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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Posted by jim under Awards

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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Posted by jim under Awards

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.)