MALF Remembers and Honors Library Leader Chris Olson

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Posted by jim under Grants, Remembrances

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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Posted by jim under Grants, Opportunities

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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Posted by jim under Donations

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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Posted by jim under Awards


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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Posted by jim under Literary Landmarks, Events

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.