MALF Announces 2012 Evy Nordley Award Winner

For many Americans, the televised Emmy Awards ceremony is the highlight of their early fall. In Minnesota, however, Library Friends and staff can associate the changing of the seasons with a very different and more lasting kind of awards ceremony: MALF’s annual Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of Libraries.

The winner was announced 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, during the Minnesota Library Association (MLA)’s annual conference, held this year at the RiverCentre in Saint Paul. As in years past, top prize included a commemorative plaque and $1,000. The two other finalists received a Certificate of Recognition and $250. Click “Read Full Post” to learn the results!  

2012 WINNER: 
“Help Someone Become the Next Andrew Carnegie,” The Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries
Presenters: Nancy Guerino, Sue Gehrz

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.”



Tagline: "The Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries Invities You to Leave a Legacy of Literacy."


(Note: the two Evy Nordley final-round Certificate of Recognition winners are honored equally.)

“A New Chapter for the Houston Public Library,” The Friends of Houston Public Library 
Presenter: Liz Gibson-Gasset  

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,” The Friends of Nokomis Library
Presenter: Brianna McPhee

“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.


For more pictures from "Friends and Trustees Day" of the 2012 MLA Conference, visit MALF's new Flickr account at