries’ signature fundraising event: the Great Gatsby Gala. For the second time in as many years, over 200 flappers and fellas converged on the Roseville Public Library for this memorable night.
The Friends set an ambitious goal of $30,000 (up an even $10,000 from 2014). They came in almost exactly on target, thanks to diverse revenue streams built into their gala model. Moderately priced tickets and generous sponsorships from local organizations accounted for much of it, but other fundraiser activities were unique to the gala and its theme.
For instance, notes long-time Friend and volunteer Sue Gehrz, sales of 1920s-style hats and headbands alone contributed over $500 in revenue. Volunteers painstakingly crafted the headbands by hand and sold them both before and during the gala.
The literary theme also seeped into the fundraiser’s silent and live auction components, in the form of books and period pieces. In total, over 80 items and bundles were donated to the auction, in categories ranging from dining and sightseeing experiences, to original artwork, to sports memorabilia.
While the live auction was the highlight for some, dining, dancing and photoshoots anchored the night for others. Still others appreciated the chance to meet their local librarians, and to go on a guided tour of the Roseville Public Library.
The Friends of the Ramsey County Library were thrilled to see that this combination of activities and attractions – fine-tuned after the inaugural gala in 2014 – drew a mix of people of all ages. The gala also proved a regional happening. “Many attendees traveled not just from outside Ramsey County, but from outside the Twin Cities to be a part of it,” Gehrz said.
The $30,000 raised by the Friends will allow the Ramsey Co. Library to purchase 1,500 new items for collections in Maplewood, Mounds View, New Brighton, North St. Paul, Roseville, Shoreview, and White Bear Lake.
When people design or discuss public awareness campaigns, they usually have an adult audience in mind. While the same usually holds true for public libraries, the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library recently designed a unique public awareness campaign aimed instead at their library’s youngest patrons. After some discussion, the Friends landed on the perfect vehicle to share the library’s value proposition with Brainerd area kids. They decided to coordinate a special children’s book sale bash, drawing on their experience hosting used book sales for general audiences.
They entered the planning stage with two goals in mind: to get a wide assortment of age-appropriate materials in front of children, and to price everything at 25 cents. “All books were sold at a quarter a piece so that all children could leave happy, with books in hand,” explained Friends president Gail Brecht.
Securing children’s materials in the necessary quantities required broad-based community support. The Friends board of directors sent letters to local teachers requesting book donations, and they in turn sent the call out to parents throughout Crow Wing County.
In order to create a festive atmosphere and stoke strong attendance, the Friends invested in snacks and face paints. A local costume shop also loaned the Friends princess and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes at a steep discount.
Friends report that the sale remained incredibly busy throughout its run, with children and parents alike expressed great appreciation for a children’s sale separate from Brainerd’s customary spring and fall sales. As one impressive indicator of traffic, during the sale, over 500 kids signed up for the library’s summer reading program.
Moreover, all told, the Friends raised about $1,000. As Gail Brecht points out, “that’s a lot of quarters!”
“Wine and Words” Wins Brainerd the 2014 Evy Nordley Award
Author readings, wine tastings, and silent auctions are all common enough on their own, but it takes a hefty dose of creativity and planning to roll all three activities into one fundraiser. In August 2013, The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library did just this, with their inaugural “Wine and Words” program.
Held at the beautiful Arrowhead Resort Hotel & Conference Center in Alexandria, Wine and Words featured not one, not two, but five accomplished writers: Sandra Brannan, Lorna Landvik, Sarah Pekkanen, William Kent Kreuger, and Wendy Webb.
Authors and guests alike enjoyed an impressive spread, with sumptuous dishes like champagne chicken and wild rice pilaf scoring high marks. Delicious as the meal was, the real highlight for the palate was the wine tasting. Beverages were donated by a local liquor store.
Indeed, The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library’s ability to find a number of generous partners (particularly ‘in-kind’ sponsors) proved crucial to their success. Arrowhead took care of author accommodations, and an area printer provided brochure and ticket printing free of charge. Local bookseller Book World facilitated on-site book sales for author signings. A number of businesses donated valuable items to the silent auction.
Moreover, Wine and Words enjoyed a veritable blitz of promotions – at least when compared with what’s typical for Friends programs in a community the size of Brainerd. In addition to a strong social media presence, a new website, and favorable coverage in the Brainerd Daily Dispatch, that included comped radio spots.
All this paid off. President Sheila DeChantal set what she thought was an ambitious goal of 100 attendees. “The results were well beyond our expectations,” she said. “We had 180 people purchase tickets!” Wine and Words cleared over $8,500 for the library’s use, and also served as an effective recruitment drive. “By having Friends applications at each place setting, we also increased our membership that evening by 24 members,” DeChantal reported.
Needless to say, Wine and Words will be a staple on Brainerd’s community calendar from here on out!
The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” has one more – and a decidedly unique one, at that! – thanks to the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library (JFHML) Friends Foundation.
The Foundation services the small town of Crosby, Minn., and surrounding Cuyuna Lakes communities in Crow Wing County. Among other ongoing initiatives, Foundation members are particularly proud of the financial support they are able to provide the Hallett Memorial Library for children’s activities. In 2013 alone, the library hosted over 40 “Preschool Story Hours,” with total attendance topping 1,800. Without $1,000 from the Friends each year, this successful program could not continue.
Recently, the Foundation seized on an opportunity to take this one step further. Inspired by various indoor play place prototypes they saw on display at the 2013 Minnesota Library Association (MLA) Conference in St. Cloud, and at the behest of staff, they decided to overhaul the library’s kids area.
Crosby’s new-and-improved kids area is replete with the most modern of amenities, including two LeapPads and two iPads, but what children enjoy most is the overall atmosphere. As the Cuyuna Lakes area is defined by its many picturesque lakes, Friends thought it fitting to give the redesigned space an aquatic theme. Prominent is a replica boat for children to play in, together with a “pond” rug and both wall manipulatives and room decorations in keeping with that outdoors feel. Other props include model fishing poles and life vests.
The Friends didn’t make all the decisions on their own, though. When it came to naming the rechristened space, they invited the public to put forward suggestions and vote on their favorite. Contenders included “Hickory Dickory Dockside,” “Kids Kabin,” “Little Lakeside Lounge,” and “Read-A-Book Beach.” Most popular of all was “Cattale Corner” (a literary pun on ‘cattail,’ a wetland plant found in abundance around the Cuyuna Lakes).
Voters Phailed from all age brackets – a fact that proved prophetic. Cattle Corner is unexpectedly popular with adults, who appreciate the new outlet for their children’s energies (while they utilize the space’s fast and free Wi-Fi).
On February 1, after months of intense planning, the Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries pulled off a great fundraiser. A Gatsby-great fundraiser, to be more precise. Organizers tore a page straight from the Great American Novel and hosted a “Great Gatsby Gala” at the Roseville Library.
(As many Minnesota bibliophiles know, author F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul – less than ten miles from the Roseville Library venue.)
The evening, emceed by Minnesota Public Radio personality Kerri Miller, contained several elements common to Friends fundraisers. Silent and live auctions boasted over seventy donated items ranging from one-of-a-kind specialty items, to gift baskets, to fun dining, theater and sightseeing experiences.
The rest of the night was, as the name promised, a real blast from the past. Highlights included Roaring Twenties style dance lessons, a costume contest recognizing most authentic period dress, and a photo booth with Gastby-era props.
Having never done anything of this sort, the Friends paid special attention to advance publicity. A press release and event updates were sent to local media outlets, and the Friends, in partnership with the Ramsey Co. Library, sent out a large mailing of their own. Social media and tried-and-true word of mouth also played a role.
Commensurate with the party’s Roaring Twenties theme, planners set an ambitious fundraising goal of $20,000. By the end of the night, Ramsey County had met and surpassed that mark, with the live auction alone bringing in upwards of $8,000. After all was said and done, the Gala grossed $47,000 and netted nearly $35,000. This allowed the Friends to purchase more than 1,000 new items for circulation at library branches in Maplewood, Mounds View, New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, and White Bear Lake.
Attendance figures were equally impressive, with 250 “flappers” and “fellas” turning out at the Gala. Revelers included the Mayor of Roseville, all four Ramsey County Commissioners, and numerous business and community leaders. (Missed the big event? Don’t worry! The Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries is already hard at work planning a second annual gala for spring 2015.)
“Saving the Library Budget” Wins Cambridge the 2013 Evy Nordley Award
The Cambridge Public Library is part of the 6-county, 14-branch East Central Regional Library (ECRL) system. ECRL is governed by a Joint Powers Agreement specifying that each member county must provide its full share of the annual ‘umbrella’ operating budget – or else face cuts the next fiscal year.
In 2011, Isanti County’s Commissioners opted to cut their share of the ECRL budget by $34,000. As a consequence, Cambridge (the county’s only public library) saw a reduction from 57 to 43 weekly operating hours. More troubling still, the decision also necessitated cutting six part-time library staff positions and closing the facility entirely on Saturdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The Friends of the Cambridge Library quickly but judiciously determined that they could provide assistance on two fronts: helping close the 2012 budget gap, in the short term; and convincing the County to revert to the previous funding level, in the longer term.
They tackled the first goal with gusto. Fundraising efforts ranged widely. Tactics included a letter campaign, petitions in the media, and donation jars in prominent places within the library. In total, they raised well over $5,000, enough to restore the summer hours – with some left over to put towards badly needed new furniture, to boot!
Almost immediately after the budget reduction announcement, Friends treasurer Karen Lee and others began making it a point to attend the County’s open meetings with regularity. This ensured that library funding remained top-of-mind for the County Commissioners.
Simultaneously, in hopes of securing a more viable budget for 2013, the Friends began making their case to government officials.
They also spearheaded a grassroots public relation campaign, of sorts, to get the larger community (by and large fans of the library, even if not formally ‘Friends’) to voice their displeasure with the new status quo. Prominent among other efforts, they produced an informational flyer and mailed it to over 250 area households and businesses. In it, they made clear what the expenditures reduction meant for the library. The Friends encouraged recipients to forward on the information widely – and the community’s response surpassed nearly all expectations.
Finally, at its September 5, 2012, meeting, the Isanti County Commissioners voted to fully fund the county’s share of the 2013 budget. One Commissioner stated: “I’ve never had more of a reaction from the public than I have on this.” Effective January 2013, the Cambridge Public Library is back to full staffing and operational hours.
MALF’s Evy Nordley judging committee singled out the Cambridge Friends for their multifaceted, two-stage approach to an exceedingly complex issue. As an award nominee, its merits are almost too numerous to list. Foremost, at in the eyes of the judges, is the fact that it is replicable – a fundamental Evy Nordley criterion. We sincerely hope library systems elsewhere in Minnesota never face a budgetary crisis like this one. If you do, though, there’s hope… and your “Friends” in Cambridge have some great advice for you.
Next to the traditional used book sale, an author event may be Friends of the Library’s favorite fundraising technique. Precious few, however, can do so as cost effectively as the Friends of Duluth Public Library – let alone bring in a New York Times bestselling author to headline.
It began when President Linda Hanson and her colleagues began looking for a way to put on a public event well suited not only to raise funds for the library, but to increase public awareness of the Friends at the same time. The idea for an author series of some sort quickly gained traction.
The Friends found an impressive partner for their debut event: William Kent Krueger, the award-winning author behind the popular Cork O’Connor series (set in Minnesota). Krueger agreed not only to speak in Duluth, but to use the Friends event as the platform to debut his newest novel, Trickster’s Point, for the very first time in northern Minnesota.
Tickets were pre-sold for $20. The Friends hoped to sell an even 150 tickets, but ultimately sold 186!
More impressive still, the Friends worked tirelessly throughout the summer (up to and including the September 17 event date) to see that the show was 100 percent funded through local sponsorships and sales. With ticket sales, net proceeds surpassed the $5,000 mark.
Everyone reported having a good time (William Kent Krueger included). One lucky attendee, whose name Mr. Krueger drew from a hat, even came away with a promise that he would be featured as a minor character in the next Cork O’Connor story.
Meanwhile, thirty miles up the road, the Friends of the Two Harbor Library tackled their own ambitious inaugural public event.
Two Harbors is currently in the midst of a costly library remodeling project. The Friends elected to contribute to this fund through a large silent auction. After many hours of phone calls and leg work by Friends volunteers, over 100 community members (private and corporate) either donated items for the auction or contributed money to help offset costs.
Wanting the caliber of their fundraiser to match the scope of the remodeling project, the Friends didn’t stop there. They also coordinated a whole night’s worth of entertainment to go with the auction. Live music, poetry readings, and a dessert bar drew in a crowd from all over Lake County.
The fundraiser, dubbed the "Love Your Library Celebration," also saw monetary success. By the end of the night, $3,000 had been raised. Two Harbors is one step closer to having the library facility the community deserves!
Photo Captions: MALF President Mary Ann Bernat congratulates Karen Lee (for the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library), Micky McGilligan (for the Friends of the Two Harbors Library), and Laura Bergen (for the Friends of the Duluth Public Library).
"Become the Next Andrew Carnegie" Wins Ramsey Co. the 2012 Evy Nordley Award
The Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries’ Evy Nordley Award-winning program takes as its inspiration the career philanthropy of turn-of-the-century American entrepreneur and industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Between 1883 and 1929, seed money put forward by Carnegie made possible the construction of 1689 libraries throughout the United States. Carnegie is considered by many to be a truly one-of-a-kind library advocate.
Even so, Nancy Guerino, Sue Gehrz, and their colleagues at The Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries had a hunch – supported by secondary research – that that great spirit of generosity survived Carnegie himself and lives on to this day.
It all came down to this: There are many financial channels through which Library Friends can support libraries, but these are not intuitively obvious to most donors. They include straightforward practices, like naming your library of choice as a beneficiary in wills, IRAs and standard CDs, plus complex endeavors – such as creating a trust for legacy funding.
The trick was to make that information known to (and understood by) would-be Carnegies. To this end, the team took a two-pronged approach.
First, they crafted promotional literature explaining and exploring all of the available routes. They supplemented this with convention booth accessories, including an eye-catching collapsible banner.
Next, they targeted an important – but far from obvious – demographic: Minnesota’s community of lawyers. The logic was as simple as it was effective. Better than anyone else, lawyers are in an excellent place to make their clientele aware of library philanthropy options. Guerino, Gehrz and company took their show ‘on the road,’ as it were, and set up their booth in the concourse at popular lawyer conventions.
The program’s success is perhaps best evinced in an anecdote the Ramsey presenters told during the "10 Minutes to Win It" Evy Nordley panel at the MLA conference. At a recent regional convention attended by lawyers, “Nine out of ten lawyers who heard us out said: ‘That’s a great idea! I never thought of that!’” (or some variation thereof) and “promised to mention it to clients.”
Twelve years ago, ten local library and literacy enthusiasts met in the small town of Houston, Minnesota (population 979) to draft a plan for building a public library of the rural community’s very own. As was perhaps to be expected, start-up resources were few and the project was an uphill battle from the start.
But, in February 2002, the Houston Public Library became a reality. Situated in a cramped space and full of hand-me-down equipment, however, it is safe to say that it was far from the community’s ideal public learning space.
As Liz Gibson-Gasset explained to MALF members at the MLA Conference, “We couldn’t let this space define who we were and what we do. This space needed to be what we needed it to be.”
Friends of the Library in Houston spearheaded a multifaceted community initiative to raise funds (plus in-kind donations) towards this worthy goal. Tactics included charity breakfasts, benefit concerts, direct requests to corporate sponsors, mitten and bake sales, and projects coordinated in conjunction with National Honor Society, the Lions Club, and Houston’s volunteer firefighters.
“Not only did we secure our essentials – like bookshelves and new computers – but we hit our birthday deadline!” Gibson Gasset said. “We even hit some secondary, ‘dream’ targets, such as improving a park adjacent to the library property.”
“Super Kinder: Listos Para el Kinder,” a replicable school readiness program, got its genesis in a troubling Minneapolis metro statistic. According to studies, only 28 percent of native Spanish-speaking school children were scoring well on the Beginning of Kindergarten Assessment (BKA). In practical terms, the stat indicated that this important demographic was starting school without a strong, preexistent grasp on basic concepts (vocabulary, counting, etc.)
The Friends of the Nokomis Library (in the Hennepin County system) crafted a 10-week program called “Super Kinder: Listos Para El Kinder” (i.e., Super Kindergarten!: Ready for Kindergarten) to meet this perceived need.
In broad brushstrokes, the program is a school readiness curriculum for Spanish speakers aged 4-5. It hinges on weekly themed lessons, such as “The Alphabet,” “Weather and Seasons,” “Friends and Relations” – and less concrete subjects, including “I am Special” and “Hopes and Dreams.” Critically, volunteer teachers teach these concepts in Spanish, since studies show that young children retain information better (at least so far as fundamental concepts are concerned) when it is delivered in their native language.
Just as importantly, Super Kinder included a course component that taught parents best practices vis-à-vis their children’s elementary school learning experience.
The program’s initial success is perhaps best indicated by its growth plans. In 2013, Nokomis hopes to expand it with an internship component for older students with a career interest in early child development and literacy.