'Stand Up for Standout Friends' 2016
One thing we’ve learned in our collaborations with Friends across Minnesota is that, while every group faces challenges, each can boast at least a few standout members – movers and shakers whose dedication, creativity and boundless energy help the organization overcome those obstacles. What is lacking, by contrast, are good opportunities to acknowledge these outstanding contributors statewide. In recognition of this fact, MALF created “Stand Up For Standout Friends.”
In summer 2016, MALF invited each and every member organization to put forward the name of one individual for this special annual honor - in thanks for standout efforts in furtherance of Friends of the Library work. Read more about the inaugural class below.
Loretta Ellsworth (Lakeville Heritage) | Donna Enderson (Benson) |
Joan Frick (Elk River) | Nancy Guerino (Ramsey County) |
Margaret Kersteter (Edina) | Mary Kvitek (Chaska) | Skip Levesque (St. Michael) |
Marilyn Muchow (Austin) | Dolores Olson (Park Rapids) | Joe Owens (Ely) |
Clint Patterson (Kasson) | Peter Pearson (St. Paul) | Carol Steele (Grand Rapids) |
Greg Thibodeau (Buckham Faribault) | Mary Ann Tourres (St. Cloud) |
Bruce Witts (Rochester)
The Friends of the Heritage Library in Lakeville are one of only a handful of Friends groups in Minnesota who coordinate an annual, community-wide “Big Read” initiative. Called “OneBook, OneLakeville,” this multifaceted program promotes community togetherness and stokes meaningful discussions on important societal issues. Past author guests have included Sonia Nazario, New York Times bestselling author behind the immigration story Enrique’s Journey, and Minnesota’s own Jon Odell. Loretta Ellsworth is the driving force behind this ambitious programming series. As chairperson, she oversees every aspect of OneBook, OneLakeville. Furthermore, as a former teacher, she finds inventive ways of bringing area students into the fold.
“Loretta has also done an exceptional job advancing the Friends’ mission in other ways,” added president Debbie Holzgraefe. She is skilled at grant writing, and cheerfully represents the Friends at the meetings of various community organizations in order to promote synergy and publicize upcoming library events.
Benson, Minnesota – population 3,000 – boasts an active, impressive Friends of the Library group out of proportion to that community’s relatively small size. Donna Enderson, president of the group, is a principal reason this is so. “Donna’s contributions have given life, breadth and depth to the message and vision of the Friends of the Library organization,” noted Head Librarian Dawn Dailey. She has devoted countless hours to fundraising – via book sales, silent auctions, and a number of other successful events. Under her leadership, the Friends also play an active role in the library’s Summer Reading Program, by buying prizes and hosting a fun ice cream social for all participants.
Donna’s devotion to the cause is perhaps best illustrated by a favorite anecdote of Dawn’s. When the Friends purchased new furniture for the library’s sitting and reading area, Donna went the extra mile – adding flare by crafting pillows for the chairs and refurbishing a bench. Above the wall, she added the words: “Libraries Change Lives… For the Better.”
Joan Frick is fast approaching a major milestone: twenty-five years as a member of the Elk River Friends of the Library. Since 1993, she’s also held the post of treasurer – a position she is eminently qualified for, given that her professional background is in city government finance. Joan does much more than just keep the books in Elk River, however. She is the primary coordinator for the Friends’ semiannual book sales, and she facilitates a popular monthly book club. In addition, she is active in Friends-supported library programs, including summer and winter reading programs and “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.” She keeps record of participant “incentive points” attached to these programs (a tall order, given strong participation figures).
“Joan’s deep level of commitment is evident in everything that she does at the library – and clearly, that list is a long one!” said branch librarian Pamela Wagman.
Nancy Guerino joined the Board of the Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries in 2003, and contributed seven years as president beginning in 2007. Choosing just one highlight from her long and highly productive tenure would be an impossible task. During her time as a Friends leader, Nancy spearheaded a $71,000 capital campaign to purchase amenities for the North Saint Paul Library, and chaired a committee tasked with raising another $63,000 for the Maplewood Public Library. Moreover, under Nancy’s able leadership, Friends membership grew from 217 to almost 1,000 households!
“No matter what our libraries and Friends organizations have needed, Nancy has volunteered her hard work, enthusiasm and skills to help make it happen,” said current president Frank Harris. “From donning the Booker Reading Dog costume, to organizing units in local parades, to staffing booths for us at probate and trust attorney conferences [to promote legacy giving to libraries], count on Nancy to step up to the plate.”
Occasionally a Friend of the Library comes along with the rare, uncanny ability to quickly yet accurately price used books: a skill that comes in handy when you regularly coordinate large book sales. Friends of the Edina Community Library have such a volunteer in Margaret Kersteder. That’s fortunate, as Edina moves an impressive volume of books – nearly 10,000 books at each semiannual sale. Every Wednesday morning, Margaret can be found diligently descending to the storeroom to sort inventory. In addition, she provided outstanding services as the organization’s secretary, and serves unofficially as a mentor to new Board members.
“Margaret brings great heart, endless energy, and determination,” praised fellow Friend leader Les Kraus. “For decades, she has provided us with leadership by example, and has made the Friends of the Edina Library a force – not just in Edina, but throughout Hennepin County.”
Mary Kvitek is a true tour de force within the Friends of the Chaska Public Library. She has been a member of that organization for a dozen years and counting, including the last six as treasurer. In addition, for the past eight years, Mary has doubled as chairperson for the Friends’ semi-annual book sales, held every February and July. Those events, which generate revenue between $6,000 and $7,000 annually, are the major source of revenue for the Friends in Chaska. Mary is fond of adding her own special touches to these sales. Volunteers are easily recognized by book-themed aprons sewn by her, and she is known to bring in a variety of baked goods for her volunteers.
Janet Karius, branch manager for Carver County Library – Chaska Library, praises: “We have consistently benefitted from [Mary’s] detail-oriented and efficient approach to her responsibilities. She is generous with her time and is a thoughtful solution finder. She also applies a wealth of kindheartedness, encouragement, and consideration to that work.”
It has only been a year and a half since Skip Levesque took on leadership of the Friends organization in St. Michael. In that short time, however, Skip has done much to propel the organization into the twenty-first century. Under his guidance, the group has hosted dynamic TEDx events and drastically increased its presence on social media. At the same time, Skip ensures that the Friends remain ‘brilliant at the basics.’ Recent book sales have been among their most profitable ever. Marla Scherber, a librarian in St. Michael, attributes this to the fun, bookstore-like atmosphere that the assiduous work put in by Skip’s crew makes possible. Moreover, when there are books left over, “Skip himself volunteers to deliver them to other non-profits to use. He really pays it forward,” Marla said.
By all accounts, Skip is also an active, forward-thinking library advocate who does everything in his power to champion library funding. He has represented the state at National Library Legislative Day in Washington, D.C. and represents Great River Regional Library locally whenever an opportunity presents itself.
Marilyn served on the Board of the Friends of the Austin Public Library Board from January 2006 through May 2016, including a two-year term as president. During her tenure, Marilyn played an instrumental role in the production and publication of “Austin Remembers,” a Friends-sponsored stories collection about Austin residents. She also played an active role in the launch of her community’s Christmas New Book Fair. (Both those successful initiatives put the Friends in contention for the Evy Nordley Award.) In her spare time, such as it is, Marilyn has represented the Friends at the Austin Artworks Festival, on a city-wide read committee, and on a Friends team that coordinates the annual Eberhart Poetry Contest in conjunction with Austin Public Schools.
“In short,” explained current president Sue Grove, “Marilyn has been a major contributor to the growth and success of the Friends of the Austin Public Library – and richly deserves to be a Standout Library Friend!”
Every successful Friends group needs a volunteer or two who is willing to roll up their sleeves and do the less-than-glamorous, often unappreciated work that makes our sort of nonprofit organization run smoothly. Park Rapid Area Friends of the Library have such a helper in Dolores Olson. A member of the group since 1989, Dolores has served in a wide range of capacities over the years. In addition to terms as both president and secretary, she for many years wrote and published a well-received Friends newsletter. She also played a leading role in the establishment of a Friends scholarship program.
Unafraid of dirty work and heavy lifting, Dolores also coordinates rummage sales, assisted staff in the relocation of library collections from an old to a new facility, and added a much needed file structure to the Friends’ voluminous, disorganized paper records.
In 2014, the small Northwoods town of Ely made state news when it unveiled its new, $1.3 million, 6,500-square-foot library facility. Downtown’s new gem could not have come to fruition without Ely’s dedicated Friends of the Library support organization. Foremost among their number, according to president Gail Sheddy, is the inimitable Joe Owens. “We contributed $30,000 – and that simply could not have been accomplished without Joe overseeing our fundraising efforts.” Outside embellishments such as landscaping and benches, and indoor improvements like chairs, tables and computers, all came from the supplemental funds raised under Joe’s direction.
Joe’s time with the Friends predates this project by many years. He’s served on the Board for a dozen years – including six as president. Gail praises his conscientious stewardship of estate gifts and leadership on hugely successful membership drives. (At present, Ely boasts the largest membership of any community its size in Minnesota.)
Pastor Clint Patterson is a jack-of-all trades within the Friends of the Kasson Public Library. Depending on the season, he can be found coordinating author visits, assisting with Summer Reading Program, and pitching in during book sale preparations. In addition, Clint ably represents library patrons in Kasson and Dodge County on a larger stage. He’s served on the SELCO / SELS Board of Directors, an appointment bestowed by the county board of commissioners. During this period, he served first as a member and later as president of that board’s Finance Committee. Moreover, in 2015, Clint mediated a controversy regarding library assessments, and later chaired SELCO’s Technology Fee Study Committee.
“Clint personifies the attributes of a Standout Library Friend,” said SELCO Executive Director Ann Hutton. “He has dedicated hours of service and has eloquently helped the regional organization overcome challenges.”
Few if any Friends of the Library can boast a national reputation on par with that achieved by Peter Pearson. As the first (and thus far only) executive director of the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, Peter has grown the organization from a staff of two and budget of $200,000 to a staff of nearly 20 and a budget of $3 million. Under his able leadership, the Friends assumed stewardship of the prestigious Minnesota Book Awards program and inaugurated their nationally known “Opus & Olives” author dinner fundraiser. Among other highlights, the Friends under Peter also launched a profitable consulting arm called Library Strategies – the only such organization in the country based within a library support organization.
“Over this same time, Peter also spearheaded two capital campaigns on behalf of the library and built up a powerhouse Board of committed community leaders,” added Jane Eastwood, director of the Saint Paul Public Library. “He will certainly be missed when he retires in 2016, after 25 years with the Friends.”
The Grand Rapids Public Library recently celebrated its “sweet sixteen.” A busy public facility like this one can’t go that long without touch ups and improvements, and the Friends are the major reason the building remains in tip-top shape. The Friends, in turn, attribute their ability to be so generous to the stalwart leadership of Carol Steele.
“’C’ is for Carol,” explained member Juliet Jones. “Carol is challenging, contributing, caring, composed, collaborative, cost conscious, considerate, centered, candid, creative, cooperative –and concerned.” Her special drive is best illustrated by one of Grand Rapids’ more recent and innovative fundraisers. In order to pay for the refurbishment of the library’s community room, Carol and the Friends solicited signatures from twenty Minnesota authors for integration into a one-of-a-kind quilt. A special $5 raffle, dubbed “Minnesota Authors on Our Shelves,” raised the needed funds while simultaneously generating excitement about the library and awareness of the Friends.
For the past twenty years, Faribault resident and attorney Greg Thibodeau has been an integral part of the Friends of the Buckham Memorial. Greg currently serves as both treasurer and secretary for the group. In the former capacity, given his legal background, he is perfectly suited to advise the Friends on a host of questions and to ensure that bylaws and 501(c)3 paperwork remain up to date. Friends also count on Greg to draft their agendas and capture meeting minutes. Last but not least, Greg is a driving force behind the group’s January pancake breakfast, a popular annual fundraiser.
“Greg is a modest man,” said president Joyce Buresh. “He never dominates the conversation at the meetings but gives us the advice we need. We as Friends of the Library are so very blessed to have Greg on our board. We see him as our ‘irreplaceable’ Friend.”
Bibliophiles in Stearns County will tell you that one of the best places to go in their area for affordable books is the permanent Friends bookstore housed at the Saint Cloud Public Library. Mary Ann Tourres, a five-year veteran of the bookstore committee, is a chief reason the bookstore is open year round and is one of the library’s hidden gems. Any Friend can tell you that organizing incoming inventory can be a little chaotic, but Mary Ann has introduced method to that madness. She developed an efficient system to use Amazon, Abe Books, and other websites to research and accurately price first editions, signed novels, and other rare books. Recently, when the Friends decided to renovate the space, Mary Ann proved instrumental: contacting movers, painters, and interior designers to assist in the bookstore improvements.
“This is really only a general overview of the many activities that Mary Ann is involved in to raise funds for the Great River Regional Library system and to benefit our hundreds of bookstore customers,” explained Dottie Martini, a fellow Friend.
Setting up shop for their quarterly used book sales is something that the Friends of the Rochester Public Library find surprisingly easy – thanks to Bruce Witts. Bruce is a driving force behind the extensive organization work that goes on beforehand and behind the scenes. He organizes and boxes the books into fifteen categories, to simplify set up. (An easy enough thing in principle, this is a fall order when the Friends move between 10,000 and 15,000 books every sale!) Bruce also took the extra and innovative step of assembling special book shelves to set on the tables to allow more books to be displayed. As chair of the book sales committee, he also inaugurated a Friends-only “preview sale” the evening before the official start. This move has greatly increased Friends membership in Rochester.
“In 2012, sales totaled $14,100… By 2015, sales totaled $20,000,” explained co-president Phyllis Hambright. “This is real money for the library, and so much of it is owed to Bruce.”