MALF's Year in Review

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year_in_review__large.pngFor MALF, 2015 was something of a banner year. Highlights from our year in review are almost too numerous to mention, but include...

In short, it’s been a busy year! Clearly, we couldn’t do any of it without Friends like you. Your membership is a visible marker of the fact that Minnesotans care about the health of our libraries. 

Goodbye and Heartfelt Thanks

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Posted by jim under MALF Board

As they say, January is a time of new beginnings – and not just a new calendar year. For MALF, it marks the start of a new membership year, a new events cycle, and the welcoming in of new members to the Board of Directors. Some changes are more bittersweet, however. MALF must also say goodbye to two leaders, Debby Frenzel and Mary Ann Sandeen.

Debby Frenzel joined our ranks in January 2014. She is a long-time citizen advocate for libraries and a past secretary of the Friends of the Maple Grove Library. Frenzel served both on MALF’s finance committee and programming committee. The latter saw something of a banner year in 2014. Sandeen proved instrumental in organizing our fall workshop series, which drew a record number of attendees to five sites across the state.

Mary Ann Sandeen joined the Board the same month. She is an accomplished Friend, having served as both president of the Friends at the Stillwater Public Library and founder of the Stillwater Public Library Foundation. She is also a past president of the Stillwater Public Library Board of Trustees. Like Frenzel, Sandeen brought her talent and experience to bear on MALF’s programming committee. Her organizing efforts were particularly felt at the large St. Cloud workshop session on September 27.

Thank you for all your hard work, and best of luck in all your future endeavors!

“StoryCorps @ Your Library” Aims to Preserve Local History

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storycorps_logo.jpgPublic libraries are a traditional focal point for the preservation of local history. In recognition of this fact, ALA is partnering with StoryCorps – a national nonprofit oral history project – to give select libraries a jump-start on ongoing history initiatives.

The “StoryCorps @ Your Library” program will provide recording equipment, training, and promotional support to ten community documentation projects. Interviewees will be pulled from libraries’ service communities, but project scope can be as wide or narrow as the partnering library chooses.

StoryCorps will pay to give each and every interviewee a copy of their segment, and copies will also be deposited with the Library of Congress. Click here to read up on the guidelines and begin the application process. Click here to read success stories from the first round of “StoryCorps @ Your Library” partnerships. Direct questions to the ALA Public Programs Office at or 312-280-5045.

Applications must be received by Friday, February 6.

Apply Today for an MLIS Sparks! Ignition Innovation Grant

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IMLS_Logo2.jpgLibraries work tirelessly to meet the changing needs of their public. Unfortunately, tight budgets across the country leave little room for innovative experimentation. If your library has a promising service improvement in mind but lacks the money to implement it, the Institute of Museum and Library Services wants to help.

The federal agency, through its Sparks! Ignition program, is providing grants to support the deployment, testing and evaluation of promising and groundbreaking new tools, products, services and organizational practices.

Public libraries of all sizes are eligible to apply, as are most institutions of higher education (including public and nonprofit universities). Successful proposals will address problems, challenges, or needs of broad relevance to libraries everywhere. A proposed project should test a specific, innovative response to the identified problem and present a plan to make the findings widely and openly accessible. Projects should have broad potential impact and significant innovation.

Grant amounts vary. Click here to learn more. Entries must be received by February 2

Library Journal Recognizes Unsung Heroes of the Library with Paralibrarian Award

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lj.pngFull-time, degree-holding librarians represent only a minority of the people who make public libraries run smoothly. In point of fact, Friends, volunteers, and library paraprofessionals are responsible for much of the day-to-day work.

If your Friends of the Library group contains a paraprofessional who goes above and beyond the call of duty in support of the library, or you work closely with one, Library Journal encourages you to nominate them for "Paralibrarian of the Year."

Evaluation criteria include excellence in job performance, a forward-thinking mentality and record as a trailblazer, and a clear commitment to the concept of “free access to information for all.” Nominators are asked to compose a short letter describing, in 500 words or less, why your favorite paralibrarian is a strong candidate for this high honor. Additional supporting letters are welcome, and accompanying materials will be accepted, but precedence is given to the nominating letter.

Library Journal will feature one winner in its March 2015 issue. Paralibrarian of the Year also comes with a $1,500 cash prize and a special reception at the ALA Conference in June.

Click here for more information, and to read up on past winners. Direct questions to

Nominate Your Library for the LibraryAware Community Award!

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lj.pngLiteracy, digital access, and job training are top priorities in communities across America – so it’s no surprise that these same goals are paramount concerns in our public libraries. Even so, some libraries go above and beyond in their mission not only to serve, but to collaborate with and improve, their local community. If this describes your library, it may be a strong contender forLibrary Journal’s prestigious LibraryAware Community Award.

The annual award, sponsored by the EBSCO Publishing division of the same name, exists to “recognize a library (or library system) that has demonstrated its ability to make its community ‘aware’ of what the library can do for it – and delivers on that promise.” Qualitative benchmarks are numerous and detailed on the Library Journal website.

Libraries and communities of all size are eligible for consideration. Anyone may submit a nomination, including Friends, library staffers, and government employees or officials. Organizers will announce and award the winner during National Library Week. Top prize includes $10,000, a special ceremony, and a featurette in an upcoming edition of Library Journal. A runner-up with receive $7,500, and third place receives $5,000.

Nominations must be postmarked or emailed by January 19, 2015Click here for more information, and to begin the application process!

MALF Remembers and Honors Library Leader Chris Olson

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MLA_011.JPGThis fall, MALF mourns the premature loss of one of the Minnesota library community’s most talented and tireless leaders. Chris D. Olson passed away peacefully at his home in St. Paul in late September. He was 52.

Friends of the Library may know Olson best as a vocal supporter of and long-time driver behind the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF). He has been involved with the organization, in some capacity, since 1984 – including several highly productive terms on our Board of Directors.

Library staffers may know Olson best as a skilled administrator. He served most recently as executive director of the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), the regional library service agency for the Twin Cities. Prior to that post, he helmed the College Libraries in Consortium (CLIC) cooperative and worked for the Lake Agassiz Regional Library System near his native Detroit Lakes.

In these twin roles as Friend and administrator, Olson left an indelible mark on the library community. In addition to day-to-day leadership responsibilities, he found time to bring a number of new programs and initiative to fruition, and also penned or edited a number of valuable written resources. These include MALF’s own Guidelines for Organization: Friends of the Library, now in its third edition.

His hand can also be seen in a number of MALF’s grant and awards programs. These include: the Goss-Nordley Grant (which defrays costs associated with starting a new Friends group), the Raymond Birr Grant (which defrays the cost of starting a school media center Friends group), and the Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of the Library.

Most recently, just this year, Olson championed the creation of a special “Event & Programming Grant” for members. He saw this as a new and invaluable way for Friends to help their libraries, which often do not have the funds to coordinate special activities or celebrations without such assistance.

In honor of Olson’s many and varied contributions to MALF, the Board of Directors has rechristened this assistance program the "Chris D. Olson Event & Programming Grant." Friends of the Library groups of all sizes are encouraged to read more, and apply today. (Applications are evaluated, and grants awarded, on a quarterly basis.)

Apply Before Dec. 1 For A YALSA Collection Development Grant

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Yalsa_Logo.pngAs recent PEW Research reports show, young adults who use the library are among the most rabid readers you’ll find anywhere. Keeping up with their appetite for new and age-appropriate materials can be a challenge. If your library is among those that struggle to keep that latest YA hit on the shelves, YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association), a division of ALA, wants to help.

YALSA members are encouraged to submit an application today for a $1,000 grant to augment their public library’s YA collection development budget. Preference is given to established collections that can demonstrate a high rate of use or interest, and who can prove financial need. While current membership is a prerequisite to apply, membership dues may be submitted with application.

Up to two awards are granted annually. Winners must agree to restrict themselves to young adult purchases and to submit a one-page report to YALSA within six months. 

Applications for the current awards cycle must be submitted online no later than Monday, December 1Click here for further instructions and to begin the registration process. Click here to learn more about grant recipients to date, including a number of Friends of the Library.

Remember MALF on Give to the Max Day

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Today's the day! Remember the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF) -- and your local Friends of the Library group, of course -- this Give to the Max Day. Visit our page at:

Laura Bush Foundation Wants to Help School Libraries + Friends

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Starting up a new school library can be a challenge even in the best of times. In a time marked by budget cuts and program slashing, it can seem downright impossible. If you are part of a Friends of the Library group attached to a new or growing school media center in Minnesota, the Laura Bush Foundation wants to help.

Grants of varying amounts are available to help offset the hefty expense of acquiring new, age-appropriate materials for circulation.

Public and private institutions serving pre-K through high school are encouraged to apply. Note, however, that funds are awarded based on need. Eligible schools must have a student body where at least 85 percent apply for free or reduced lunches (FRL).

If you fit that requirement, click here to read more information and access the application. It is well worth your while. Last grant cycle, the Foundation received a total of 610 applications. Over a third – 218, to be exact – received a grant! For the 2014/2015 awards cycle, materials are due by December 15, 2015. No late entries can be accepted.

Interested in providing financial assistance to a school media center but fall short of the Laura Bush Foundation’s criteria? Consider MALF’s own Ray Birr Memorial Grant, geared specifically toward school library Friends.

MALF Announces Minnesota’s Newest Literary Landmark

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Next summer, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF) and Listening Point Foundation – in partnership with the Friends of the Ely Public Library, the Ely-Winton Historical Society, and Vermilion Community College – will dedicate Vermillion Community College, the academic home of conservationist Sigurd F. Olson, as Minnesota’s newest “Literary Landmark.”

litlandmark.jpgLiterary Landmarks are 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. To date, there are over 150 such sites across the country, and Minnesota is home to five. (These include the boyhood homestead of Sinclair Lewis in Sauk Centre and the Jon Hassler Library in Brainerd, dedicated by MALF in 2013 and 2014.)

The Sigurd Olson dedication ceremony will be held Friday, June 5, 2015, on the grounds of Vermillion Community College. The event is free, open to the public, and will begin at 4 p.m. Light refreshments will be available courtesy of the Friends of the Ely Public Library.

In conjunction with the dedication ceremony, the Listening Point Foundation will conduct tours of Olson’s cabin retreat on June 6, and the Ely Winton Historical Society (conveniently located on the Vermillion Community College campus) will host a small exhibit on the author’s life and work.

Stay tuned! Other exciting tie-in activities are still in the works. Further program details will be available in early spring 2015.

Who is Sigurd Olson?


The Midwest boasts more than its fair share of environmentalist luminaries and famous nature writers. While household names like Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson, and John Muir rank near the top of that list, none has left a more indelible mark on Minnesota than native son Sigurd Olson.

Olson is best remembered today for championing wilderness conservation through nine bestselling books, beginning with The Singing Wilderness in 1956 and his seminal Listening Point in 1958. The latter is named for Olson’s personal retreat, located on scenic Burntside Lake just outside of Ely, Minnesota. Olson and wife Elizabeth lived in the Ely area most of their adult lives.

Sigurd Olson’s corpus of work struck a chord with the American public thanks to his approachable, unpretentious writing style, coupled with an ability to speak from a position of authority. Olson held advanced degrees in geology, botany and agriculture, and taught for many years at Ely Community College (Vermilion Community College). He rounded out his academic career with stints as science department chair and dean of that Ely institution, before retiring from academia to write full time in 1947.

In truth, retirement proved something of a misnomer, as Olson took the opportunity to redouble his conservation efforts. He served as vice-president and then president of the National Parks Association (1951-1959), as vice-president and then president of the Wilderness Society (1963-1971), and as a special advisor to both the Secretary of the Interior and the National Park Service (1959-1971). His efforts played a direct role in the establishment of national preserves ranging from the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to Point Reyes National Seashore in California.

Closer to home, Olson’s advocacy also proved instrumental to the legislation that created Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota.

Olson’s tireless efforts garnered him national praise and honors in his lifetime, including the highest award bestowed by four of the five leading conservation organizations in the U.S. He died in 1982, but his legacy lives on at Listening Point – now on the National Register of Historic Places and managed by a wilderness education foundation of the same name.

Congratulations to Joan Larson, ‘Library Friend of the Year’!

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Few people can claim as long or as deep an affiliation with Friends of the Library as Minnesota’s own Joan B. Larson.

Her involvement with Friends began in 1957, when she landed her first public library role at a small branch in Browning, Montana. Having not yet been to college, and with no on-the-job training under her belt, Larson relied heavily on the guidance and support of those around her. The local Friends of the Library ranked at the top of that short list. Today, Larson believes that all her later successes in librarianship would not have been possible “without their sage counsel.”

download_4.jpgAfter three years in Browning, Larson did go on to get her library degree. Her subsequent career took her all across the country – to Maine, where she worked as an academic librarian and teacher at the University of Maine-Presque Isle, and to South Dakota, where served similar roles at South Dakota State University. In 1983, Larson accepted a position as director of the Northern Lights Library Network (NLLN), one of the largest cooperative library systems in Minnesota.

It is fortunate for us that she did. Over the years, Larson contributed substantially to the important work of a number of our state’s library- and literacy-centered organizations, including the Minnesota Educational Media Organization (MEMO) and Minnesota Library Association (MLA). She has received awards from both for her varied contributions – and served a distinguished term as president of the latter.

Since moving to Minnesota, Joan Larson has been an active member and trustee of the Douglas County Library Friends and Foundation. She has also proved herself to be one of the Minnesota Association of Library Friends’ (MALF’s) most steadfast leaders and vocal members. At various times over the last two decades, she has sat on our Board of Directors and chaired major committees.

Recent achievements include co-planning many of MALF’s highly successful workshops and programs, and spearheading MALF’s partnership with United for Libraries on the Literary Landmark series.  In 2013, MALF proudly dedicated its very first Literary Landmark, the Sinclair Lewis boyhood homestead in Sauk Centre, Minn. – a milestone that could not have been achieved without Larson.

On Thursday, October 9, in recognition of her many and varied accomplishments, MALF awarded Joan Larson its second annual Library Friend of the Year Award. The short ceremony took place during the Minnesota Library Association conference in Mankato.

Thanks once again, Joan, for all you’ve done – and continue to do!

New Membership Perk: MALF's 'Once Upon a Reader' Match

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If you’ve been a Friend of the Library for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a “one book” or “community reads” program. The one-book initiative has quickly taken root in cities, counties, and schools across the country, and it’s easy to understand why. The premise is simple – promote literacy and community connectedness through a large-scale book club – yet endlessly customizable. 
This fall, Minnesota is surging to the forefront of this growing movement, and we want YOU to be a part of it. The Council of Regional Public Library System Administrators (CRPLSA), using start-up funds from the Minnesota Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund, is rolling out the first ever statewide one-book program geared towards children.The program, dubbed “Once Upon a Reader,” is geared towards preschoolers in particular. The book chosen for Once Upon a Reader’s inaugural year is Moo!, written by Minnesota author David LaRochelle and illustrated by Minnesota artist Mike Wohnoutka.

Once Upon a Reader, 2014-2015While the initiative is in fact a statewide one, there is room for customization on the local level. CRPLSA is making available four activity packages for purchase by local libraries and Friends groups. There’s something for every budget; a steering committee made up by librarians from across Minnesota have ensured there are enriching and entertaining items available at a variety of price points. (See below.)
In our continuing efforts to promote the work of Friends, MALF is pleased to offer members a match to offset Once Upon a Reader costs. That's right -- we'll reimburse half your costs! Purchase two Take-Home Play Kits at a total cost of $200, and MALF will reimburse you $100. Order a Vacation Scrapbook and a Milk and Cookie Storytime Kit at a total cost of $145, and MALF will reimburse you $72.50 - and so on. The combinations are endless!
Matches will be capped at three (3) items and/or $300 per Friends group. Please remember that eligibility is contingent on current MALF membership. Participating in Once Upon a Reader through this special offer is simple. Place an order online through the program’s website, Print a copy of your receipt or order confirmation form and mail it to us with this completed form. We will remit reimbursement within 30 business days. MALF’s total match fund is $3,000, so order today!

Once Upon a Reader – 2014/2015
Moo!, by David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka

Cow Scavenger Hunt / $20 – This passive program allows even the smallest library to take part in Once Upon a Reader. Simply hide the animals around the library and make the scavenger hunt lists available to families to complete while in the library. 
Cow's Vacation Scrapbook / $40 – This self-contained passive program allows families to borrow a plush cowFamilies take Cow home in her special backpack that contains a scrapbook with places for drawing, writing stories, and adding photographs of the adventures that kids and Cow have together. This program encourages families to Talk, Play, Read, Write and even Singtogether as encouraged by ECRR2, and will include early literacy information for parents. 

Take Home Play Kit / $100 – This kit is for libraries to circulate to families and care providers. It will include a copy of Moo! and five toys, puppets or manipulatives that support the five practices and six skills outlined in ECRR and ECRR2, along with information for parents and caregivers on early literacy. 
Milk and Cookie Storytime Kit / $105 – These “Storytime in a box” kits include books, a manipulative, and storytime outlines that are suited to a variety of ages. Outlines will be customizable, and include best practices for storytime using ALA’s Every Child Ready to Read early literacy platform. 

Spotlight on Evy Nordley Finalist #3:

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The Friends of the Ramsey Co. Library: Great Gatsby Gala

On February 1, after months of intense planning, the Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries pulled off a great fundraiser. A Gatsby-great fundraiser, to be more precise. Organizers tore a page straight from the Great American Novel and hosted a “Great Gatsby Gala” at the Roseville Library.


(As many Minnesota bibliophiles know, author F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul – less than ten miles from the Roseville Library venue.)

The evening, emceed by Minnesota Public Radio personality Kerri Miller, contained several elements common to Friends fundraisers. Silent and live auctions boasted over seventy donated items ranging from one-of-a-kind specialty items, to gift baskets, to fun dining, theater and sightseeing experiences.

The rest of the night was, as the name promised, a real blast from the past. Highlights included Roaring Twenties style dance lessons, a costume contest recognizing most authentic period dress, and a photo booth with Gastby-era props.

Having never done anything of this sort, the Friends paid special attention to advance publicity. A press release and event updates were sent to local media outlets, and the Friends, in partnership with the Ramsey Co. Library, sent out a large mailing of their own. Social media and tried-and-true word of mouth also played a role.

Commensurate with the party’s Roaring Twenties theme, planners set an ambitious fundraising goal of $20,000. By the end of the night, Ramsey County had met and surpassed that mark, with the live auction alone bringing in upwards of $8,000. After all was said and done, the Gala grossed $47,000 and netted nearly $35,000. This allowed the Friends to purchase more than 1,000 new items for circulation at library branches in Maplewood, Mounds View, New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, and White Bear Lake.

Attendance figures were equally impressive, with 250 “flappers” and “fellas” turning out at the Gala. Revelers included the Mayor of Roseville, all four Ramsey County Commissioners, and numerous business and community leaders. (Missed the big event? Don’t worry! The Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries is already hard at work planning a second annual gala for spring 2015.)

Donate Leftover Books to Minnesota “Combined Charities Used Book Sale”

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calendar2.jpgHere’s a quandary we wager Friends of the Library everywhere can relate to. Every couple of months, your organization puts time and effort into collecting, sorting, pricing, and selling used books to benefit the local library. You sell most, but invariably are left with a few dozen titles that didn’t find a home. What to do?

The Minnesota Legislative Reference Library can help. Donate your used and unsold books, audiobooks, DVDs, and music CDs by Monday, October 21, and you will receive a receipt for a tax deduction. Materials will be sold at the “Combined Charities Used Book Sale” on November 5-6 in Room 500N of the State Office Building.

There are three drop-off locations in St. Paul: the Legislative Reference Library (Room 645, State Office Building), the Chief Clerk’s Office (Room 211, Capitol Building), and the House Supply Room (Room G35, State Office Building). Note that VHS tapes and gently used puzzles will also be accepted.

Direct questions to or 651-296-8338.

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Plan A Celebration Around National Friends of Libraries Week

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Between MALF’s seasonal workshops and the annual Minnesota Library Association conference, fall is a busy time for Friends of the Library in Minnesota. Even so, it’s important to remember what is happening on the national stage. October 19-25 is National Friends of Libraries Week!

National Friends of Libraries Week is sponsored and coordinated by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association and MALF’s national counterpart. Its two-fold purpose is to:

  • Foster an environment conducive to promoting your Friends group and its projects, while also...
  • Offering 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.

As those who have participated in previous years already know, this week-long 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 week-long membership campaigns and fundraising drives, to the unexpected and sometimes wacky – like an in-library demonstration from a world champion chocolate strawberry dipper.


Spotlight on Evy Nordley Finalist #2:

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wine.jpgAuthor readings, wine tastings, and silent auctions are all common enough on their own, but it takes a hefty dose of creativity and planning to roll all three activities into one fundraiser. In August 2013, The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library did just this, with their inaugural “Wine and Words” program.

Held at the beautiful Arrowwood Resort Hotel & Conference Center in Alexandria, Wine and Words featured not one, not two, but five accomplished writers: Sandra Brannan, Lorna Landvik, Sarah Pekkanen, William Kent Kreuger, and Wendy Webb.

Authors and guests alike enjoyed an impressive spread, with sumptuous dishes like champagne chicken and wild rice pilaf scoring high marks. Delicious as the meal was, the real highlight for the palate was the wine tasting. Beverages were donated by a local liquor store.

Indeed, The Friends of the Brainerd Public Library’s ability to find a number of generous partners (particularly ‘in-kind’ sponsors) proved crucial to their success. Arrowwood took care of author accommodations, and an area printer provided brochure and ticket printing free of charge. Local bookseller Book World facilitated on-site book sales for author signings. A number of businesses donated valuable items to the silent auction.

Moreover, Wine and Words enjoyed a veritable blitz of promotions – at least when compared with what’s typical for Friends programs in a community the size of Brainerd. In addition to a strong social media presence, a new website, and favorable coverage in the Brainerd Daily Dispatch, that included comped radio spots.

All this paid off. President Sheila DeChantal set what she thought was an ambitious goal of 100 attendees. “The results were well beyond our expectations,” she said. “We had 180 people purchase tickets!” Wine and Words cleared over $8,500 for the library’s use, and also served as an effective recruitment drive. “By having Friends applications at each place setting, we also increased our membership that evening by 24 members,” DeChantal reported.

Needless to say, Wine and Words will be a staple on Brainerd’s community calendar from here on out!

Spotlight on Evy Nordley Finalist #1:

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The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” has one more – and a decidedly unique one, at that! – thanks to the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library (JFHML) Friends Foundation.

The Foundation services the small town of Crosby, Minn., and surrounding Cuyuna Lakes communities in Crow Wing County. Among other ongoing initiatives, Foundation members are particularly proud of the financial support they are able to provide the Hallett Memorial Library for children’s activities. In 2013 alone, the library hosted over 40 “Preschool Story Hours,” with total attendance topping 1,800. Without $1,000 from the Friends each year, this successful program could not continue.

Recently, the Foundation seized on an opportunity to take this one step further. Inspired by various indoor play place prototypes they saw on display at the 2013 Minnesota Library Association (MLA) Conference in St. Cloud, and at the behest of staff, they decided to overhaul the library’s kids area.


Crosby’s new-and-improved kids area is replete with the most modern of amenities, including two LeapPads and two iPads, but what children enjoy most is the overall atmosphere. As the Cuyuna Lakes area is defined by its many picturesque lakes, Friends thought it fitting to give the redesigned space an aquatic theme. Prominent is a replica boat for children to play in, together with a “pond” rug and both wall manipulatives and room decorations in keeping with that outdoors feel. Other props include model fishing poles and life vests.

The Friends didn’t make all the decisions on their own, though. When it came to naming the rechristened space, they invited the public to put forward suggestions and vote on their favorite. Contenders included “Hickory Dickory Dockside,” “Kids Kabin,” “Little Lakeside Lounge,” and “Read-A-Book Beach.” Most popular of all was “Cattale Corner” (a literary pun on ‘cattail,’ a wetland plant found in abundance around the Cuyuna Lakes).

Voters hailed from all age brackets – a fact that proved prophetic. Cattle Corner is unexpectedly popular with adults, who appreciate the new outlet for their children’s energies (while they utilize the space’s fast and free Wi-Fi).

VolunTEEN Nation Bringing “Teens Teaching Tech” to Libraries

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Posted by jim under Grants, Opportunities’s no denying that digital device usage is on the rise. According to the Pew Research Center, as of last September, 55 percent of Americans own a smartphone, over 40 percent a tablet computer, and nearly 35 percent an e-reader. Unsurprisingly, though, not all these device owners are equally adept when it comes to actually using them.

Young adults, in particular, usually have a leg up. With this in mind, a national nonprofit called VolunTEEN Nation recently launched a new grant program called “Teens Teaching Tech.” As that name suggests, the idea is to equip civically minded teens with the tools to give older senior citizens one-on-one technical support. Sessions are ordinarily held in libraries or community centers. In addition to helping bridge the digital divide, Teens Teach Tech goes a long way in fostering intergenerational understanding in participating community.

Program details are largely up to you, and will likely vary according to participants’ technology interests and needs. VolunTEEN Nation will supply basic training materials, funding for promotions, and volunteer T-shirts.

Friends of the Library attached to a school media center may apply, as may “any school-based club or homeschool community organization.” Friends of the Library associated with public libraries are welcome to apply, so long as they partner with one of the above.

Grant applications must be received by Monday, September 15. Click here to learn more, and to apply. Direct specific questions to

MALF Introduces New Programming Grant for Friends of the Library

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A library’s Friends organization is one of its most valuable resources – a wellspring for innovative event and fundraising ideas. But while creativity and initiative may not be in short supply, funds to kick-start such programs usually are. In our continuing efforts to bridge that gap, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF) is pleased to announce its new “Event and Programming Grant.”

This is the perfect opportunity to finally bring your pet project to life! And we’re making applying easy. Simply fill out this form and mail or email it to MALF as instructed in the header. Be prepared to provide a draft plan of action, tentative timeline (including goals and objectives), intended audience, anticipated publicity efforts, a list of expected expenses, and anticipated impact on the library and/or its patrons.

Friends of the Library groups of all sizes are encouraged to apply, provided they serve a Minnesota library and are current in their MALF membership. (If necessary, annual membership dues may be submitted along with application materials.)

Each entry will be carefully considered and responded to by MALF’s full Board of Directors. Please note that the Board meets only once a quarter, and plan accordingly. Note also that applicants who can prove a second source of funding, particularly another grant, will receive first priority in consideration.

Direct questions to or 651-366-6492. We look forward to receiving your application!

Library Advocates Breathe New Life Into A St. Paul Landmark

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St. Paul’s historic Arlington Hills Library closed its doors this March, after just under a century of operation as a public library. Thanks to the devoted efforts of a small group of community volunteers, however, the building now has a new lease on life – and a new lease from the City.

Over the past year, residents Peter Rachleff and Beth Cleary have spearheaded a community initiative to repurpose the beautiful 7,900-square-feet Carnegie building as a nonprofit library with a very specific purpose. In its new incarnation as the ‘East Side Freedom Library,’ its mission is to "organize and present programs that provide participants with a larger historical context through which to understand their own and their neighbors' experiences” – to quote the 15-year lease agreement inked with the City.

Specifically, its private collection will focus on labor, immigration, and African America, Asian American, and Asian history.

It’s a tall order, to be sure. At present, organizers are putting a wrap on a 'Raise the Roof! Open the Doors!' campaign to replace the building's 30-year-old roof. Thanks to a matching grant from the Neighborhood STAR program, they’re off to a good start!

But there’s work yet to be done. While the East Side Freedom Library (so far) has no official Friends group, it can only reach its full potential through the continued efforts of library advocates like you. To learn more and see how you can get involved, visit the East Side Freedom Library’s websitefollow them on Facebook, and sign up for their e-newsletter updates.

Nominate Your Library for the LibraryAware Community Award!

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Posted by jim under Awards

lj.pngLiteracy, digital access, and job training are top priorities in communities across America – so it’s no surprise that these same goals are paramount concerns in our public libraries. Even so, some libraries go above and beyond in their mission not only to serve, but to collaborate with and improve, their local community. If this describes your library, it may be a strong contender forLibrary Journal’s prestigious LibraryAware Community Award.

The annual award, sponsored by the EBSCO Publishing division of the same name, exists to “recognize a library (or library system) that has demonstrated its ability to make its community ‘aware’ of what the library can do for it – and delivers on that promise.” Qualitative benchmarks are numerous and detailed on the Library Journal website.

Libraries and communities of all size are eligible for consideration. Anyone may submit a nomination, including Friends, library staffers, and government employees or officials. Organizers will announce and award the winner during National Library Week. Top prize includes $10,000, a special ceremony, and a featurette in an upcoming edition of Library Journal. A runner-up with receive $7,500, and third place receives $5,000.

Nominations must be postmarked or emailed by January 19, 2015. Click here for more information, and to begin the application process!

MALF Is Bringing Its FREE Fall Workshop To A Community Near You! Join Us For...

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Posted by jim under Workshops,Workshops

"Strengthening Libraries Together"
Click here to jump straight to registration.

During the month of September, MALF will partner with libraries and local Friends groups across the state to bring a new and free workshop, “Strengthening Libraries Together,” to five Minnesota communities. Attendees will learn ways to increase Friends of the Library membership and raise significant funds for their libraries. They will also have an opportunity to share ideas and network with others facing similar challenges.

Melissa-Brechon-Portrait-Web.jpgSession leader Melissa Brechon has been active in Minnesota’s library community for over 25 years, most recently in leadership roles at the Austin (MN) Public Library and the Carver County Library. She is currently a lead consultant with Library Strategies, where she works closely with public libraries across the country. Her areas of specialty include strategic planning, community needs assessment, facility and staffing studies, Board and leadership development, feasibility studies, and capital campaigns. Brechon is a member of five Friends of the Library groups in Minnesota, active in both ALA and MLA, and is presently serving as an adjunct faculty member at St. Catherine’s.

Sessions will be held in:

Duluth Public Library
2432 E. 5th St., Duluth, MN
Saturday, September 6, 9:30am-3:00pm
Register by August 30

Rasmey County Library - Roseville
2180 N. Hamline Ave., Roseville, MN
Monday, September 15, 4:30pm-8:30pm
Register by September 8 

Rochester Public Library
101 Second St. SE, Rochester, MN
Thursday, September 18, 1:00p-7:00pm
Register by September 11 

Lake Agassiz Regional Library - Moorhead
118 5th St. S., Moorhead, MN
Saturday, September 20, 9:30am-3:00pm
Register by September 13

Great River Regional Librayr - St. Cloud
1300 W. Germain St., St. Cloud, MN
UPDATED: Saturday, September 27, 10:30am-4:00pm
Register by September 20

Session highlights include a keynote titled "Ten Things I Know to be True (About Friends of the Library Fundraising)," in which Brechon will explore current trends and best practices for Friends' fundraising and membership solicitation. Workshops will also include a panel disccusion featuring local Friends. Attendees will come away energized by new ideas for organizational growth and successful community initiatives.

Everyone is invited to sign up for a free workshop. It is not necessary to be a member of MALF or any Library Friends organization to attend. Please be sure to register!

Recognize Your Friends Group’s ‘Movers and Shakers’

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Posted by jim under Awards,Awards

movers.jpgAs Ann Walker Smalley, director of Metronet, noted last year during MALF’s Drafting the Blueprint workshop series, Millennials are a hard group for many Friends groups to attract – but invaluable if brought into the fold. Indeed, young people are among the most visible ‘movers and shakers’ in the library world more generally.

Library Journal is looking to identify and recognize librarianship’s standout emerging leaders. Fifty young ‘Movers and Shakers’ will be recognized in the publication’s March 2015 issue. The editors want your help! Full-time staff, paraprofessionals, and Friends are all eligible for consideration, and submitting a nomination takes only a few minutes online. Be prepared to answer these open-ended questions:

1. “Why are your nominating this emerging leader?”

2. “Describe one event, project or situation that illustrates their value.”

3. “Describe on attribute or characteristic that illustrates this nominee's unique ability.”

Contact information for two additional references will also be requested. Nominations must be received by Library Journal by November 7, 2014 at the very latest. Click here for details.

Minnesota Library Association Invites Award Nominations

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Posted by jim under Awards, Conferences

MLA-logo-2014.pngDo you know someone who routinely goes “above and beyond” in their support of Minnesota’s libraries? If you’re reading this newsletter, odds are, you do! The Minnesota Library Association wants your help in identifying standout Friends (and other library supporters) for special recognition at this fall’s MLA Conference. Nominations are currently being accepted for:

  • ‘Above & Beyond’ Award: MLA’s highest prize honors “significant contributions to the Minnesota library community.” Friends, library staffers, trustees, and legislators are all eligible, as are a range of institutions (public or special libraries, schools, foundations, etc.). Up to three Above & Beyond Awards may be given each year.
  • William G. Asp Distinguished Career Award: Able leadership is key to any library’s success. The Distinguished Career Award is for a veteran with a track record of “positive development in libraries and the improvement of library services.”
  • President’s Award: Bestowed annually, this distinction acknowledges the outstanding contributions of an MLA member to the organization’s programs and initiatives.

MLA membership is necessary to put forward a nomination. Other requirements vary by award. Click here for more information (and to submit a nomination online).

Applications for all three honors must be received by MLA no later than August 25.

RGK Foundation Wants To Partner With YOU!

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Posted by jim under Grants, Opportunities

rgk1.gifFriends of the Library have long had a friend of their own in the RGK Foundation, a national organization devoted to the advancement of youth literacy and other K-12 education initiatives.

If youth literacy is a special focus of your group’s 2014-2015 programming, the Foundation invites you to submit a Letter of Inquiry seeking a grant to offset project costs.

It’s as simple as that! A judging panel will review your request and, if interested, invite you to submit a formal project proposal. Letters are being accepted and reviewed on an ongoing basis, and the panel is next set to meet on Friday, September 19.

Please note that, ordinarily, annual galas, capital campaigns, student projects, and scholarships are ineligible for consideration. Your Friends group must also be 501(c)3 incorporated to be eligible.

For further information, including letter-writing best practices, visit the RGK Foundation’s excellent FAQ pageClick here to write and submit an ‘e-letter.’ (Looking for inspiration? Click here to read about a variety of exciting literacy projects funded to date.)

Library of Congress Surplus Program Invites Applications

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Posted by jim under Library of Congress, Surplus Books Program, Washington, Friends, Friends of the Library

loc.gifLibraries and partnering Friends groups often accept and “accession” book donations from private, local donors. Circulation collections everywhere are stronger for these added efforts. If you are enterprising and looking to expand those collections even further, consider looking into the Library of Congress Surplus Books Program.

The Surplus Books Program is, essentially, just what it sounds like. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., sets aside all books not needed for its own uses for distribution to qualifying organizations across the country. Eligible institutions include colleges, museums, school systems, state and federal agencies, and – of course – public libraries! (Under certain circumstances, Friends and other 501 nonprofits may participate without partnering with library staff.)

Books claimed through the program must be used to build collections, and cannot be immediately resold for fundraising.

The “catch,” so to speak, is that a representative of your organization must be on site at the Library of Congress to sift through and choose available titles. (You can, of course, deputize someone to take on those responsibilities on your behalf. This is quite common.) 

Requests are being accepted and evaluated on an ongoing basis. Applicants need only fill out a basic application and submit a brief letter, preferably on letterhead stationary, requesting approval to participate. Application materials and more information are available at 

Minnesota Has a New “Literary Landmark”

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Posted by jim under Literary Landmarks

On Friday, May 16, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends – together with the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library and Central Lakes College (CLC) Foundation – had the great honor to dedicate CLC’s Jon Hassler Library as Minnesota’s fifth official “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 Association and local affiliates. As anyone familiar with his body of work can attest, perennial bestseller Jon Hassler is as deserving as any.

kellerman.jpgHassler, a teacher by training, burst onto the writing scene in a big way in 1977 with the publication of his first novel, 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 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.

Hassler passed away in 2008, at age 74, after a long and courageous battle with a Parkinson’s-like disease. Shortly after, Central Lakes College, where this multitalented man taught for many years, rechristening its central library the “Jon Hassler Library” in his memory.

CLC Librarian Emeritus Larry Kellerman served as master of ceremonies at May’s Literary Landmark dedication, which was attended by 75 guests. These included Hassler’s wife, Liz, and son, Michael. Board of Directors members Joan Larson and Joe Owens were on hand to represent MALF.

The afternoon’s poignant highlight came when Hassler’s long-time friend Joseph Plut (author of Conversations with Jon Hassler) read aloud a letter from one of the author’s former students, Dr. Patrick Hicks. The latter credits his own writing success to Hassler’s teaching and guidance. Plut also read excerpts from Simon’s Night, a recent and popular posthumous work by Hassler.

This Literary Landmark designation puts Jon Hassler in a league with only three other Minnesota names: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maud Hart Lovelace, and, most recently, Sinclair Lewis. (MALF, in partnership with the Sinclair Lewis Foundation, dedicated that author’s boyhood home in Sauk Centre as a Literary Landmark in 2013.)

Which author and historic site are next on the docket? Stay tuned to find out!  Photo Credit: Larry Kellerman/CLC.

Remembering Friends Luminary Mary Ida Thomson

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Posted by jim under Obituary, History

As many of you have already likely heard, Friends luminary Mary Ida Thomson passed away last week in Hastings. She was 92.Thomson’s contributions to Minnesota libraries were many and sundry. Near the top of that list, her drive and keen insights helped shape the Minnesota Association of Library Friends during its early formative years.

MALF exists to support Friends of the Library organizations throughout the state, but Thomson’s legacy left its most indelible mark in the Twin Cities. As a representative of First Bank, she served on the board of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library for thirteen years (1979 -1992), including the last six as president.

In this capacity, she memorably co-founded the wildly popular Minnesota Festival of the Book in 1988. The inaugural event lasted ten days and drew thousands to St. Paul to celebrate literacy and book culture. The Festival proved no small logistical challenge; success required the skilled coordination of nearly 100 organizations across the state. Thomson and colleague Leslie Wolfson accomplished this and much more with a budget that many would consider shoestring at best.

The first Minnesota Festival of the Book also saw the very first Minnesota Book Awards, a program which continues to grow year over year under the aegis of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.

Like many of MALF’s early leaders, Thomson realized that a strong library is the cornerstone of a strong community, and her volunteer efforts were not restricted to library initiatives as such. At various times, she also served on the boards of community organizations like the Charities Review Council, Minnesota Church Foundation, People Inc., and the St. Croix Valley Girl Scouts.

Mary Ida Thomson will be greatly missed by all who know her, but her influence will continue to be felt as organizations like MALF and the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library help guide Minnesota’s vibrant library community into the future.

The Search is on for the “Best Small Library in America”

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Posted by jim under Awards

lj.jpgThe Southern Area Public Library (SAPL) in tiny Lost Creek, West Virginia, is by far the smallest of that state's 175 public libraries. It is also, in many ways, the most impressive, according to Library Journal, who named it the “Best Small Library in America” last year.

The reasons for that selection are many, but the most critical may be the strong volunteer ethic that underlies SAPL’s work. In Lost Creek, volunteers and Friends outnumber staffers ten to one. With their invaluable help, Library Director Mary Beth Stenger recently upgraded equipment, expanded inventory and services, and turned the library into the locus of community activity – all on an annual budget that most would consider “shoestring” at best.

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 receives $20,000, a feature story in Library Journal early in 2015, and a number of other perks.

Do you feel that your Friends efforts contribute to making your local library the ‘Best’ of its kind? Consider nominating it for the 2014 award cycle, which ends September 10.

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. Only public libraries with service populations under 25,000 are eligible for consideration.

For more information, including comprehensive judging criteria, and step-by-step nomination instructions, visit Library Journal online.

F. Scott Fitzgerald the Focus of MLA’s 2014 “Lunch for Libraries”

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Posted by jim under Events

dave.jpgMinnesota’s love for native son F. Scott Fitzgerald hasn’t abated in the decades since his death. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as the success of events like the recent Great Gatsby gala in Roseville can attest. It is fitting, then, that this literary giant is the focus of MLA’s seventh annual summer “Lunch for Libraries” fundraiser.  

Long before his rise to fame, while growing up in the Crocus Hill neighborhood of St. Paul, schoolboy Fitzgerald kept an ordered diary of his life. He named it, appropriately enough, his “Thoughtbook.” Scholar Dave Page, a teacher of English at Inver Hills Community College, recently edited this overlooked juvenile work for publication.

You can hear Page speak Wednesday, June 11 at Macalester College’s Kagin Commons, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul. The program will begin at 11:15 a.m. with book sales and signings. Page’s talk will run until 1:15 p.m.

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 has raised more than $10,000 – both for libraries throughout the state and for leadership training for emerging library leaders.

Apply Today for a Bush Prize for Community Innovation

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Posted by jim under Awards

bush-altlogo-color.pngThe Bush Foundation realizes that local nonprofits hold tremendous potential as vehicles of positive change in their community. In recognition of that fact, the Foundation created the Bush Prize for Community Innovation to spur on such efforts.

Specifically, the Bush Prize for Community Innovation is intended to empower organizations with a proven "track record of making great ideas happen," with creative capital to take those efforts one step further. Grant amounts are variable – up to 25 percent of the applicant’s budget over the last fiscal year.

Libraries and 501(c)3 status Friends of the Libraries groups are eligible and encouraged to apply for the 2014 award cycle, which ends next month. Your odds are good! A minimum of two awards will be given to applicants in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Native nations within these same states.

Primary judging criteria are: a pattern of innovative solutions (e.g., breakthroughs in addressing community needs); a history of using collaborative and resourceful processes; organizational leadership that fosters a culture of innovation; and good governance and financial stability.

For details, see the award's detailed Frequently Asked Questions page. Specific questions not answered by the FAQ can be sent to You can jump straight to application materials here

“Lisa Libraries” Offers Needed K-8 Materials to Friends, Other Needy Applicants

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Posted by jim under Donations, Grants

lisa.jpgDoes your Friends group work with children in underserved or otherwise disadvantaged parts of the state? If so, the Lisa Libraries program wants to help by donating new, age appropriate books to your youth literacy efforts.

“Lisa Libraries” is the brainchild of Newbery Medal-winning author Ann M. Martin, and named in honor of her good friend, renowned editor Lisa Novak. Unlike other nonprofit initiatives with this same focus, Martin and fellow organizers do not give preferential treatment to candidates in urban or in rural areas. If the need is there, Lisa Libraries wants to help.

Since 1990, in addition to public libraries, large materials donations have been awarded to organizations ranging from daycare centers and after-school programs, to homeless and battered women’s shelters, to prison visiting areas where children meet with incarcerated parents. To date, the organization has donated over 350,000 books to applicants across the country.

Applications are being accepted on an ongoing basis. There is no standard application form, but you must compile and mail:

  • Basic information about your program (overview letter, brochures, news clippings, etc.)
  • Information on the size, age range, and socio-economic status of the youth population you serve
  • Details on your books request, including how the new materials would be used
  • Overview of annual budget and current funding sources (if available)

Click here for further submission details. (Alternatively, if your Friends group finds itself in possession of a large stock of new or like new children’s books, click here to learn how to make a tax deductible donation to the Lisa Libraries.)

LLCF Offers Grants Geared Toward Nontraditional Libraries + Friends

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Posted by jim under Grants, Opportunities

books.jpgNot all Friends groups support a traditional library, or one that enjoys public funding. If this describes you, the Lois Lenski Covey Foundation (LLCF) has a collection-building grant geared specially for you.

LLCF book grants ranging from $500 to $3,000 are awarded annually to worthy organizations who maintain a lending library, serve economically or socially at-risk children, and can demonstrate financial need. Charitable groups and other 501(c)3 organizations are especially encouraged to apply. Going forward, however, school libraries and public bookmobile programs are also invited to submit an application, provided they meet the three criteria above. 

All funds awarded must be allocated to expanding a lending library or replacing weeded materials. Acquisitions must be geared towards K-8, but grant recipients are at liberty to select their own titles.

Grant awardees will be asked to return a brief questionnaire and to provide basic documentation of grant spending.

Visit the Foundation’s website for further eligibility details, and to start your application. Completed applications must be postmarked by Monday, June 16. Grant recipients will be notified by Monday, December 15.

MLA Invites Your Conference Session Proposals

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Posted by jim under Conferences, Events

MLA_Conference_Logo.jpgMALF is proud to host a day of targeted Friends programming each year at the annual Minnesota Library Association (MLA) conference, and the 2014 event in October will be no exception. However, in honor of this year’s theme, “Better Together,” MALF and MLA want you to go one step further by designing a conference panel of your own!

“Better Together” shines the spotlight on creating partnerships and building communities. As in years past, it will also feature a special conference-within-a-conference. Titled “We’re All in This Together: Strengthening Libraries Through Professional Development,” the 2014 mini-conference will focus on interpersonal skills like project management, teamwork, and communications.

That’s all pretty broad – and intentionally so. Organizers know that conference attendees have impressive skills to share, and encourage you to do just that.

Proposals are now being accepted for 60-minute session slots. Format is variable, and commonly ranges from single speakers and panel discussions to case study overviews or project demonstrations. If your proposal is green lit, you will be invited to present in Mankato on October 8 or 9.

Click here to begin a proposal submission form. It’s easy! You only need:

  • Full contact information for the submitter
  • Panel title and description (approx. 250 words)
  • Target audience for your proposed session, and level of the subject matter (e.g., beginner, intermediate, advanced)
  • Anticipated speakers
  • Most appropriate conference “track,” if known 

Please make your submission(s) by Friday, May 2. Direct questions to program committee chair Kristen Mastel at

Special Citation Acknowledges, Fosters Library Donations

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Posted by jim under Awards, Advocacy

ufldownload.jpgAs the playwright Sophocles sagely noted, “Kindnesses tend to birth further kindnesses.” In this spirit, United for Libraries is offering both members and non-members special ‘Major Benefactor Citations.’ This commendation is meant to acknowledge and honor outstanding library supporters, and to encourage others to follow their generous example.

The Major Benefactor Citation consists of a custom plaque for the benefactor, and another for the requesting Friends group. United for Libraries also provides recipients with a variety of informational sheets and promotions templates to build an event around the Citation and promote library giving.

In addition to local publicity, all Major Benefactor Citation recipients are featured on the United for Libraries website and in a press release issued by the American Library Association.

Monetary and in-kind contributions to library operations or programming are all eligible. Friends need only submit a short application detailing:

  • The nature of the library’s relationship with the benefactor
  • How the library has befitted from the honoree’s largesse
  • Why you consider the gift or gifts to be “Major,” and
  • Any publicity generated around the gift or gifts thus far

A fee of $300 for United for Libraries members or $400 for non-members covers materials and all shipping and administrative costs. Click here to learn more and apply. Address specific questions to

What's Next From MALF? Help Us Decide!

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Posted by jim

As part of our overarching mission to strengthen Minnesota’s library community, MALF’s programming committee is committed to bringing relevant, high-quality programming to Friends of the Library each summer.

In 2012, library consultants Brenda Hough and Diana Weaver flew in from Kansas to give us a valuable crash course on everyday advocacy and on the nuances of formal lobbying. In 2013, Ann Walker Smalley, director of Metronet, orchestrated a workshop about growing and maintaining Friends membership and engagement.

This year… it’s up to you! Please take a moment to fill out this short (four question) survey on what programming topics you’d like to see for 2014. The poll will remain open through April 15.

MALF workshops are open to members and non-members alike, so feel free to forward on this email or share the survey link through social media. 


United for Libraries Invites ‘Baker & Taylor Award’ Entries

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Posted by jim under Awards

bakerandtaylor.jpgLast month, we were thrilled to launch the 2014 season of our Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of the Library. You can enter anytime between now and June 15. If you’re ahead of the game and already getting your statement and materials together, consider “doubling up” this spring by applying for United for Libraries’ coveted Baker & Taylor Award.

Like Evy Nordley, the Baker & Taylor Award program aims to recognize Friends groups and library Foundations “for outstanding efforts in support of their library.” The nationwide contest 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 in calendar year 2013.

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 by the end of April. Winners will be notified by mid-May. Entrants must have current United for Libraries membership status through June 2014. For more information:

‘El Día de los Libros’ is Just Around the Corner!

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Posted by jim under Events, Programming

dia.jpgOn April 30, libraries and Friends all over the country will host youth programming as part of El Día de los Niños/El Día de los Libros – a celebration of culture commonly abbreviated simply as " Día."

It’s not too late to coordinate a tie-in event of your own! Contrary to what the name might suggest, participation in “Day of the Book” does not presuppose great familiarity with Spanish language or culture. In fact, the yearly observance is not even confined to one culture. It’s become a showcase for all traditions, languages, and books that are shaping the world’s next generation of readers and leaders.

Just last year, Friends events covered the gamut alphabetically from Arabic and French all the way to Turkish and Vietnamese!

What form your cultural programming takes is largely up to you. Coordinators with the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), part of ALA, have helpfully provided a variety of valuable free resources to get you started. These include activity materials ranging from coloring books to reading lists and logs. Posters, badges, and other publicity materials are available, too. You can also register your program with ALA’s National Día Day Registry for added publicity.

For more information, visit their website, or go straight to the organizers’ comprehensive "Resource Guide: Everything You Need to ‘Do Día.’”

Edwards Trust Wants to Recognize and Reward Your Teen Literacy Initiatives

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Posted by jim under Grants

maggie.jpgTeens – and particularly teenage boys – can be a tricky demographic to get reading. Happily, on the whole, they are also more receptive than most to library programs and initiatives aimed at instilling that valuable love of reading.

In this vein, the Margaret Alexander Edwards Trust is offering generous grants of approximately $500-$2000 to public and school libraries who go above and beyond the call of duty on behalf of teen literacy. The Trust is named after a groundbreaking young adult librarian who transformed teen services nationally through tireless work as an ALA leader in the 1930s-60s.

In particular, the Trust wishes to recognize and reward projects aimed at promoting 1) reading for pleasure, or 2) the effective training of YA librarians.

Applications are being accepted and considered on a continual basis. Candidates will be graded on program design and management, on thoroughness and quality of evaluation measures, and on cost and cost effectiveness.

For more information, visit the Margaret Alexander Edwards Trust online, or jump straight to the pdf application

‘Citizens-Save-Libraries’ Brings Professional Consultants to Needy Libraries, Friends

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If you’ve always suspected your library would benefit from a professional consultation but balked at the price tag, ALA may have just the solution you’re seeking. Thanks to generous financial support from the Neal-Schuman Foundation, ALA is gearing up for the second and last round of its ‘Citizens-Save-Libraries’ grant program.

The program’s goals are twofold. First, Citizens-Save-Libraries aims to directly help ten libraries across the country which are facing acute budgetary challenges. Specifically, ALA will pay all costs associated with bringing a small team of expert advocates to those locations. Once ‘on the ground,’ these experts will help Friends and staff develop blueprints for effective advocacy aimed at saving or increasing the library’s budget.

If your library is not currently facing financial challenges of note, you can still benefit indirectly. Eligibility is contingent on the chosen libraries’ willingness to “pay it forward” by mentoring other libraries in their area and sharing insights in conferences and webinars. Check out the website to read about the Cycle 1 participants and what they had to say about library advocacy.

If your Friends group represents a library in need, consider applying for the current cycle. Be aware that you must be willing to provide a:

  • Minimum of five volunteers committed to working on a leadership team. Each member understands that this commitment may require at least weekly meetings for up to 90 days.
  • Leadership team available for two days of on-site, in-person training (approximately 4-5 hours each day) between June 1, 2013-May 1, 2014.
  • Local volunteer willing to become a “mentor” for other libraries in the state and/or region. (Mentor may be invited to participate in a one-time live webinar and may also be asked to give an advocacy program at state library conference.)
  • Support of the library’s Board of Trustees and support of the library director is also a requirement.

Click here to download the application. Note: You must submit your materials by Tuesday, April 15. Grantees will be notified by Thursday, May 15. Professional consultations will begin in June and continue through May 2015.

MALF’s 2014 Evy Nordley Award Cycle Now Open!

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Posted by jim under Awards

Summer is just around the corner. Really! We promise. These last of the dull, wintery days offer the perfect opportunity to get a jump-start on your application for MALF’s 2014 Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of the Library.

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 $1,000 and a custom plaque. Two runners-up will receive $250 and Certificates of Recognition.

Almost any Friends-support project is eligible – including efforts jointly sponsored or developed by the library or another institution. Common project types include membership drives, fundraising campaigns, marketing or rebranding success stories, and technology collaborations. But the sky is the limit! Click the links below for more information on applying.

Looking to learn a little more about the Award’s history or its namesake, Evy Nordley? Browse the resources below:

Submissions are due June 15, 2014. Finalists will be notified, and asked to give a ten-minute presentation describing the design, development and impact of their Friends effort during the annual conference of the Minnesota Library Association (MLA) on October 8-9, 2014, in Mankato, Minn.

Event Recap: Minnesota Library Legislative Day

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Posted by jim under Events, Advocacy

On March 4-5, the polar vortex - and yet another snowfall - did little to deter library supporters representing all corners of the state from congregating at the Capitol in St. Paul for Minnesota Library Legislative Day.

MN-3-5-14-1.jpgCoordinated by MLA and the Minnesota Educational Media Organization (MEMO), Library Legislative Day is the apex of the state’s library advocacy calendar. It is our easiest and best chance all year round to meet with elected representatives and to voice our communities’ support for library programs and funding.

As in years past, organizers prefaced that window of time for meetings with a very informative legislative briefing.

Official agenda items of special interest this year included increased funding for educational telecommunications costs, the creation of a task force to address problems associated with unfair eBook pricing, and the inclusion of public library accessibility grants in an upcoming bonding bill. You can read the official MLA/MEMO platform in its entirety here.

MLA-MEMO-MALF.jpgNaturally, the annual event also doubles as an excellent opportunity to meet likeminded Friends and to share ideas and experiences. In years past, some attendees have even reported that this is the most useful takeaway from their entire experience!

For the first time, MALF capitalized on this by adding a semiformal meet-and-greet to the regular itinerary. Library Friends, trustees, and staffers gathered at the Kelly Inn’s Sweetwater Grill to exchange stories and advocacy techniques. 

Photo 1: Past and present MALF Board members Mary Ann Bernat, Kim Edson, Carol Walsh, and Barbara Byers were among the 100+ that turned out for Minnesota Library Legislative Day 2014.

Photo 2: Nick Dimassis, Director of Carver Co. Library, and Mollie Stanford, regional librarian in the Arrowhead Library System, were also among those that turned out. (Here, they take a moment out of their busy days to learn a little about MALF programs and initiatives.)


Gatsby Gala a ‘Roaring’ Success for Ramsey Co. Friends

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Posted by jim under Fundraisers, Events

flappers.jpgOn February 1, after months of intense planning, the Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries pulled off a great fundraiser. A Gatsby-great fundraiser, to be more precise.

Organizers tore a page straight from the Great American Novel and hosted a “Great Gatsby Gala” at the Roseville Library. (As many Minnesota bibliophiles know, author F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul – less than ten miles from the Roseville Library venue.)

The evening, emceed by Minnesota Public Radio personality Kerri Miller, contained several elements common to Friends fundraisers. Silent and live auctions boasted over seventy donated items ranging from one-of-a-kind specialty items, to gift baskets, to fun dining, theater and sightseeing experiences.

The rest of the night was, as the name promised, a real blast from the past. Highlights included Roaring Twenties style dance lessons, a costume contest recognizing most authentic period dress, and a photo booth with Gastby-era props.

Commensurate with the party’s Roaring Twenties theme, planners set an ambitious fundraising goal of $20,000. By the end of the night, Ramsey County had met and surpassed that mark, with the live auction alone bringing in upwards of $8,000.

Attendance was equally impressive, with 200 “flappers” and “fellas” turning out. Missed the big event? Don’t worry! The Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries is already hard at work planning a second annual gala for spring 2015.

Register Now for State and Federal Library Legislative Days

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Posted by jim under Events, Advocacy

Contrary to what the weather might suggest, another spring season chock-full of library advocacy opportunities is rapidly approaching!

MLA-logo-2014.pngClosest to home, we’re thrilled to pass along full details for Minnesota Library Legislative Day, March 4-5 in St. Paul. The annual event will culminate in a broad-based show of support on the Capitol grounds. Click here for a full itinerary of events.

As a primer, feel free to read over a near-final version of the year’s Legislative Platform, put together by the Minnesota Library Association (MLA) and the Minnesota Educational Media Organization (MEMO).

This event is open to the public, and library advocates with no professional or other formal association with Minnesota libraries are strongly encouraged to attend! Participation is free, but it is requested that you register by 11:59 p.m. Friday, February 28.

Registration for National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) in Washington, D.C., opened recently as well. ALA has slated this year’s events for May 5-6. Mark those calendars, and we’ll pass along more details as they become available!

Timely Alternatives to Library Legislative Day

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Posted by jim under Advocacy, Campaigns

We can spout statistics, show pictures, and give examples illustrating the value public libraries offer, but what legislators want above all else is to hear the voices of their constituents.

If you can’t make it to St. Paul for next month’s activities, there are still ways to make your voice heard around Library Legsiative Day. And if you are from a library represented by the Plum Creek or Pioneerland regional library system, you can do so in a new and very innovative way!

Shelly Grace, executive director of SAMMIE (Southwest Area Multicounty Multitype Interlibrary Exchange), is currently coordinating a grassroot campaign in which patron advocates in southwest Minnesota are invited to fill out a special Library Legislative Day postcard and leave it at their local branch. SAMMIE will collect these and see that they get to the Capitol in early March.

Please try to get your postcard submitted by the end of the month. (Libraries need to gather and mail their collections to SAMMIE no later than Monday, March 3.)


Click to download:

Direct any questions you may have to Shelly Grace at 507-532-9013.

Letter campaigns have proven time and again to be a very effective tool. Of course, you can send them year-round, no matter which part of the state you hail from. Click here to find out who represents you, and how best to contact them.

Join MALF for a “Dinner with ‘Friends’”

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Posted by jim under Events

The Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF) is excited to add a little something new to the line-up this Library Legislative Day. We will host a semiformal gathering Tuesday, March 4 after the regularly scheduled 5 p.m. legislative briefing.

Library Friends, trustees and staff members are encouraged to join us at The Kelly Inn's Sweetwater Bar and Grill, 161 St. Anthony Ave., St. Paul, at or around 6:30 p.m. This is a phenomenol opportunity to network with peers and colleagues from all corners of the state and to share strategies and experiences related to effective library advocacy.

MALF will provide appetizers. Dinner and drinks are available from the restaurant’s menu. Please send a brief email RSVP to Kim Edson,, by Friday, February 28 if you plan to attend.

Minnesota’s 2014 LSTA Grant Window is Approaching

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Posted by jim

download_1.jpgAs no one connected with the field needs reminding, libraries rank high on the list of America’s most valuable, valued and versatile public institutions. Federal legislation like the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) aims to ensure they stay so for future generations.

The LSTA’s long-term goals include expanding libraries’ informational and educational resources, fostering the interconnectedness of public libraries, and enhancing the library experience for youth, disadvantage groups, and those in comparatively underserved (usually rural) areas of the country.

In broad brushstrokes, the LSTA consists of two parts: a competitive awards program coordinated at the national level, plus a large state grants component. In Minnesota, the latter is administrated by State Library Services, part of the Department of Education.

If you have a project on the docket that falls within an area of emphasis identified by State Library Services in its current Five Year Plan, you are strongly encouraged to submit a bid when the next grant application round opens on Tuesday, March 4.

If submission requirements seem a bit daunting, don’t worry. An informational webinar is scheduled for 1-2 p.m. Friday, March 7 to help you get started. Advance registration is not required.

Looking to get inspired? Click here to read abstracts on 2013’s twelve grant recipients.

Library Friend in Rochester Receives an “AmaZING” Recognition

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Posted by jim under Awards

The line between Friend of the Library and friend to the community is a thin one. Some would argue that, in point of fact, there really is no difference at all.

Pat Stephenson, a standout member of the Friends of the Rochester Public Library, is a shining example of the impact Friends of the Library can have on their community at large. Her efforts were acknowledged recently by local NBC affiliate KTTC with the outlet’s “KTTC AmaZING Woman Award.”


The honor came as a shock to no one – least of all her nominator, fellow ‘Friend’ Cathie Armstrong. “Pat, now retired, puts in the equivalent of a full-time job volunteering at the Rochester Public Library.” In her free time, such as it is, “she also volunteers for any organization that needs assistance with books or literacy. She is on a one-woman mission to make sure that people of all ages have access to books.”

Stephenson is a driver behind the success of reading initiatives like World Book Night and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in the greater Rochester area, and is also a familiar face around the Ronald McDonald House, the Women's Shelter, and the Dorothy Day House.

At the library itself, she is equally visible in the day-to-day operations of the Friends of the Library Bookstore and coordinates the system’s popular Saturday and periodic auditorium sales.

Congratulations – and thank you – Pat Stephenson!

Does your Friends group boast a multitalented member of Stephenson’s caliber? Strongly consider nominating him or her for any local television or newspaper community service awards available in your area. It only takes a moment, and the exposure could bring in more members!

Photo Credit: KTTC

Library Staff, Friends Eligible for Flexible Children’s Programming Grant

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Posted by jim under Grants, Opportunities

EzraJackKeatsFoundation_logo.jpgWe know from speaking with MALF members that many Friends groups in Minnesota are deeply and passionately involved in their library’s children’s and young adult programming. In some of these cases, Friends involvement is limited only by lack of available funds. If this describes you, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation wants to help.

Established in the 1960s by the Caldecott Medal winning writer and children’s book illustrator, the Foundation continues strong today. Its primary focus remains to foster the ideals Keats valued most: creative expression, teamwork, and diversity/multiculturalism.

Minigrants, one of its flagship and most popular programs, offers awards of $500 to public school and library teams looking to create special, enriching activities for school-aged children outside of the standard curriculum. Popular examples include bookmaking workshops, community or multicultural ‘portrait projects,’ pen pal initiatives, and the creation and performance of plays or puppet shows. Click here for a full list of past winners and program types.

If your idea is strong, your chances are good! The Foundation will distribute approximately 70 grants to worthy applicants this year.

Applications are due March 15. All winners will be notified by May 1. Visit the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation’s website for more details, or jump straight to the Minigrants application.

MALF Member Wins National Friends Award

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Posted by jim under Awards, Events

Congratulations to MALF member The Friends of the Grand Rapids Area Library, winner of this year’s National Friends of Libraries Week Award!

As the name suggests, this honor – one of ALA United for Libraries’ most publicized – is bestowed annually to two groups in acknowledgement of standout achievements during the preceding fall’s Friends of Libraries Week.

This annual celebration serves a two-fold purpose: to give Friends a chance to promote their own work, and, just as importantly, to allow their home communities a prime opportunity to do the same! These are, of course, very broad criteria that leave plenty of room for customization and innovation. United for Libraries created the eponymous award to call out the most unique and impressive activities and programs.

The Friends of the Grand Rapids Area Library proved an especially strong contender. They began by coordinating a kickoff event with the City of Grand Rapids. Mayor Dale Adams signed a special Proclamation designating Oct. 20-26 “Friends of the Library Week.” Library staff then unveiled a beautiful lobby display thanking the Friends for their many years of service.

It was far from a one-sided affair, however. The Friends went all out in promoting membership and book sales.

Mayor.jpg“During the week, we handed out coup ons to library goers for a free book at the Friends bookstore. This brought in many new customers. Once there, a variety of brochures and bookmarks on Friends work and membership were available,” said president and co-chair Carol Steele.

They also offered a variety of incentives for joining up (or renewing). These included a drawing for one of five themed giftbaskets. All told, by week’s end, “we had increased membership by almost 25 percent!,” Steele said.

United for Libraries will briefly recognize the organization January 27 at its Gala Author Tea, part of the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.

And, in case you were wondering, National Friends of Libraries Week 2014 is slated for October 19-25. It’s never too early to start your planning!

New IMLS Grant Aims to “Spark” STEM Programming in America’s Libraries

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Posted by jim under Grants

MALF’s Evy Nordley Award exists to reward innovation and replicability in Friends of the Library projects. We have something of a kindred spirit in the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a key source of federal support for America’s 123,000+ libraries and 17,500+ museums.

imls.jpgNow through February 3, IMLS is currently accepting applications for its “Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries” program. Sparks! allocates amounts ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 to libraries willing to develop, prototype, and evaluate innovations that “result in new tools, products, services, or organizational practices.” The Institute believes that these kick-starters enable grantees to undertake otherwise impractical activities that involve risk and – whether they succeed or fail – provide valuable information to the greater library field.

It’s as broad as that, and there are no matching requirements!

Friends of the Library may not submit an application independent of their library. However, Friends involvement is often a key component behind the success of library applicants. The best project proposals will address STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning needs in all age brackets. Click here for a complete run-down of eligibility requirements.

Programs green lit with a Sparks! grant must begin on October 1, November 1, or December 1, 2014.

Go “Big” – An NEA Grant Can Take Your Friends Programming to the Next Level

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Posted by jim under Grants

big-nea-images.jpgMany Friends groups – particularly those that draw from predominantly rural areas – schedule their years around one or two tent-pole events. An ambitious few, however, organize programming and other special events on a near-monthly basis. If your Friends group is one such, you may be a strong candidate for a Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Big Read program is designed to “revitalize the role of literature in American culture, and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.”

Sums ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 are available to Friends and like-minded organizations willing to host a community reads program consisting of at least a dozen separate events, including a kick-off party, keynote lecture, and ten discussion sessions.

Requested funding must be matched one-to-one with non-federal contributions, and the NEA stipulates that your Big Read revolve around one of 36 pre-selected book titles. This still leaves quite a bit of room for customizability, however. Funds can be applied toward book purchases, speaker fees and travel, staff salaries, advertising, and venue rentals.

Grant recipients are automatically eligible to use a variety of online training resources and professionally designed promotional and educational materials.

For a detailed listing of eligibility requirements, and to start your application, visit The Big Read’s website. The entry deadline for the next grant cycle (September 1, 2014-June 30, 2015) is 4:00 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 28.

MALF Board of Directors Bids Farewell to Five ‘Friends'

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Posted by jim under News, MALF

kthanks.jpgJanuary 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 new members to the Board of Directors. Some changes are more bittersweet, however. MALF must also bid a fond farewell to five long-serving and highly productive Board members: Barbi Byers, Edward Fagerlund, Joan B. Larson, Ruth Solie, and Carol Walsh.

Edward Fagerlund spent a long and fruitful career in the fields of economics and finance, and in his tenure with MALF put that invaluable knowledge and experience to use on a weekly basis. As MALF Treasurer and Finance Committee lead, he has effectively served as point person on all budgetary matters for the last several years. In addition, he has been a key contributor to several non-finance process initiatives, including a 2013 retooling of the membership renewal process.

Ruth Solie, retired director of the Northern Lights Library Network, made a name for herself helping to establish Friends groups in school, academic and public libraries across the state. That experience has proved of inestimable value to MALF. Among other responsibilities, Solie has co-organized MALF’s successful summer workshop series, Drafting the Blueprint.

Carol Walsh, communications specialist with the Dept. of Employment and Economic Development, joined the Board in 2005. She has put her invaluable public relations and outreach skills to work as a member of MALF’s communications committee. In her eight years on the Board, she has helped turn MALF into a robust source of Friends of the Library-specific news. She also served a productive term as MALF President, and as the organization’s liaison to National Library Legislative Day (NLLD).

Last but not least, MALF is losing two long-serving Board members who have been leading voices in the organization for the better part of its history.

Among committee assignments simply too numerous to list in full, Barbara Byers served for over a decade as President. She also played a key role in the formative years of the Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of the Library and in initiating MALF’s programming presence at the annual MLA Conference.

Joan Larson is also a wealth of institutional memory, having been affiliated with MALF in some capacity for over twenty years. Recent achievements include co-planning many of MALF’s highly successful workshops and programs and spearheading MALF’s partnership with United for Libraries on the Literary Landmark series.  

Thank you, all! You will be missed!

Does Your Library Excel at Public Relations? If So, ALA Wants to Know

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Posted by jim under Awards

His name may not be immediately familiar to most, but Friends of the Library and patrons everywhere owe much to the life and career of 20th-century library innovator John Cotton Dana. Dana, in a very real sense, put the public in public library. He introduced or popularized many of the facility features we take for granted today: the “open stacks” model, a large and diverse fiction selection, and a children-specific reading and programming areas.

Dana died nearly a century ago, but his spirit and principles live on through the work of countless library staffers and Friends across the country.  

2013.12-john-cotton-dana.jpgALA created the John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award in 1946 to honor both Dana and these more recent achievements in public librarianship. In particular, this high distinction recognizes outstanding library outreach and communications projects – from summer reading programs and special community partnerships, to fundraising and awareness campaigns. As in years past, thanks to financial support from the H.W. Wilson Foundation, ALA is pleased to announce that eight winners will be chosen to receive the Award. Each will receive a $10,000 monetary prize.

Libraries of all sizes are eligible to apply. (Click here for a full listing of eligibility requirements.) At minimum, candidates are asked to submit an online application and three-page project narrative. Applicants may also submit a variety of supporting materials, such as photos, press clippings, testimonials/patron comments, research analyses, and marketing materials samples.

Entries must be submitted by Friday, February 14. Winners will be announced in April, and all entrants will be invited to attend a special Dana Awards Reception co-sponsored by EBSCO and the H.W. Wilson Foundation at the ALA Annual Conference.

Click here to start your online application!


(While we can’t speak to your odds, Minnesota and its library advocates have historically been well represented within the roster of winners. To date, our state lays claim to over twenty Dana Award wins! Click here for the full listing of them.)