MALF Blog

Minnesota Association of Library Friends

NEW: ALA State Legislative Toolkit

Posted by jim on January 20, 2022

The Minnesota Association of Library Friends – and support organizations like it across the country – routinely field questions about public advocacy and what it means for Friends of the Library.

Is it the same thing as lobbying? (Spoiler: It’s not.) Why is it important and how is it different at the federal, state and local levels? Who should take on public advocacy? How does a person even get started?

In answer to questions such as these, the American Library Association has just released its first-ever State Legislative Toolkit. Authored by its Public Policy and Advocacy Office, this primer offers guidance on “effectively navigating legislative sessions, responding to adverse bills, writing policies and position papers, and contacting outside help when necessary.”

You will find a free copy of the State Legislative Toolkit at
 ala.org/advocacy/state-legislative-toolkit.

Little Free Library 'Impact Grant Program'

Posted by jim on January 20, 2022

Barely a decade ago, an enterprising Twin Cities book lover built the first Little Free Library. The grassroots initiative has since grown into a global phenomenon, and now boasts more than 75,000 registered Little Free Libraries in the United States alone.

Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, these take-a-book, leave-a-book kiosks are concentrated in neighborhoods that already enjoy a strong reading culture. By contrast, under-resourced communities – those that stand to benefit most from no-cost reading resources – are far less likely to have Little Free Libraries or books with which to restock them.

In recognition of this disconnect, Little Free Libraries now maintains an Impact Library Grant Program. As the name suggests, this donor-funded initiative awards fully assembled Little Free Libraries to applicants who demonstrate special need and commit to maintaining the book exchange.

Think you fit the bill?
 Click here to learn more and to apply. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Interested in bringing a Little Free Library to a community in need? Click here to donate to the Impact Library Grant Program yourself!

Standout Friends Spotlight: Cook, Edina

Posted by jim on January 4, 2022

Last fall, MALF honored the 2021 cohort of Standout Friends – one of our largest to date. Representing all corners of the state, these 14 volunteers are a credit to their individual communities and to Friends of the Library work generally. Next up on our list (#3-4):

Cook – Josh Olson
Cook Public Library has an unofficial mascot: the majestic moose. A moose statue can be found outside this small library in rural St. Louis County; a taxidermy moose graces the inside; and the animal can be found throughout branded materials. Credit for this last goes to Standout Friend and artist extraordinaire Josh Olson.

The Friends of Cook Public Library count on Josh to craft brochures and flyers for a host of occasions. Recent examples include their winter and summer reading programs, the library’s “quilt month,” a special fundraiser for new carpeting, and the Friends’ fun Cozy Mystery play series. For this last, Josh has also shown his thespian side and pitched in as a character actor. In a town of Cook’s size, the library really does depend on its Friends of the Library – and they, in turn, rely on Josh.


Edina – Connie Brekken
The Friends of Edina Community Library feel extraordinarily fortunate to count Connie Brekken among their leaders. Over the years, she has served with distinction as president – not just once, but over four consecutive terms. She has also taken a turn as both VP and Volunteer Coordinator.

Connie shares her passion and experience as a Friends leader with every onboarding board leader. In addition to these officer and mentor duties, this Standout Friend is an exemplary project manager, as well. Most recently, she shepherded a large Friends bequest earmarked for design and construction of a public art installation. Visitors to the Edina Community Library are now greeted by the photo-worthy "Bear and Bunny" sculptural bench in the front entry plaza.

Watch Your Mailboxes / Inboxes!

Posted by jim on December 10, 2021

As the year winds towards its close, we’re looking ahead eagerly to what’s in store for 2022. MALF will have some exciting updates to share after the holidays. For now, though, we will restrict ourselves to a bit of year-end “housekeeping.”

Be on the lookout: Renewal notices for all individual and institutional MALF members went out in the mail earlier this week. Rates remain unchanged – just $25/group, $10/individual. This dues structure reflects MALF’s hope and intention to involve as many Minnesota library advocates as possible!

If you are unsure of your membership status, your contact details have changed over the past year, or you do not see that December letter, feel free to contact our office at info@mnlibraryfriends.org or 651-366-6492.

Next week brings MALF’s last program of the year – and one which you won’t want to miss, if you rely on volunteers. (And as Friends of the Library, don’t we all?)

Synopsis: As any seasoned volunteer coordinator will tell you, recruiting help is only half the battle. In order to be sustainable, Friends must be effective at volunteer retention, as well. In a nutshell, this means engaging and motivating volunteers in ways that increase the likelihood that one-time assistance grows into a long-term commitment to your cause. That is easier said than done, even under ideal conditions.

Beth Steinhorn, president of VQ Volunteer Strategies, will join MALF at noon on Tuesday, December 7, for a 90-minute primer on how to crack the code!

Expect to come away with energizing case studies and actionable strategies to build a volunteer workforce that sticks around and “levels up” their engagement. Courtesy of Steinhorn, attendees will also receive a valuable pdf handbook: ‘Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers in Uncertain Times.’

Attendance is FREE.
 Click here to save your seatBe sure to do so no later than Monday, December 6. We’ll see you Tuesday! 

TWO Financial Literacy Grant Opportunities

Posted by jim on December 1, 2021

Libraries proudly champion literacy – and that mandate extends far beyond traditional reading skills. Today’s libraries are also hubs for digital literacy, health literacy, and financial literacy. This last category encompasses everything from tax preparedness, to job search assistance, to personal finance classes. Unfortunately, finite staff and budget resources limit what most libraries can offer their patrons in the realm of financial literacy. We’re pleased to pass along two new grant opportunities geared towards closing that gap.

The first comes courtesy of the FINRA Foundation, the charitable arm of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Public libraries, as well as Friends of the Library who serve as official fiscal agents for their library, are invited to apply for a ≤ $50,000 grant earmarked for financial literacy efforts.

As part of this competitive application process, grantees must demonstrate a compelling need for financial literacy in their service area, and present a detailed project proposal for how the library believes it can close that gap.

Be prepared to speak to goals, strategies, timeline, outreach and marketing, partners, and evaluation intentions. Click here to learn more. Deadline is March 1, 2022.  

Watch Your Mailboxes / Inboxes!

Posted by jim on November 30, 2021

As the year winds towards its close, we’re looking ahead eagerly to what’s in store for 2022. MALF will have some exciting updates to share after the holidays. For now, though, we will restrict ourselves to a bit of year-end “housekeeping.”

Be on the lookout: Renewal notices for all individual and institutional MALF members went out in the mail earlier this week. Rates remain unchanged – just $25/group, $10/individual. This dues structure reflects MALF’s hope and intention to involve as many Minnesota library advocates as possible!

If you are unsure of your membership status, your contact details have changed over the past year, or you do not see that December letter, feel free to contact our office at info@mnlibraryfriends.org or 651-366-6492.

Free December Webinar Spotlights Volunteer Retention

Posted by jim on November 15, 2021

Finding and recruiting new help is a challenge common to Friends – and shared by nearly all volunteer-run organizations. If your group has grappled with enlistment recently, be sure to watch MALF’s summer webinar on the topic (“Making New Friends”).

However, as any seasoned volunteer coordinator will tell you, recruiting is only half the battle. In order to be sustainable, Friends must be effective at volunteer retention, as well. In a nutshell, this means engaging and motivating volunteers in ways that increase the likelihood that one-time assistance grows into a long-term commitment to your cause.

That is easier said than done, even under ideal conditions… And with pandemic cautions and restrictions still an ever-present part of our lives, it is safe to say that we’re all operating under less-than-ideal circumstances. Across Minnesota and beyond, Friends of the Library are emerging from a slow period forced by COVID-19 and finding it challenging to mobilize and energize their volunteer workforce.

Fortunately, the news is not all bad. According to VolunteerMatch and The Nonprofit Times, the number of Americans willing to donate time and energy to a meaningful cause is stable, or even growing, across a wide range of sectors. Without exception, the nonprofits able to maintain these numbers are intentional about their retention strategies.

Beth Steinhorn, president of VQ Volunteer Strategies, will join MALF on 
Tuesday, December 7 (12:00-1:30 p.m. CST) to discuss exactly that!

In ‘Making New Friends,’ Steinhorn offered us insights learned from decades of experience coaching nonprofits as diverse as Meals on Wheels, the American Farm Bureau, and the Public Library Association. In this follow-up ('Staying Friends'), we will delve into replicable strategies and other best practices specific to volunteer retention.

In addition to an info-packed 90 minutes, attendees will come away with a valuable pdf handbook (“Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers in Uncertain Times”).


And here’s the best part. Attendance is FREE – to MALF members and non-members alike! Click here to save your seat. Be sure to do so no later than Monday, December 6.

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