MALF Announces Minnesota’s Newest ALA “Literary Landmark”: Central Lakes College’s Jon Hassler Library

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Posted by jim under Literary Landmarks

20080320_hassler_33.jpgWriters like Sinclair Lewis and, more recently, Garrison Keillor, have gained national renown for their portrayals of life in small-town Minnesota. However, no author’s depictions have resonated quite as strongly with native Minnesotans as those of the inimitable Jon Hassler.

Jon Hassler, a teacher by training, burst onto the writing scene in a big way in 1977 with the publication of his first novel, the perennial bestseller Staggerford. The debut garnered Hassler accolades from all corners – for a strong narrative voice, engaging plot devices, and, above all, a refreshingly authentic look at town dynamics in a small Midwestern town.

Over the next three decades, Hassler contributed another dozen novels to the corpus of Minnesota literature, in addition to several well-received nonfiction works, short stories anthologies, and children’s books.

While this high level of productivity is an achievement in its own right, it is all the more impressive for the fact that Hassler never gave up his “day job.” Far from leaving academia, he moved through the ranks – from a high school teacher, to a college professor at Bemidji State University and Brainerd’s Central Lakes College, to Writer in Residence and Regent’s Professor at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn.  

Hassler’s real-life experiences infused his fiction writing, with teachers (like Staggerford’s Agatha McGee) accounting for several of his most beloved characters.

Hassler passed away in 2008, at age 74, after a long and courageous battle with a Parkinson’s-like disease.

While his pluck and candor gained him famous fans in life, including Hillary Clinton and Angela Lansbury, no one mourned Hassler more in death than the small Minnesota communities that figure so prominently in his fiction. In September 2008, in recognition of this fact, Central Lakes College renamed its library the "Jon Hassler Library" in his honor.

MALF Will Recognize Hassler, Formally Dedicate a “Literary Landmark” in May 2014

United-for-Libraries-ll.jpgNext May, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF) will honor Hassler’s life and work by dedicating the Jon Hassler Library as Minnesota’s fourth and newest Literary Landmark.

Literary Landmarks are sites with a strong historical connection to prominent American authors, recognized through a partnership between United for Libraries' Literary Landmarks Assoc. and local affiliates.

While several hundred sites across the United States have been recognized in this way, Minnesota, to date, is home to only four. These include the Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home in Sauk Centre, Minn., which MALF sponsored and dedicated last July.

The Jon Hassler Library is a strong contender. It was during Hassler’s tenure at Central Lakes College (then Brainerd Community College) that he penned Staggerford. Moreover, the facility is home to many of the author’s personal effects, including a number of original writings. 

Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming dedication ceremony in Brainerd. We will pass along a date and details early in calendar year 2014.

Deadline for ‘Friends of Libraries Week Award’ Extended!

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ufldownload.jpgDid your Friends group pull off a highly successful fundraiser or membership drive this fall in conjunction with National Friends of Libraries week? If so, United for Libraries has a little something to belatedly add to your list of things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season.

United for Libraries, MALF’s national counterpart, has just pushed back the deadline for Friends of Libraries Week Award entries a full month – to Tuesday, December 31, 2013.

Friends of Libraries Week is an opportunity each October for libraries to take time to show their appreciation for  their Friends groups, but also offers a perfect platform for Friends to stage their biggest and most ambitious annual programs.

This eponymous Award targets the second of these. If you were moved to do something particularly exciting or innovative over Friends of Libraries Week 2013 (October 20-26), United for Libraries wants to hear about it. Applicants need only provide a one- or two-page summary of their October activities. Judging will be based “on creativity and innovation; involvement of Friends, library staff, Trustees, and/or advisory committee; recognition of Friends group; and promotion of Friends group to the community, school, students, and/or faculty.” The winner will receive a small monetary prize. 

Visit their website for more details. You can read about previous years’ winners here. 

Minnesota Ranks Well in Library Journal’s “Stars” Index

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A new index ranking out this month shows that Minnesota boasts its fair share of “stars.” But we're not talking about the likes of Bob Dylan, Prince, or Garrison Keillor.

Each year, Library Journal (American librarianship’s premier trade journal) assesses the United States’ public library systems on their public service performance. It then honors stand-out achievement with its prestigious Star rankings. This year, Minnesota more than held its own nationally, with five libraries across the state earning this unique commendation.

5 Stars
Grand Marais Public Library (in $200-$399.9K category)
4 Stars
East Grand Forks Campbell Library (in $200K-$399.9K category)
3 Stars
Ely Public Library (in $200K-$399.9K category)
Hennepin County Library (in $30M+ category)
Ramsey County Library (in $10M-$29.9M category)

5-star-reputation-512x283.jpgLibrary Journal’s tiers system and algorithms are somewhat complex, but the premise is straightforward. Four basic and very vital “public service outputs” are considered: per capita library visits, circulation rates, program attendance, and Internet-enabled computer usage. While the publication is the first to admit that these quantitative statistics cannot account for quality or effectiveness of library services, the figures provide an excellent baseline reading of how well libraries serve their publics.

It is no coincidence that Minnesota’s five Star-ranked libraries each have robust Friends of the Library groups supporting them. According to ALA – and much as you might expect – a large and active Friends group correlates very strongly with strong library programming attendance.

Congratulations to our “friends” in East Grand ForksElyGrand MaraisHennepin County, and Ramsey County!

Click here for a full accounting of Library Journal’s 2013 rankings, or visit the FAQ page for more information on how the Index works. (And, in case you were wondering, Minnesota tied with Arizona, Maine, Missouri and Oregon for twelfth overall.)

Another Way to Give Thanks…

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What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season? Family and friends doubtless top the list, but library Friends and patrons commonly cite another group: the top-notched librarians and other library staffers they see and interact with on a regular basis.

The Public Library Association is offering an interesting opportunity to say “thank you” to them this holiday season. Now through Monday, December 2, PLA invites you to nominate a library staff person for one or several of nine special awards and grants. Of particular interest to Friends of the Library nominators are:

  • Allie Beth Martin Award. This award honors a public librarian who has demonstrated “extraordinary range and depth of knowledge” about library materials and “has the distinguished ability to share that knowledge.”
  • Charlie Robinson Award. This award honors “a public library director who, over a period of seven years, has been a risk taker, an innovator and/or a change agent in a public library.”
  • Polaris Innovation in Technology John Iliff Award. This award honors a librarian that has used technology as a tool to improve services.

A special jury will evaluate all nominations later this winter, and winners will be announced in February 2014. Awards will then be presented at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

Click here for more information on PLA Awards, and email them directly at with any questions you may have.


The Public Library Association is a division of the American Lirbary Association. ‘Like’ them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter! 

Friends: Know an Exceptional Library Trustee? Nominate Them for ALA’s 2014 ‘Trustee Citation’

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Here’s your trivia for the day. MALF’s national-level counterpart, United for Libraries, is formally known as “United for Libraries: the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations.” It’s a long name, but one that accurately reflects the situation on the ground. Friends of the Library customarily enjoy a close relationship with their system’s Board of Trustees.

In recognition of this relationship, United for Libraries strongly encourages Friends of the Library to consider nominating a local trustee for ALA’s prestigious 2014 “Trustee Citation.”

This special honor is bestowed annually in recognition of “exemplary service to library development” on the local, state, and/or national level. While some 60,000 Americans serve as library trustees each year, only a small fraction are strong candidates for the citation.

If you would like to nominate someone your organization works closely with (including a trustee who doubles as an active Friends member), you will need to prepare:

  • A one- to five-page statement of support describing, in roughly chronological order, the nominee’s library-related activities.
  • A supplementary list of the candidate’s library-related achievements to date.

Baseline eligibility requirements include: membership in ALA and the trustees section of United for Libraries, and active participation as a trustee within the preceding year. Applications must be received by Tuesday, December 31, 2013. Visit the United for Libraries website for more information. (A complete list of winners to date can also be found on the site.) Email direct questions to

“Books for Babies” Instills a Love of Reading and Libraries at an Early Age

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Posted by jim under Education, Programs

b4blogo.jpgOdds are good that your Friends of the Library group strives to reach out to and engage a range of demographics: from retired adults, all the way down to teens and young adults. But did you know that your group's efforts to stoke a life-long interest in reading and learning can begin even at birth?

United for Libraries and co-partners are making this possible with the “Books for Babies” program. Books for Babies assembles inexpensive “gift kits” specially tailored to parents of newborns. Contents include an informational booklet and brochures on developing early literacy skills, one or several “Baby’s First Book” boardbooks, a bib, and “Baby’s First Library Card” (to be exchanged for the real thing at your local branch!)

How do these kits get into the hands of new and expectant parents? Organizations (Women’s Clubs and Junior Leagues, in addition to Friends of the Library) purchase a number of their choosing for their local area. Many supplement the kit basics with more local resources: brochures and magnets giving your library system’s branch hours, a calendar of upcoming story time event dates, a Friends membership flyer, etc.

The customizability options are nearly endless, but the core mission remains the same: encourage parents to engage in developmentally appropriate literacy activities with their babies. There’s no more sure way to guarantee the appreciation and use of our public libraries well into the future!

Tip: If your group is not currently in a position to finance this program independently, consider partnering up with another local nonprofit. The Friends of the Ely Library, for instance, is currently partnering with the local chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to bring “Books for Babies” to new parents in the greater Arrowhead region. Thus far, it has been a great success for all involved. 

If this sounds like an avenue worth pursuing, visit United for Libraries’ “Books for Babies” page for pricing packages, distribution strategies, success stories, and other details.

Give to the Max Day is Just Around the Corner!

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event-logo-vertical.jpgMALF’s annual Evy Nordley Award for ‘Best Project by Friends of the Library’ is proof positive that Friends of the Library are more savvy with and appreciative of creative fundraisers than most. This being the case, GiveMN’s annual “Give to the Max Day” is right up our alley!

As you may already know, Give to the Max Day is a statewide fundraiser organized each year through GiveMN. Nonprofits representing a wide variety of backgrounds and missions are encouraged to “claim” their GiveMN web page associated with their charity and, in advance of (and on) the big day, solicit donations through an easy-to-use payment portal.

Since the program’s launch in 2009, it has raised more than $50 million for over 6,700 nonprofit organizations and schools. Last year alone, $13.4 million was raised! This year’s Give to the Max Day – Thursday, November 14 – promises to be the biggest and best yet.

Give to the Max Day’s success can be traced to its format. The process is designed to be extremely approachable for all parties involved.

Interested in giving it a shot? GiveMN’s website provides everything needed to get you started. Getting up and running should only take an hour or so -- and it’s time well invested!

Has your Friends of the Library group done anything for Give to the Max Day in years past? If you’d like to share your experiences and advice with Friends in other parts of Minnesota, email MALF at We’ll post your comments!

Last but not least, consider MALF when choosing your own Give to the Max Day fund recipients. Bookmark our page for November 14, or pre-schedule an automatic donation now. 

And the Winner is…. Friends of the Cambridge Public Library!

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“Saving the Library Budget” Wins Cambridge the 2013 Evy Nordley Award

On October 11, as is tradition, MALF used Library Friends Day (part of the MLA Conference) as a platform to announce and congratulate the winner of our most prestigious annual prize: the Evy Nordley Award for ‘Best Project by Friends of the Library.’

Not surprisingly, given the devotion and ingenuity to found in the Minnesota Friends community, competition was stiff. This year’s winner, Friends of the Cambridge (Minn.) Public Library (“Saving the Library Budget”), stood out for showing – both in words and in action – that you don’t have to fly to Washington D.C. to lobby effectively on behalf of libraries.

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.

Evy Nordley Certificates of Recognition Recipients: Friends of the Duluth and Two Harbors libraries

As we said, award competition was stiff; 2012 was, overall, an exemplary year for Minnesota’s Friends groups. Our two runners-up (recipients each of $250 and a Certificate of Recognition) are particularly good illustrations.

Duluth_Laura_Bergen.jpgDuluth: “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.

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_Micky_McGilligan.jpgTwo 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).

Chris Olson Honored As MALF’s First “Library Friend of the Year”

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Veteran MALF members may know Minnesota Library Friends Day (traditionally, the Friday of each year’s MLA Conference) best as the platform through which MALF announces the winner of the annual Evy Nordley Award. This year, panel attendees got what they came for – plus something extra. For the first time ever, in addition to the traditional slate of awards and acknowledgements, MALF bestowed a brand new honor: “Library Friend of the Year.”

MLA_011.JPGChris Olson, Executive Director for the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), came away with the inaugural award.

The choice came as no surprise to those who know Olson. His devotion as a Friend of the Library knows no bounds – least of all geographic ones. Prominent among other library-related travels, he is a frequent attendee at National Library Legislative Day in Washington, D.C.

Closer to home, Olson has been affiliated with MALF, in a variety of capacities, for over twenty years (official terms of office: 1990-94, 1997-07, and 2009-11). In that time, he left a footprint on nearly every aspect of MALF operations: from membership, to futures planning, to newsletter and communications work. Olson also served a term as MALF President and another as Secretary pro tem.

He is also the principal author behind MALF’s “Guidelines for Organization: Friends of the Library,” now in its third edition.

Olson’s other library experiences and achievements to date include time as Executive Director of Cooperating Libraries in Consortium (CLIC), and many years as the public information officer for the Lake Agassiz Regional Library system in northwestern Minnesota. He also served for a time as councilor for the American Library Association, and has taught library and information science classes as an adjunct at St. Catherine’s University.

Congratulations, Chris!

MALF Co-sponsors MEMO Panel on “The Journey of the YA Novel”

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Posted by jim under Conferences, Events,Conferences, Events

Friends of the Library hail from all walks of life and are hard to typecast. We can say two things with certainty, though. Friends like to read, and they enjoy sharing that passion with others. But have you ever wondered what kind of work goes into creating the stories we find so enjoyable? Thursday, October 3, as part of the Minnesota Educational Media Organization (MEMO)’s annual fall conference in St. Cloud, attendees got the chance to find out.

MALF, together with MEMO and Consortium Books & Distribution, co-sponsored an hour-long evening program entitled “Journey of a Young Adult Book: From Writer to Reader.” The session was based on a panel of the same name coordinated last spring for the New York City Book Expo by United for Libraries and Algonquin Books.

Heidi Hammond, Ph.D., an experienced media specialist and St. Catherine University professor, moderated a table of subject matter experts. Panelists included Carrie Mesrobian, a YA novelist and teen writing instructor at The Loft Literary Center; Mary Losure, writer of the YA nonfiction narratives The Fairy Ring and The Wild Boy; Andrew Karre, editorial director for Carolrhoda Lab™; and Dawn Frederick, literary agent and owner of Red Sofa Literary.

Event organizer and MALF Board member Joan Larson was also on hand to represent the Minnesota Association of Library Friends.

The panel walked the audience through every step of the bookmaking process: from generating ideas, composing a manuscript, and getting it polished, to what it takes to submit a book to agents and get it published. Getting new, quality YA materials into the hands of readers is, in short, a long and multifaceted process. Attendees came away realizing that “the story behind the story” is often nearly as interesting as the book itself!

The session – one of the evening’s headliners – was well attended, and we hope to co-sponsor another of the kind in the future.


Photo Caption: MEMO Annual Fall Conference at the River's Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud, Minn. The October 3 keynote, as well as the "Journey of a YA Novel" evening panel, were well attended. Photo credit: MEMO/Dhaivyd Hilgendorf.

For more photos, please visit MEMO's Flickr photostream.

Highlights, Takeaway Messages from Drafting the Blueprint '13

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Seventy-five Library Friends hailing from all corners of the state congregated in Mankato, Fergus Falls and Mountain Iron, Minn., last month to take part in MALF’s 2013 summer workshop series, “Drafting the Blueprint: Building Friends.”

MALF’s second annual Drafting the Blueprint season was predicated on a problem statement, of sorts. “How do we retain and recruit Friends, and maintain and increase fundraising numbers, at a time when Minnesotans have more demands on their time and money than ever?”

This is a tall order, to be sure; exploring it fully took a full day. To make the most of that time, host Ann Walker Smalley (director of St. Paul-based Metronet) split the day’s itinerary into two halves: a lecture-style presentation in the morning, followed by illuminating panel discussions and participatory activities in the afternoon.

All who attended reported the experience to be both informative and fun. For those who couldn’t attend, we are pleased to provide, by way of summary, a few takeaway messages and other highlights.

Building Friends

“Building” implies forward progress. For Friends, it can take any of many forms. Advocacy and public relations efforts, fundraising, and special event planning may top the list. Critically, though, your success in these endeavors is totally contingent on the competency and cohesion of your organization. You must, in effect, be brilliant at the basics.

To this end, Ann Walker Smalley offered up “Ten Commandments for Building a Successful Friends Group.” These are, in full: 

1. Secure the interest and support of the library’s director, staff and board of directors.
2. Make sure that these parties – and your members – understand the role each group plays in the overall success of the library.
3. Keep the Friends organized, and keep your programs on track.
4. Whatever your resources, manage them effectively.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep your member base and the public apprised of what you are doing.
6. Money is only part of the equation. You must also budget time effectively. Do what you can to ensure that officers, members, and other volunteers make good on their time commitments.
7. When possible, nurture relationships with community groups and other Friends groups in your region. Synergies are sometimes possible.
8. Focus on volunteers – particularly ‘non-Friend’ ones. Help them in their work whenever possible.
9. Be willing to learn and share with other Friends.
10. Evaluate and evolve. A dynamic organization takes a regular look at itself to evaluate its successes and looks at ways to grow and change.

Ann offered a bonus commandment, too:
11. Stay informed about library happenings, including trends affecting the industry at large. If you do, you can offer positive ideas and solutions in support of library operations.

This session closed with these words to remember:The most successful groups are those where everyone feels their contribution is important to the group’s success.

During and after a working lunch, workshop attendees then dove into “Phase 2.” Two open-format panels anchored the afternoon.

Keeping the Flame Alive
Phase 2 opened with an overview of the generations we find (or don’t?) in our Friends groups, and the relevant characteristics of each. Understanding this gives you an idea of why people in different age cohorts act the way they do – and why working across generations can sometimes be difficult. 

Recruiting younger members (particularly “Millennials”) is difficult to do without a robust web presence. Few if any of the Friends groups represented in the audiences used Twitter, Pinterest, or Tumblr. A larger minority had an active presence on Facebook and their associated library’s website. Going this extra mile is imperative, however. Young people (and increasingly, all people) rely on online resources to keep them up-to-date on the things and causes they value most.

A host of other ideas were voiced. Some were geared toward larger libraries, and others to their smaller counterparts. Some were most appropriate for urban areas, and others best suited for application in rural library systems. In contrast, as Ann Walker Smalley noted, the value of a robust web presence is universal to all Friends of the Library groups.

Beyond the Book Sale
For some, “Friends of the Library” is essentially synonymous with “book sales.” While in most cases the assertion will be only partially correct, the book sale fundraiser is indeed alive and well. Popular expansions on the traditional, once- or twice-a-year event include: installing and stocking permanent bookshelves to sell de-accessioned library materials year round; adding greeting cards or other items to your “product line”; and, selling rare or like-new items online.

Other fundraising ideas floated during the panel included: silent auctions, gift basket sales, quilt raffles, coffee carts, food sales at community events, clothing sales, and library “galas” or other ticketed eventsImagination and fun were the bywords of these ‘non-book’ sale events.

If you would like more information on any or all of the above, see the workshop PowerPoint that Ann is making available to all our readers on Slideshare. Visit


ALA’s Washington Office Wants to ‘See’ Your Library in Action

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Posted by jim

The term “public library” conjures up different images for different people. Some view the library principally as a neighborhood meeting space. Others instead think first and foremost of a convenient, nearby source for information. Still others value their library for the community programming it hosts.

The common thread is that libraries are viewed and appreciated as a quintessentially local resource. 

As Friends and staffers deeply involved in their branch’s work can tell you, if there is a downside to this local orientation, it is that public libraries oftentimes do not have larger platforms with which to showcase and share the great, innovative things they are doing at the local level.

Here is your chance! If your library has implemented pioneering or otherwise interesting service programs in the last few years, ALA’s Washington Office wants to hear about it!

Or, more accurately, see it.

ALA is looking to produce a series of videos to educate legislators and other policymakers about the imp


ortant and inventive library service offerings that federal funding makes possible. For this purpose, they are currently soliciting raw, unedited footage from public libraries across the country.

A non-comprehensive list of programs and services that are good candidates for inclusion are:

  • Assistive devices for people with disabilities
  • Computer literacy programs (and new equipment)
  • Digital content collections (including e-books)
  • E-government services
  • Family literacy classes
  • Homework help and mentoring programs
  • Internet Access
  • Job assistance

Sound interesting? Your footage does not need to be professionally shot or edited. Any length of video will be accepted. You can take video just for this purpose, of, if more convenient, repurpose something from a previous videography project. Please be sure that all subjects appearing in your video are informed and give their consent to participate.

ALA Washington Office staff will view, organize, edit and contextualize clips from across the country in preparation for a release date corresponding with 2014’s National Library Legislative Day. The video series will then prove a valuable lobbying tool for many years to come.

You have two months to get your materials ready; the entry deadline is Friday, November 15. When ready, email your submissions to ALA Washington Office’s Press Officer, Jazzy Wright, at

Public Libraries and Equal Access to Information in the Digital Age

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Posted by jim under Events, Trends

Last Tuesday, communications and library leaders from across Minnesota congregated in Alexandria to hear the most recent round of research findings from the Governor’s Broadband Task Force. This Task Force consists of a 15-person panel aiming to make “’border-to-border’ high speed Internet and cell phone access available throughout the state.” It’s an ambitious goal, but one the commission has been making steady progress toward since its inception in November 2011.

The choice of venue for the September 2013 meeting – the Douglas County Library – is an extremely appropriate one. Public libraries, long-time champions of securing equal access for all to vital information resources, are unsurprisingly at the forefront of the movement to see access to public computers (and particularly internet capabilities) extended to all Minnesotans.

comp.jpgIndeed, public libraries, their range of service offerings, and the institution’s continued societal relevance topped the list of issues discussed last week…

Did you know that, on average, Minnesota libraries provide 13.7 computers for patron use? Or that use of this resource has increased over 71% just in the last two years? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

If this is a subject you’ve been meaning to get informed on but have always found hard to approach, now is your chance. PowerPoints and other notes are available online. Click here to view them.

Meeting Abstract

Topics: Libraries in the digital age, libraries and Internet access, return on investment (ROI) for library public funding.

Speakers: Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson, interim State Librarian Jennifer Larson, Peg Werner of the Viking Library System, Melinda Ludwiczek of the Metropolitan Area Library Services Agency, and Gail Hedstrom, Library Director for Thorson Memorial Library in Elbow Lake, Minn.

Have You Heard About the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award?

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Posted by jim under Awards,Awards

While everyone loves hearing about library grants and awards, the narrow eligibility requirements associated with most can be quite discouraging to Friends and staff. Either you are an urban library and the grant of the day is available only to rural systems, or the award you just heard about exists to recognize excellence in adult programming – while you’ve been focusing all your effort on children’s events.

Fortunately, there are a few recognition opportunities out there that are open to a much larger swathe of libraries and Friends groups. One such is the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award. This distinction exists to acknowledge “excellence in library programming through a cultural or thematic program or series.”

images.jpgYes, it’s as broad as that! A cultural or thematic program is one that “features the humanities, sciences, arts, creative arts, or community and civic engagement programs.”

Moreover, “in recognition that programming is an essential part of service delivery in all types of libraries,” public, academic, school and special interests libraries are all eligible.

Top prize is $5,000 and a Citation of Achievement presented during the next ALA Annual Conference.

The next application cycle will be for programming presented during the last twelve months (i.e., September 2012 to August 2013). The nomination window will open soon and remain so until December. Check the ALA website periodically for more details. 

Start Your Planning – Friends of Libraries Week Is Coming Up Fast!

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Posted by jim under Events, Awards,Events, Awards

Did you know that Friends of the Library have their very own national “holiday”? We do! Moreover, not only is it an annual event – it’s a celebration that runs for an entire week each fall.

National Friends of Libraries Week is sponsored and, to a certain extent, coordinated by United for Libraries (formerly ALTAFF). Its two-fold purpose is to:

  • Foster an environment conducive to promoting your Friends group and its projects,
  • Offer an opportunity for your library, Board of Trustees and community officials to recognize your group for its ongoing support.

To these ends, United for Libraries has posted on its website a number of stories and downloadable resources to help you get started. Click here for posters, sample letters to the editor, template public proclamations, and much much more.

This year’s event will be Sunday, October 20 to Saturday, October 26.

calendar_clip_art-1.jpgAs you’ve doubtless gleaned by now, even if National Friends of Libraries Week is a completely new concept to you, this weeklong celebration is an extremely customizable one. Apart from the overall mission sketched out above, appropriate ways to celebrate Friends of Libraries Week are nearly as many and varied as America’s countless Friends groups. In years past, these have ranged from the simple and straightforward, like weeklong membership campaigns and fundraising drives, to the unexpected and sometimes wacky – like an in-library demonstration from a world champion chocolate strawberry dipper.

If you are moved to do something particularly exciting or innovative, consider applying for UfL’s “Friends of Libraries Week Award” once the event has passed. Applicants need only provide a one- or two-page summary of their October activities. Judging will be based “on creativity and innovation; involvement of Friends, library staff, Trustees, and/or advisory committee; recognition of Friends group, and promotion of Friends group to the community, school, students, and/or faculty.” The winner will receive a small monetary prize.  

Visit their website for more details. You can read about previous years’ winners here. Applications for the 2013 award cycle are due Monday, December 2.

Register Now For MLA Conference + Library Friends Day!

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Posted by jim under Conferences, Events


It's that time again!

Each year, the slow but inevitable creep towards fall brings with it shorter days, cooler temperatures, and an end to those three-day summer weekends. It’s not all bad, though. Fall also heralds the countdown to the Minnesota Library Association conference!

As most of our audience is already undoubtedly aware, the annual MLA Conference is one of the linchpin events in the Minnesota library community’s professional development and networking calendar. This year’s event, slated for October 10-11 in St. Cloud’s River’s Edge Convention Center, promises to be better than ever, with over 60 sessions/panels and 40 exhibitors.

Friends of the Library will be well represented – particularly on Day 2, “Library Friends Day.” We will feature MALF-sponsored panels and activities on our website as the date draws nearer, so stay tuned! Can’t wait? For a sneak peek, click here for a comprehensive MLA Conference itinerary.

If you are a member of MALF or any Minnesota Friends of the Library group, or if you are serving on a library board, you are eligible for special rates! Register by September 6 to attend Friday, October 11 for $60. Register after September 6 and pay $75 for workshops, keynote speakers, meals, exhibits, and networking among Friends. (Card or other proof of membership not need.) Click here for more information and to begin the registration process.

NEH/ACHO Offers Planning Grants for Library Humanities Programming

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Posted by jim under Grants, Opportunities

NEH.jpgIf you have the kernel of an idea for a new library program or exhibit and like to see things out fully from beginning to end, NEH’s ‘America’s Historical and Cultural Organizations’ (ACHO) division has a grant opportunity that might be right up your alley. NEH/ACHO is currently accepting applications from libraries and museums looking to produce a public program (or programs) in any area of the humanities. That includes history, the performing arts, language, and – of course – literature.

Specifically, funds are available toward planning and early stages of project development. Acceptable uses include “consultation with scholars, refinement of humanities themes, preliminary design, testing, and audience evaluation.”

Note that a wide variety of programming formats are eligible for grant assistance. Besides traditional exhibits, these include book discussion groups, educational film nights, and living history presentations.

The application deadline for programs tentatively slated to start in or after April 2014 is August 14, 2013. If this is too compressed a timeline for your library or Friends group, don’t worry. The next application cycle will open shortly.

Note: Both funding resources and the number of eligible applicants can vary widely  from year to year. In the last five competition years, the Planning Grants program has received an average of 78 applications and provided an average of seven awards per year – a funding ratio of nearly 10 percent!

For more information, visit You can direct specific questions to NEH’s Division of Public Programs at 202-606-8269 or

Tutoring Opportunity for Friends of the Library

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Posted by jim under Opportunities

readingcorps.pngIf there’s one thing Friends of the Library seem to be universally good at, it is spreading their appreciation for and love of books and reading. The Minnesota Reading Corps, a state-wide program organized under AmeriCorps (often called the ‘domestic Peace Corps’), is looking for volunteers just like you to tutor and foster a love of reading in Minnesota schoolchildren. 

Over the 2013-14 academic year, the Minnesota Reading Corps and its sister organization, the Minnesota Math Corps, is looking to place 1,000 tutors in schools where children are identified as needing a little extra support. The goal is ambitious, but reachable. The Minnesota Reading Corps already has a presence in over 500 elementary schools, preschools, and head start centers across the state.

As a tutor, you will receive hands-on training in research-based strategies, bolster your career network, and become eligible for financial awards to further your own educations. If you become heavily involved, you may also be eligible for a living allowance.

Of course, the biggest and best award is knowing you are having a positive and tangible impact on your community. With your help, we will be one step closer to ensuring that Minnesota’s youth are successful readers by the end of the third grade and proficient in math by the end of eighth.

For more information on the Minnesota Reading Corps, AmeriCorps, and the tutoring opportunity, visit, or email Note: MRC is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by MALF.

MALF and Partners Dedicate Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home as Minnesota’s Fourth ALA “Literary Landmark”

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Posted by jim under Events

Lewis_Boyhood_home4.jpgNovelist Sinclair Lewis, one of central Minnesota’s most famous native sons, lies buried in Sauk Centre under a modest headstone. Of his many and varied literary achievements, his epitaph lists only “Author of Main Street.” Passersby might wrongfully infer from this that Sauk Centre has all but forgotten Lewis, the local boy who gained international literary acclaim and immortalized a fictionalized version of the town in 1920’s Main Street.

Walk just one mile down the road from the cemetery to the author’s Boyhood Home, however, and you will see how wrong you are in this assessment. Take just one look at the well maintained home (originally built in 1889, and a National Historic Landmark since 1968), now a major tourist draw and center for Lewis scholarship and symposia, and you will realize that Sauk Centre is enamored with Sinclair Lewis now more than ever.

Rather than his later life, career, and death, the Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home focuses foremost on the Nobel laureate’s early and formative years in Stearns County. On Tuesday, July 16, in recognition of the site’s literary significance and historic value, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF), in partnership with the Sinclair Lewis Foundation and with support from several other local organizations, dedicated a plaque designating the Boyhood Home as an American Library Association/United for Libraries “Literary Landmark.” The plaque concisely sums up Lewis’ life and distinctions, reading:

Sinclair_Lewis_009.JPG“Harry Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) spent his formative years in this home. Lewis was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American society and capitalist values, as well as for their strong characterizations of modern working women.“
-Minnesota Association of Library Friends & Sinclair Lewis Foundation   July 16, 2013

The ceremony was one of the linchpin events at Sauk Centre’s “Sinclair Lewis Days,” an annual, week-long festival celebrating the community and its most famous native son. Turnout beat expectations, with over 50 people in attendance. Attendees included District 12B Rep. Paul Anderson (R) and Sauk Centre Mayor Brad Kirckof.

Speakers included MALF President Mary Ann Bernat, who spoke about United for Libraries and the Literary Landmark program; biographer Roberta Olson, who gave a brief sketch of the youth’s years in Sauk Centre; and local author and publisher Dave Simpkins, who is currently researching Lewis’s diaries for an exciting upcoming volume on the author.

Sinclair_Lewis_005.JPGSorry you missed the event? The site, at 810 Sinclair Lewis Ave., is open for viewing and tours Tuesday-Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Please call the Sauk Centre Chamber of Commerce at (320) 352-5201 for daily hours.

The Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home is Minnesota’s fourth Literary Landmark, and the first to be co-sponsored by MALF. For more information on the national Literary Landmarks program, including a complete list of previous designees, visit 

For more details on last week's festivities, see:

Director of State Library Services Nancy Walton to Retire at End of the Summer

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Posted by jim under Nancy Walton, retirement, Minnesota, library policy

MALF wants to take a moment to congratulate Nancy Walton, State Librarian and Director of State Library Services, on her upcoming retirement – and on a tremendously fruitful career in public service. Walton announced her retirement earlier this month; after a transition period, she will step down from her role at the end of August.

Walton has worked with Minnesota libraries and on library policy issues for over two decades. “Nancy [has been a] tireless advocate for libraries, data privacy, library broadband access, literacy, and life-long learning,” said Library Development & Continuing Education Specialist Mary Ann Van Cura. “Her personal and professional commitment has resulted in high service to Minnesota.”

Her distinguished career also includes as highlights time spent as librarian/manager at institutions in Maryland, California… and Morocco!

In Walton’s honor, State Library Services is holding a celebration 1-3 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at the Minnesota Dept. of Education in Roseville. Library staff and advocates from across the state are invited to attend! Click here to RSVP. (Reservations are not strictly required, but are of great assistance to the event planners.) If needed, click here for directions.

Registration is NOW OPEN for MALF's Summer Workshop Series!

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Posted by jim under Workshops

As libraries adapt to meet the ever-changing needs of patrons, Friends of the Library groups must also evolve. While the need itself is readily apparent, many organizations struggle when it comes down to actually formulating a plan and putting it into motion. This year, MALF’s 2013 summer workshop series, “Drafting the Blueprint: Building Friends,” will focus on bringing the Friends of the Library concept fully into the twenty-first century.

Host and keynote speaker Ann Walker Smalley (director of Metronet) will lead participants through a day of panels, presentations and participatory activities designed to help you:

  • Understand your library’s place in the larger ‘library universe’
  • Refine your mission and purpose to better align with that new and fresh perspective
  • Learn about key issues facing libraries today, and what you can do about them
  • Collaborate better with other library players (Board, staff, etc.)
  • Build your member base and sustain that growth

Cost is $10.00 per registrant, and lunch is included. 

Dates, Locations, and Schedule
As in years past, in recognition of the broad geographic distribution of Minnesota's Friends groups, the workshop will be repeated in its entirety in three different venues across the state.

Wed., Aug. 21: Mankato 
Blue Earth County Library, 100 E. Main St.
Sat, Aug. 24: Fergus Falls
Fergus Falls Public Library, 205 E. Hampden Ave.
Sat., Sept. 7: Mountain Iron
Mountain Iron Public Library, 5742 Mountain Ave.

9:00 a.m.  …….. Registration
9:30-12 p.m…...  Building Friends
12-1 p.m. ……....  Working Lunch
1-2 p.m. ……...   “Beyond the Book Sale”
2:15-3:15 p.m...  “Keeping the Flame Alive”

Registration is easy – no drafting tools required! Here are your options:

I want to both register and pay at this time.

  • Print and fill out the PDF registration form available on our website. Mail with check made payable to “MALF” ($10 x no. of people you are registering for) to our office: MALF, 325 Cedar St., Ste. 555, St. Paul, MN, 55101. (Please note: Refunds not available.)

I want to register now and pay my $10 at the door.

  • Option 1. Fill out and submit the registration e-form located on our website at the bottom of the Workshops page.
  • Option 2. Print and fill out the PDF registration form available on our website. Check box next to “Register now, pay at the door” and mail to our office: MALF, 325 Cedar St., Ste. 555, St. Paul, MN, 55101.
  • Option 3. Email us directly at with: workshop location/date you want to register for, number of people you are reserving seats for, and both name AND email address for each of those individuals. (Spots will only be reserved for people for whom both name and email address are on file.)

We will follow up via email to confirm your registration, and send you reminders in advance of your workshop.

Registration for the two August sessions closes Friday, August 16. Registration for the September session closes Friday, August 30Please remember to reserve your spot. Lunch and information packets can only be guaranteed to those that RSVP before the deadlines.

ALA Wants YOU to Host Traveling Exhibit on the 1930s Dust Bowl

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Posted by jim

Many libraries and Friends of the Library groups have turned to temporary and traveling exhibits as a way both to lure new patrons into the library and to get them to stay longer. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, however, many are deterred by the expense and expertise necessary to research and construct a professional-caliber exhibit. If this is true for you, the American Library Association may have the perfect solution.

ALA’s Public Programs Office is currently looking for 25 libraries across the country to host a 300-square foot traveling historical exhibit on the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Entitled Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry, the exhibit is tailored to teach public audiences both about this tumultuous period of America’s past and about ecological consequences human actions can have in our own day.

Venues chosen to host the exhibit (each for a six-week period) will also be given resources to present associated public programs in their communities. The details of these exciting offerings can be found here. Winners will also receive $1,200 from ALA (through funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities) to help offset costs.

Public, academic, and special collection libraries are all strongly encouraged to supply - provided only that they have 300 square feet free and suitable for a traveling exhibit. To learn more about eligibility, additional benefits of participation, and how to apply, click here. All applications must be received by Monday, September 30, 2013. Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry will begin in April 2014 and end its run in March 2016. 

Catch Up On What You Missed at the ’13 ALA Annual Conference

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Posted by jim under Events, Conferences


Bibliophiles everywhere will tell you that much of their joy for reading stems from a desire to act and learn vicariously through a book’s characters.

Librarians, Friends and trustees unable to attend the annual ALA Conference this month in Chicago can put that same skill to good use, thanks to wonderful wrap-up and summary materials compiled and posted by the host organization.

Click here for a description and discussion of the exciting weekend’s many preconferences, exhibitions, panels, and speeches by such notables as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual, authors Khaled Hosseini and Ann Pratchett, and ALA President Maureen Sullivan.

At final count, an impressive 26,362 registrants attended the Conference this year. Even so, that leaves thousands of library and literacy professionals (not to mention Friends) who could not be physically present this year. Feel free to share this resource widely.

And, in case you were wondering…

ALA’s next big national conference, the annual Midwinter Meeting, is slated for January 24-28, 2014, in Philadelphia, PA. The Next Annual Conference will take place June 26-July 1 in Las Vegas, NV.

Is Your FOL Looking to Start or Reboot a Library Book Club? This Webinar Is For You!

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Posted by jim under Webinar

stack-of-books.jpgIn the last twenty years, Friends of the Library everywhere have diversified their original programs and initiatives. Even so, for many, tried-and-true book clubs and book sales remain their bread and butter.

If your Friends of the Library group is looking to start or reboot a library book club, consider registering for a free, hour-long webinar on the subject hosted by Booklist (a book review journal put out by the ALA). The session is scheduled for 1:00-2:00 CST Tuesday, July 16.

Topics will include advice for start-ups, tips on locating new titles, and guidance on finding and writing great group discussion questions. The webinar will conclude with “a whirlwind tour of must-know websites for book discussion leaders.”

The session will be led by Rebecca Vnuk, Reference and Collection Management Editor for Booklist. She will be joined by reps from HarperCollins, Random House Library Marketing, and Sourcebooks.

Click here to register.

MALF to Designate Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home in Sauk Centre as a “Literary Landmark” - And You're Invited!

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Posted by jim under Events

Lewis_Boyhood_home4.jpgWhat do F. Scott Fitzgerald’s St. Paul birthplace and Willa Cather’s beloved Nebraska prairie home have in common with a corner tavern in New York, a cemetery in Virginia, and a courthouse in Michigan?** All are Literary Landmarks, sites with a strong historical connection to prominent American authors and recognized through a joint partnership between United for Libraries’ Literary Landmarks Association and local affiliates.

This summer, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF), together with the Sinclair Lewis Foundation, is thrilled to be such a partner and to add the Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home in Sauk Centre, Minn., to the esteemed and growing list of Literary Landmarks.

Harry Sinclair Lewis is perhaps best known for penning the great American novels Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, and Dodsworth, and for being the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1930).

MALF and the Sinclair Lewis Foundation will dedicate a custom-made plaque at his Boyhood Home, 810 Sinclair Lewis Ave., at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16. The ceremony will be one of the lynchpin events at Sauk Centre’s “Sinclair Lewis Days,” an annual, week-long festival celebrating the community and its most famous native son.

A short presentation will accompany the plaque dedication. Jim Umhoefer, President of the Sinclair Lewis Foundation’s board of directors, will serve as emcee. MALF president Mary Ann Bernat and Lewis author Roberta Olson will deliver short addresses, followed by a keynote from local publisher and Lewis historian Dave Simpkins.

The event is free to the public, and no advanced registration is necessary. After the program, attendees are invited to take part in a complimentary tour of the Boyhood Home (normally $5 for adults).

For more information on Sinclair Lewis and the plaque installation, visit the MALF Blog and the Sauk Centre Chamber of Commerce’s Sinclair Lewis Days events calendar. For more information on the national Literary Landmarks program, including a complete list of previous designees, click here.

**You may still be asking yourself: “How is it that a tavern, a cemetery, and a courthouse are significant to the history of American literature?” New York City’s Pete’s Tavern was a favorite haunt of author O. Henry. Bland Cemetery in Jordan’s Point, Va., is the final resting place of Revolutionary War patriot and pamphleteer Richard Bland. The Marquette County Courthouse in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the workplace inspiration for Judge John D. Voelker’s bestselling mystery and detective novels. You can read more about the nearly 150 Literary Landmarks at

Advance Registration for Summer ALA Conference Ends FRIDAY

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Posted by jim under Conference

This summer, the American Library Association is holding its big Annual Conference & Exhibition right here in the Midwest! Events will be held Friday, June 28-Monday, July 1 in Chicago. If you would like to attend all or part of the weekend but haven’t yet registered, note that advance registration ends on Friday, June 21 at 11:59 CST.

hourglass_with_sand.pngBook your spot now! Registration includes unlimited access to the exhibit hall and admission to top-notch panels, keynotes, and discussion forums in every library-related specialty. (Preconferences and certain ticketed events cost extra.) If you have never attended an ALA-sponsored, national-scale conference, the links below lead to information on various facets of the programming, and may help you determine if 2013 is the year you finally make the leap!

Are You the “Best Small Library in America”?

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Posted by jim under Awards

libraryjournal.jpgIf your Friends of the Library organization submitted an entry to the 2013 Evy Nordley Award contest, it’s clear that you are pleased with the work your group is doing for your library. In turn, are you equally pleased with the work your library is doing in and for the community? If the answer is a resounding YES, and you are represent a community of under 25,000 residents, consider nominating your branch or system for “Best Small Library in America”!

The annual ‘Best Small Library’ distinction is bestowed annually by Library Journal and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As the name suggests, its intent is to encourage and showcase the exemplary work of modestly-sized libraries. The winner will receive $20,000, a feature story in Library Journal, and a number of other perks.

Judging is based on a number of factors, including: creativity in developing and implementing replicable programming, availability of computers/Internet and tech support, sustained cooperation with other libraries, and evidence of the library’s long-standing value as a community center.

Entry is free, and anyone – staff or volunteer, Friend or patron – is encouraged to submit a nomination. For more information, including eligibility requirements, comprehensive judging criteria, and step-by-step nomination instructions, visit Library Journal online. All materials must be postmarked by October 14, 2013.

ALA Opens Registration for 2013 Summer Virtual Conference to Library Staff and Friends

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Posted by jim under Conference,

teleconference.jpgLibrary staff, like practitioners of many other trades, rely on national and regional professional conferences to drive their dynamic field forward. These conferences serve simultaneously as think tank, exhibition, idea sharing platform, and professional development tool. In short, something you want to be a part of. The inevitable downside, of course, is that these ventures can be quite pricey with registration, hotel stay, and transportation costs factored in – to say nothing of the opportunity cost of work not getting done at the office. Each year, the American Library Association offers something by way of a middle ground: the two-day summer ALA Virtual Conference.

The ALA Virtual Conference is just what it sounds like. Registrants, from the comfort of their home or office, simply log in to enjoy a host of keynote presentations, lectures on any number of library-related topics, and interactive conversation-based Web sessions.

This year’s event is slated for Wednesday, July 24 and Thursday, July 25. The cost is $70 for ALA members, and $80 for non-members. Alternatively, groups of up to 15 may register an equal number of IP addresses for the flat rate of $325 for members and $350 for non-members.

This year’s theme is “Mapping Transformation: Experimentation and Innovation.” Topics of particular interest to Friends of the Library will include – but are by no means limited to! – new directions for libraries vis-à-vis digital content; transformational community engagement tactics; best practices for community space utilization; “gamification” and “loud programming” in libraries; and, the popular and growing Little Free Libraries project.

Click here for more information, including a complete itinerary and list of presenters. Click here to jump straight to registration. 

SELCO Announces “Sharing Between Friends” Workshop for Library Friends and Staff

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Posted by jim under Workshops,Workshops

share.jpgSoutheastern Libraries Coordinating (SELCO) invites Minnesota library staff, Friends, trustees and Board Members to kick off the summer together with a special day-long workshop in Rochester.

If you are available, please join keynote presenter Chris Olson, Director of MELSA and former Minnesota Library Association of Friends President, at SELCO Headquarters from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18.

The agenda is built around synergy. After a morning keynote, attendees will share with each other through a combination of idea sharing modules, planning discussions, and Q&As. All pertinent topics are eligible for discussion, from fundraising, to programming, to legal issues.

Because of the collaborative nature of “Sharing Between Friends,” participants are strongly encouraged to come prepared with one or two best practices or programs to share with the group.

Complete itinerary:

  • Registration & Refreshments: 9:00-9:30 a.m.
  • Keynote Presentation by Chris Olson: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
  • Catered Lunch: 11:30-12:15 p.m. 
  • Sharing of Best Practices and Programming Ideas: 12:15-2:15 p.m.
  • Wrap-up, Q&As, and Small Group Planning Discussions: 2:15-3:00 p.m.

The workshop is free, but there is a $10 fee to cover the cost of lunch. (Registrants will be invoiced upon registration) Click here to register. Please do so by Friday, June 14. Can’t make it? Don’t worry! All program ideas will be recorded and posted to the SELCO website after the workshop.

SELCO is one of Minnesota's 12 regional public library systems. The membership is comprised of a federation of locally autonomous public libraries and 11 counties. This unique blend of rural and urban members presents challenges and surprises in meeting the diverse needs of the consortium members and the patrons served by the libraries.

The Libri Foundation Offering Grants (up to $1,050) to Rural Friends Groups

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Posted by jim under Grants

Many of Minnesota’s most active and dynamic Friends of the Library groups are located in rural areas. This stands to reason. Smaller communities have at their disposal fewer public spaces and free-to-all resources than do their larger counterparts, lending the library a larger public presence. If you are from such a community and represent such a library, The Libri Foundation wants to help you with its popular and generous “Books for Children” grant program.

Since 1990, The Libri Foundation has worked directly with Friends groups to augment the selection of children’s books available to patrons at rural libraries. To date, it has donated over $5.25 million worth of new, hardcover children’s books to 3,000 libraries in all 50 states.

The process is simple. Your group, through a fundraiser or other means, is asked to put up between $50 and $350 for new children’s inventory. The Foundation then matches this sum at a two-to-one basis – capping out at $1,050, if you do the math.

The Foundation maintains a 700-title (and growing) booklist, from which each partnering Friends group picks an assortment of books. The selection is diverse, geared toward: general circulation; toddler, preschool, after-school, and summer reading programs; “book buddy” clubs; school projects; and, teacher curriculum support.

Grant eligibility requirements:

  • Libraries should be in a rural area, have a limited operating budget, and an active children's department. For grant purposes, “rural” is considered to be at least 30 miles from a city with a population over 40,000.
  • Applications are accepted from independent libraries as well as libraries which are part of a county, regional, or cooperative library system. A library system may also apply if all the libraries in the system meet these requirements.
  • Interested county libraries should serve a population under 16,000. Interested town libraries should serve a population under 10,000.
  • Applications are accepted from school libraries only if they also serve as the public library (i.e. it is open to everyone in the community, has some summer hours, and there is no public library in town).
  • Town libraries with total operating budgets over $150,000 and county libraries with total operating budgets over $350,000 are rarely given grants. The average total operating budget of a “Books for Children” grant recipient is less than $40,000.

Click here to learn more and to begin the online application process. Alternatively, to receive a paper application in the mail, please email your name and your library's name and mailing address to The Libri Foundation at

Applications must be submitted or postmarked by Thursday, August 15, 2013.

MALF Wants YOU on its Board of Directors!

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Posted by jim under Opportunities,Opportunities

The Minnesota Association of Library Friends is seeking five individuals to fill 2014 vacancies on its Board of Directors. Board members serve a two-year term with the option of a subsequent renewal, commit to attending (at minimum) quarterly meetings, and sit on two or more working committees:

  • By-Laws
  • Communications & Marketing
  • Finance
  • Membership
  • Nominating
  • Programming

BOD.jpgApplicants from a wide variety of backgrounds are needed. No prior experience working in a library setting or serving on a nonprofit Board is required. For details, email the MALF Nominating Committee at or contact Barbi Byers at 651-235-0845.

The American Library Association, on its advocacy website “,” lists twenty ways that Friends can help their libraries. These range widely, from lobbying and fundraising to programming and shelving/inventory assistance. Of course, any single volunteer, no matter how multitalented and dedicated, would be hard pressed to pursue more than a few of these at once and all on their own. Fortunately, there’s an alternative: joining a Friends Board of Directors and pooling your time and resources with like-minded volunteers!

Please spread the word!

MALF's Carol Walsh Recaps National Library Legislative Day 2013

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Posted by jim under Advocacy,Advocacy

arol-walsh-blog.jpgI’m back from National Library Legislative Day in Washington, DC, readjusting to a short stack of work, and turning my attention to what’s happening at the State Capitol in terms of library funding and issues.

This is my third consecutive year advocating for libraries on the national level, and every year I learn something new about advocacy that I hope will sharpen my focus over time. This year, eight of us traveled to DC from the great state of Minnesota: Bob Boese, who recently finished a stint as interim director for the Northwest Regional Library System, was our state coordinator. Peter Pearson, president of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library; Melinda Ludwiczak, MELSA project manager and her spouse Thad Ludwiczak ; Jim Weikum, who wears two hats as director of the Arrowhead Library System and mayor of Biwabik and his spouse Kris Weikum; and Michael Scott, assistant director of SELCO. Geographic representation was a nice balance!

NLLD kicked off May 7 with a full day of briefings on key issues for libraries – and there were a lot of them, including appropriations, access to federal research, LEARN Act, school library programs, and Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Broadband, copyright, e-books, surveillance and privacy were additional issues.

Does this look like a daunting list?

Keep this in mind: For the most part, we’re all meeting with legislative aides, not our elected representatives. We have, at the most, a half hour. It would be impossible to plow through every issue given the time available and the number in our group.

So how do we adjust? We determine the most important library issues, both locally and to the state and run with that.

For example, continued funding for LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) affects public libraries. MELSA’s latest LSTA grant is being used to revamp the way summer reading programs have an impact on youth. ALA is requesting that LSTA be funded at $184.7 million for fiscal year 2014.

WIA is another important issue, and Minnesota is a pioneer in that regard. Reauthorizing WIA authorizes public libraries that offer employment, training and literacy services as ‘one-stop partners’. One-stops in Minnesota are called WorkForce Centers. Kit Hadley, St. Paul Public Library director, played a leading role in legislation that gave libraries a seat at the table of the Governor’s Workforce Development Council. Marlene Moulton Janssen, director of the Anoka County Library, has an advisory role with the GWDC. Libraries and WorkForce Centers are working together in many ways -- such as helping patrons find jobs, accessing, showing patrons how to navigate the Unemployment Insurance system – and we thoroughly explained this to each aide we met.

Will you join us next year? Save the date: May 5-6, 2014 at the Liaison Hotel, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. For more information, see

--Carol Walsh

Attention Twin Cities Library Friends: Metronet Seeks Citizen Board Members

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Posted by jim under Volunteering,Volunteering

Metronet, the metro-wide multitype library system, is currently seeking three dedicated citizen representatives to sit on its Board of Directors.

If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, you’re probably asking: “What is a multitype library system?” Unlike the regional public systems you are likely more familiar with, multitypes serve every type of library and archive, including primary school media centers, collegiate facilities, and special collections.

Metronet’s governance structure mirrors this make up. The organization is helmed at all times by a Board of nine: one representative each from primary school, public, academic and special library settings, augmented by five citizen delegates. The Metronet Board of Directors meets six times a year and provides fiscal oversight and both short- and long-term operations planning.

Candidates for the three openings must not be currently employed nor seeking employment in a library, but should have a demonstrable interest in library work in all its facets. Applicants should also be current residents of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Retired librarians are eligible and encouraged to apply.

Think you might be interested? Click here to read a more detailed job description, and to apply. Applications are due June 15. The term of office begins July 1, 2013. 

MALF to Designate Sinclair Lewis Homestead in Sauk Centre as an ALA/United for Libraries “Literary Landmark”

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What do F. Scott Fitzgerald’s St. Paul birthplace and Willa Cather’s beloved Nebraska prairie home have in common with a corner tavern in New York, a cemetery in Virginia, and a courthouse in Michigan?** All are Literary Landmarks, sites with a strong historical connection to prominent American authors recognized through a joint partnership between United for Libraries’s Literary Landmarks Association and a local affiliate.

This summer, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF), along with the Sinclair Lewis Foundation and other local partners, is thrilled to be such a sponsor and to add the Sinclair Lewis House in Sauk Centre, Minn. to the esteemed and growing list.

Harry Sinclair Lewis is perhaps best known for penning the great American novels Main StreetBabbit, Arrowsmith,  and Dodsworth, and for being the first writer from the United States to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature (1930).

On July 16 (4:00 p.m.), MALF and the Sinclair Lewis Foundation will dedicate a custom plaque at the homestead acknowledging both the books and the man – in particular “his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters.” The ceremony will be one of the lynchpin events at Sauk Centre’s “Sinclair Lewis Days”, an annual, week-long festival celebrating the community and its most famous native son.

Mark your calendars, and stay tuned to the MALF Blog and Twitter account (@MNLibraryFriend) for more details!

**You may still be asking yourself: “How is it that a tavern, a cemetery, and a courthouse are significant to the history of American literature?” New York City’s Pete’s Tavern was a favorite haunt of author O. Henry.  Bland Cemetery in Jordan’s Point, Virginia, is the final resting place of Revolutionary War patriot and pamphleteer Richard Bland. The Marquette County Courthouse in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the workplace inspiration for Judge John D. Voelker’s bestselling mystery and detective novels. You can read more about the nearly 150 Literary Landmarks by clicking here. You can jump straight to the Fitzgerald house and other Minnesota landmarks by clicking here.

Friends Groups, Apply Now for MCN’s Prestigious Mission and Excellence Awards

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Posted by jim under Awards,Awards, Conferences

If your Friends of the Library groups is a members of or otherwise affiliated with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, you probably already know that the state association’s 2013 annual conference is slated for October 24-25 this year. What you may not know is that May is the time to start preparing.

That’s the case, at least, if your Friends group wants to be considered for any of a number of prestigious awards and acknowledgements. The program, called the Minnesota Nonprofit Mission and Excellence Awards, is an important cornerstone of the yearly conference. If your organization has had an active and successful year, you may want to consider submitting an application for…

Nonprofit Mission Award

A tradition since 1987, the Nonprofit Mission Award showcases the outstanding work of nonprofits in the categories of:

  • Innovation
  • Anti-Racism Initiative(s)
  • Advocacy
  • Responsive Philanthropy

You may nominate any nonprofit, including one you are a member or employee of. You can find the necessary forms here. (In addition, a full list of past recipients and their award videos are available online.) Nominations must be submitted by May 30, 2013.

Nonprofit Excellence Award

Newer to the roster of distinctions are the Excellence Awards, two prizes awarded annually to Minnesota (or Minnesota-based) nonprofits in acknowledgement of a long-standing tradition of exemplary performance, as outlined in MCN’s popular Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence.

Two Excellence Awards are given to help broaden the field for worthy nonprofits of all types and sizes; one goes to an organization with a $1.5 million or higher operation budget, while the other is reserved for smaller outfits.

Applications for the Excellence Awards should be self-submitted by the organization and require extensive advance planning. You can learn more here.

We at MALF wish the best to all Friends group entrants!

National Science Foundation, Endowment for the Humanities Announce Grant Opportunities for Rural Libraries

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If, like 77% of American libraries, your branch serves a predominantly rural population (i.e., with a population under 25,000), several recently announced grant opportunities may be of interest to you!

National Science Foundation “Pushing the Limit” Programming Grant

If your Friends group represents a small and rural Minnesota library looking to bolster its Adult programming offerings in the S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, the National Science Foundation wants to work with you!

Last year, in a special pilot program, the Foundation and its partners collaborated with 20 libraries throughout the country to bring adult science programming to the masses. This year, organizers want to roll out something similar at 75 more institutions.

Details may vary considerably by location and according community interest. To apply, all you need is a scientific theme, the kernel of an idea, and the cooperation of a local science professional or teacher (who will help library staff conduct the program). If your library is chosen, you will receive $2,500 toward expenses, curriculum development support from National Science Foundation partners, free materials, and comprehensive online training for library staff and volunteers.

Applications are due by May 15, 2013. Click here for more information. Click here to jump straight to the application.

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Preservation Assistance Grants

Perhaps your library’s most pressing needs at the moment are more in the areas of inventory circulation, preservation or cataloguing than in programming. If so, a Preservation Assistance Grant may be right for you.

The National Endowment for the Humanities awards these annually to help worthy “libraries, museums, [and related institutions] improve their ability to preserve and care for their significant humanities collections. These may include special collections of books and journals, archives and manuscripts, prints and photographs, moving images, sound recordings, architectural and cartographic records, decorative and fine art objects…  historical objects, and digital materials.”

Grants vary in size according to need, as determined by the NEH judging committee.

If you have an ongoing or potential project that fits into the description above, you are strongly encouraged to apply. In the last five competition cycles, NEH received an average of 316 entries each year and, averaged out, provided financial assistance to 113 (a full 36%!) each cycle.

Click here for more information. Feel free to direct any specific questions to, or (202) 606-8570.

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MLA Invites Your Proposals for Conference Programming

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In the inimitable words of science educator and bestselling author Bill Nye: “Keep your ears always open… Everyone you meet knows something that you don’t.” By that same token, everyone around you could learn something from you! In this spirit, the Minnesota Library Association is opening up the floor to library staff, trustees and Friends for proposals on panel programming at this year’s annual MLA Conference.

Specifically, convention organizers are soliciting suggestions from professionals willing to share their expertise on any and all of the below subjects:

  • Authors, Literature, and Cultural Programming
  • Children & Young Adults
  • Collection Management & Technical Services
  • Digital Information & Technologies
  • Library Trustees & Friends
  • Public Services
  • Support Staff Interests

Acceptable presentation formats include single or multiple speakers, panel discussions, case studies, and/or demonstrations of projects. Bear in mind that session blocks run exactly 60 minutes.

If you have the kernel of an idea you think would be suitable, click here to fill out an online proposal!* The deadline is Friday, April 26. The MLA Conference Committee will consider each entry, and applicants will be notified by Friday, May 17 if their proposal is accepted.

This year’s MLA Conference will be held October 10-11 at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center. Click here for more information on this premiere event.

*Note: The proposal form must be completed by the person who will serve as the point of contact for this session proposal. (The point of contact does not need to be a session presenter - but s/he will serve as the liaison between the conference planners and any session presenters for the purposes of this proposal.)

MCN Solicits 'Nonprofit Leadership Awards' Nominations; Friends of the Library Leaders Are Eligible

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Posted by jim under Awards, Conferences

Most Friends of the Library groups are helmed by a small but capable cadre of library lovers. Whether it be by a rotating Board of Directors, or just one or two devoted and multitalented individuals, it falls to this leadership to harness the community’s affinity for the library and library services to productive ends. Each year, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) honors the aptitude and sustained efforts of such leaders with its Nonprofit Leadership Awards.

Leaders in the Minnesota’s greater non-profit community – much as those found in the microcosm of the state’s diverse Friends organizations – are different ages, come from different backgrounds, and bring to fruition groundbreaking or otherwise exemplary projects at various stages of their careers. In recognition of this fact, MCN awards this high honor not to one, but to three recipients. It is soliciting applications for:

  • Catalytic Leader: “nominees who ‘lead from the middle’”
  • Visionary Leader: “nominees with five years’ experience as senior leaders”
  • Transformational Leader: “nominee with 20 years’ experience as transformational leaders”

Well-qualified candidates will meet these general but crucial criteria:

  • Dedicated to working in the nonprofit sector
  • Interested in building organizational, individual and sector leadership
  • Instill passion in themselves and the people with whom they work
  • Aware of their role and impact in their organization and the sector
  • Reflective on past experience to lead in the present and future
  • Collaborate well with other people and organizations as well as across sectors

Detailed criteria for each of the three categories are available here.

Does your Friends organization’s President, Secretary, or Treasurer epitomize the ideals of the sector? Nominate them for a 2013 Nonprofit Leadership Award now!

The deadline for entries is Friday, May 3, 2013. The Selection Committee will accept nominations from anyone familiar with the candidate. No self-nominations will be accepted. Winners will be recognized at the 2013 Nonprofit Leadership Conference on June 25 at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

ALA Annual Conference Offers Early Bird Specials; Book Your Spot Before April 12!

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Library Friends, time is running out to book your spot at an early bird rate at the American Library Association (ALA)’s 2013 annual conference. The event will be held Friday, June 28-Monday, July 1 in Chicago in and around McCormick Place, one of the Midwest’s premier convention facilities.

If you register before Friday, April 12, admission is only $230 for current ALA members and $255 for non-members. Additional discounts are available for library students and retired professionals previously affiliated with ALA.

Registration includes unlimited access to the exhibit hall and admission to top-notch panels, keynotes, and discussion forums in every library-related specialty. (Preconferences and certain ticketed events cost extra.) If you have never attended an ALA-sponsored, national-scale conference, the links below lead to information on various facets of the programming, and may help you determine if 2013 is the year you finally make the leap!

If you wait until after Friday, ticket prices jump to $245 for members and $320 for non-members. Book between Monday, April 13 and Friday, June 21, and those figures jump to $270 and $390, respectively.

Click here to register.

Applications Now Being Accepted for Baker & Taylor Awards, Banned Book Week Grants

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While you and your Friends of the Library group are pulling together materials for your 2013 MALF Evy Nordley Award entry, here are two similar, recently announced award and grant opportunities you may find of interest.


Baker & Taylor Awards

The Baker & Taylor Awards – put on annually by United for Libraries (formerly ALTAFF), a division of ALA – recognize Friends groups and library Foundations “for outstanding efforts in support of their library.” The program differs from others of its sort in that entries can be centered around one specific project, OR describe a number of activities hosted by a Friends group or Foundation in calendar year 2012.

The number of winners varies from year to year. Each receives $1,000 and recognition at a high-profile United for Libraries event later this year

Judging is based on the following criteria:

  • Planning: Friends/Foundation, library, and community involvement; use of resources; appropriateness of the activity; and, measurable goals and objectives.
  • Implementation: Use of resources; public relations; task monitoring; and broad membership involvement.
  • Evaluation: Assessment of activity or program; measurable results.
  • Innovation: New idea or implementation; creative involvement of people; fresh use of public relations
  • Community Relations: Broad support by the community in planning and implementation.

Submissions are due May 1, 2013. Winners will be notified by May 15, 2013. Entrants must have current United for Libraries membership status. For more information:

Banned Book Week “Read Out” Grants

Is your Friends of the Library group looking for its next big program or event? This year, the Freedom to Read Foundation, through its Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund, is pleased to announce the distribution of grants to organizations looking to host an event in conjunction with Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week is the national book community's annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. This year’s festivities are slated for September 22-28.

The Freedom to Read Foundation is providing monetary grants to support “read outs” – public events at which people gather to read from books that have been banned or challenged over the years. (Other, related events may also be eligible.)

Among other requirements, applicants must include a planning and budget outlines for their projects, agree to record the event (if selected), and agree to provide a written accounting after the fact. Grants in a variety of sums will be given to selected candidates at the discretion of a judging committee. Applications must be submitted by April 30, 2013.

For more information::

Food Writer Beth Dooley 'Dishes Her Story' at 6th Annual Lunch for Libraries

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Posted by jim under Events, Fundraising

Twin Cities-based food writer and restaurant critic Beth Dooley will speak at the sixth annual Lunch for Libraries Wednesday, June 12 at Kagin Commons, Macalester College in St. Paul.

Book sales and signing will begin at 11:30 a.m., and lunch and author chat will follow at noon.

Dooley has been writing about food for more than 20 years. Her eight books include “Minnesota’s Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook”; “The Northern Heartland Kitchen”; and co-author with Lucia Watson of “Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland”, a James Beard nominee (University of Minnesota Press). She is working on a collection of essays, “In Winter’s Kitchen” (Milkweed Editions)..

Tickets are $40 each or $300 to sponsor a table for eight. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Judy Todd, MELSA, at 651-645-5731 or email

The Minnesota Library Foundation raises and distributes funds to enhance services and increase public awareness of all Minnesota libraries. Lunch for Libraries, the foundation’s annual fundraising event, has raised more than $10,000 for libraries throughout the state and leadership training for emerging library leaders.

Checking in with a Recent Goss/Nordley Grant Recipient

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Big changes are on the horizon for the small town of Warren, Minnesota. This year, the Godel Memorial Public Library, a member branch of the Northwest Regional Library System, is undergoing a facelift and expansion that will nearly double the building’s usable space. And that’s not the only exciting development. In recent months, library lovers in the area also banded together to create their own local support group: the Friends of the Godel Memorial Library.

As any veteran Friends volunteer can tell you, building a start-up of this sort from the ground up is a time-intensive (not to mention costly) venture. At a bare minimum, it entails drafting and filing incorporation documents and soliciting members through some type of membership campaign.

One of the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF)’s prime objectives is to aid Friends of the Library groups through this formative period, including with these daunting initial hurdles. One especially noteworthy tool, tapped recently by the Friends of the Godel Memorial Library, is the Marie Goss and Evy Nordley Grant.

Created and named in honor of MALF’s co-founders, this fund helps to defray the financial expense of creating a new Friends group (or incorporating a pre-existing one). Grants of up to $1,000 are available, contingent on a given group’s anticipated number of members, annual revenue, and start-up expenses.

In the case of the Friends of the Godel Memorial Library, “the generous contribution will be used for filing fees and related costs, as well as the development and mailing of a membership brochure,” said board member Evonne Broten. This grant will go a long way toward assisting us with our goal of being up and running this spring.”

Are you part of a nascent Friends of the Library movement, or know of someone who is? Click here to print or download the Marie Goss and Evy Nordley Grant application form.

To learn about MALF’s other financial aids and awards, visit our “Grants & Awards” page.

Checking in With Evy Nordley Winner ‘Friends of Ramsey County Libraries,’ One Year Later

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Are you and the Friends of the Library group you work with particularly proud of a membership drive, fundraising promotion, or communications campaign pulled together in the last year?

Enter it for consideration in MALF’s 2013 Evy Nordley Award for ‘Best Project by Friends of the Library’ cycle! Top prize is $1000 and a beautiful custom plaque. (Two runners-up will walk away with $250 and a Certificate of Recognition.) Entries are being accepted now through June 15, 2013.

“The process is not at all complicated,” said Nancy Guerino, President of Friends of Ramsey County Libraries, last year’s winner. “I’d definitely recommend that Friends consider entering their projects.”

Winners are announced and congratulated each year as part of the Minnesota Library Association (MLA) conference held in the fall. But, notes Guerino, winners will reap dividends for a long time thereafter. “The award money helped tremendously with our operating budget,” helping to ensure that program’s continuance, she said.

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Now’s the Time to Say ‘Thank You’ to Congressional Library Supporters

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You booked your appointments, prepared your talking points, attended the MLA orientation session, and, finally, had the opportunity to speak to your legislators on behalf of libraries as part of MLA/MEMO Library Legislative Day.

Now you’re done, right? Wrong. If you haven’t already, remember to follow up with a thank you note to the officials who took time out of their busy schedules to speak with you.

“Congressmen and their aides speak with many many people on any given day,” said veteran congressional lobbyist and ‘Advocacy Guru’ Stephanie Vance in her keynote speech at last fall’s MLA Annual Conference. “Following up your five-minute conversation with a prompt thank you letter or email reiterating your main talking points can cement you in their memory… And you really don’t want to run the risk of being forgotten.”

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The Continued Importance of Brick-and-Mortar Libraries

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Posted by jim under Trends

If the last 14 years’ worth of projects nominated for the Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of the Library is any indication, Friends groups in Minnesota dedicate a tremendous amount of time, labor and money to enhancing the library as a physical space. Whether it’s installing new bookshelves, fundraising for new pipes or a new roof, or simply volunteering to help with routine custodial services, it is clear that Friends place a high value on the brick-and-mortar public libraries.

They are not alone – and such efforts are appreciated, according to a recent PEW study entitled “Library Services in the Digital Age.”

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Can't Attend Library Legislative Day? Do So Virtually!

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Posted by jim under Advocacy, Events

The big day is nearly upon us: tomorrow, March 6, is MLA/MEMO Library Legislative Day. Library staff, trustees, and supporters of all stripes will come together on the Capitol grounds in St. Paul to advocate on behalf of Minnesota’s libraries and their budgets.

Unable to attend in person? You don’t need to miss Legislative Day – perhaps the best opportunity all year round to voice your support at the state government level. Simply set aside a few minutes of your Wednesday to call or write an email letter to your congressperson in both the Senate and House.  

It’s easy. Simply type your City or ZIP Code into this government representative contact info search database hosted by the state Legislative Coordination Commission.

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An Open Letter from an MN Legislative Day Veteran

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Posted by jim under Advocacy, Events

Hello, Library Friends: 

arol-walsh-blog.jpgIf you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to register and make other preparations for MLA/MEMO Library Legislative Day. The big day, Wednesday, March 6, is quickly approaching!

The presence of library friends at the Capitol really makes a statement. This is a great opportunity to share library success stories with your legislators, demonstrate the value of your library and friends groups – and thank legislators for their ongoing support.

Attend Library Legislative Day at the Capitol consistently – and I’ve been doing this for more than a dozen years – and you’ll build a good rapport with legislative decision-makers.

It’s easy, it’s fun and you don’t have to go alone. Talk with your library director and see if you can get a group of library supporters together. Pre-registration is open through the end of this week.


Carol Walsh
Board Member - MALF
Advocacy Committee - Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library


Nominations Now Being Accepted For MALF Evy Nordley Award; $1000 Top Prize

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Friends groups are treasured by Minnesota’s libraries not only for the financial support they lend or the advocacy and promotion efforts they provide, but also for the original ideas and innovative projects they generate on behalf of the library and its goals. This goes double in a state like Minnesota, where grassroots Friends communities are many and robust.

In recognition of this fact, MALF established the yearly Evy Nordley Award for Best Project By Friends of Libraries in 1998. Named after one of the organization’s founders, MALF’s highest honor is a vehicle through which member Friends groups can share their replicable ideas and success stories with peers throughout the state. Top prize is $1000 and a custom plaque. Two runners-up will receive $250 and a Certificate of Recognition.

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Friends of the Library Eligible for Special NLLD Award and Stipend

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Are you a Friend of the Library intrigued by the lobbying opportunities and learning potential associated with National Library Legislative Day (NLLD), but put off by the price tag? Consider applying for the 2013 WHCLIST Award, conferred each year to one conference attendee to cover accommodation expenses (plus a $300 stipend to help defray other costs). Nominations are now being accepted.

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Registration Now Open for National Library Legislative Day 2013

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For nearly four decades, library advocates from a wide variety of professional backgrounds and from all corners of the country have gathered annually in Washington, D.C., for National Library Legislative Day (NLLD). The event (or, more accurately, series of events) has grown apace – particularly in recent years, with budget and personnel cuts looming large in many states. As it stands now, it is not an overstatement to call National Library Legislative Day the linchpin of the library advocacy calendar.

Last year, over 400 participants made the trek to receive a customized training in lobbying from industry professionals and to meet with their state’s representatives in Congress to talk over concerns and opportunities pertaining to libraries.

Many of the skills and experiences thus acquired can be applied upon returning home, in contexts ranging from routine city council meetings to statewide efforts (like Minnesota Library Legislative Day.)

If any of the above this sounds relevant to your work and interests, mark your calendars for Tuesday, May 7 and review registration details now! Registration just opened, and will remain so through Friday, April 26.

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Mark Your Calendars for MLA/MEMO Library Legislative Day

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Posted by jim under Advocacy,Advocacy

To most, organizing a cohesive, state-level lobbying effort seems a daunting - even herculean - task. Advocacy of this sort requires a healthy budget, substantial time and labor, and reams of insider knowledge on the legislative process. Or does it?

On March 6, MLA and MEMO are bringing together library patrons, volunteers, staff and trustees from throughout Minnesota on the Capitol grounds in St. Paul to show support and raise awareness for issues facing Minnesota libraries. For library Friends, this is the perfect introduction to the world of lobbying.

Goals for 2013’s “Minnesota Library Legislative Day” include securing funding for library facilities and services in all corners of the state and advocating for intellectual freedom in public libraries.

Click here to preview the MLA/MEMO Library Legislative Platform. Click here for more information on the day’s itinerary, and to pre-register.

For more information:

  • Click here to learn more about MLA’s year-round slate of legislative activities.
  • If you’re feeling inspired, click here for a crash course on National Library Legislative Day. This year’s national event is scheduled for May 7-8.

MALF Bids Farewell to Three Long-Serving Board Members

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Posted by jim under MALF Board,MALF Board

January is a time of new beginnings – and not just a new calendar year. For MALF, it marks the start of a new events cycle and the welcoming in of four new members to the Board of Directors. Some changes are more bittersweet, however. MALF must also bid a fond farewell to three long-serving and highly productive Board members: Margie Schuster, Jan Siffing, and Janet Urbanowicz.

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Governor Dayton’s Fiscal Year Budget Recommendations, and What It Means For You

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Posted by jim under Advocacy

The local library is among a community’s most accessible, visible and, above all, versatile public resources. A glance is all it takes to recognize that the institution means different things to different people: It’s a quiet place to study, an invaluable after-school children’s education resource, and a place to gather with friends to discuss the newest thriller or memoir.

This being the case, perhaps it isn’t surprising that your library relies on a support structure that also has many moving pieces. One, of course, is the financial assistance of its Friends of the Library support organization, but this is only a start. For the rest, the importance of public funding cannot be overstated.

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MALF Welcomes Four New Members to Board of Directors

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Posted by jim under Board of Directors

MALF’s raison d'etre is to support the important work of Friends of the Library groups in Minnesota. This, of course, is something of a tall order, and our continued success is predicated on the spirited involvement of library enthusiasts throughout the state.

These supporters are not just career librarians – they hail from all walks of life and bring a wealth of different experiences to their local Friends group.

MALF’s own Board of Directors is no exception. To this end, we are thrilled to welcome four new members to the Board’s ranks: LeAnn Dean, Nancy Guerino, Les Kraus, and Joseph Owens.

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Applications Window for 2013 Overnight Website Challenge Now Open

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It is hard to overstate the important role of the digital sphere in modern-day librarianship. For most American libraries systems, a central and well-maintained website functions almost like a second front door. Indeed, in many, there is a small but growing minority of patrons who interact with the library almost exclusively through the Internet.

This being the case, perhaps it’s not surprising that many enterprising Friends of the Library groups have followed suit, with either a full-fledged website of their own or a portal on the library’s site.

Have you and your Friends organization been interested in doing the same, but lacked the resources and expertise? 2013 might be your year. The Nerdery, a Minnesota-based tech agency specializing in website and interactive media projects, is now accepting candidate entries for its sixth-annual “Overnight Website Challenge.”

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Spotlight: Friends of the (U of M) University Libraries

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Posted by jim under Profile,Profile

On the average day, some 11,000 students, faculty, and research professionals (many from out of state) visit the library campuses of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Each day, staff at those libraries answer upwards of 3,300 requests for information.

Last year, University Libraries lent 200,000 items to other library systems in the state of Minnesota.

These impressive figures would not be possible without the generous support of The Friends of the (U of M) University Libraries, one of the most robust academic Friends of the Library organizations in the Midwest. As the group notes on their website, “the difference between adequacy and excellence lies in resources that have been added by private donors.”

In addition to that much-needed funding support, The Friends also hosts exhibits and author series that contribute to the institution’s long tradition of scholarship.

Although the case of the University of Minnesota Libraries and Friends of the Library group may be in many ways unique, but we could all learn a thing or two from their example. For more information, visit their website and follow them on Facebook.

How Library Friends Can Get Involved in World Book Night 2013

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Posted by jim under Events,Events

Who says Christmas need come only once a year? Last April, nearly 80,000 booklovers – many of them Library Friends – passed out upwards of 2.5 million free paperbacks to unsuspecting light and non-readers in their local communities as part of the second annual World Book Night initiative.

World Book Night 2013 is slated for Tuesday April 23, and preparations are already underway to build on last year’s success. Interested in becoming part of this fledgling legacy? Read on.

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