- 2015 -
“Wine and Words” Wins Brainerd the 2014 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!
- 2014 -
“Wine and Words” Wins Brainerd the 2014 Evy Nordley Award
[Winner] Spotlight on Brainerd: "Wine and Words." 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!
[Finalist] Spotlight on JFHML Foundation: "Cattale Corner." 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).
[Finalist] Spotlight on Ramsey Co.: "Great Gatsby Gala." 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.)
- 2013 -
“Saving the Library Budget” Wins Cambridge the 2013 Evy Nordley Award
[Winner] Cambridge: “Saving the Library Budget.” 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.
[Finalist] Duluth: “Inaugural Author Series Event.” 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.
[Finalist] Two Harbors: “Love Your Library.” 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).
- 2012 -
"Saving the Library Budget" 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.”