Evy Nordley Finalist Spotlight: Friends of the Elmore Library

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Posted by jim under Awards, MLA

Friends in small and rural areas are often tempted to use the modest size of their library, community, or member roster as excuses not to “think big.” Friends of the Elmore Public Library are proof positive that, with pluck and ingenuity, small Friends organizations can accomplish truly great things.


Located an hour south of Mankato along the Iowa state line, Elmore is a farm town of only 600. Unsurprisingly, as of last year, membership in the local Friends was among the lowest of any organization in southern Minnesota.

Consequently, many in the community voiced doubts when the Friends announced their intention to organize a large book basket silent auction as part of Elmore’s summer Horse and Buggy Days weekend celebration.

“Someone on our Board of Directors had seen another library do this sort of fundraiser, where they created baskets themed around a book title,” explained secretary Kristin Travis. “We decided to expand on that idea, by reaching out to the business community and asking them to donate either baskets or money for a silent auction.”

While the partnership opportunity sounds straightforward enough on paper, it is a tall order for Elmore – a town with no grocery store, no bank branch, and little commercial activity to speak of. At present, Elmore sustains only six active businesses.

Hoping to cast a wider net, “our Board brainstormed what businesses in nearby towns and cities benefit from the residents of Elmore shopping or patronizing them – or anyplace connected because owners or employees are alumni,” Travis recalled. (Elmore High School ceased graduating seniors in 1994, but Faribault County is full of town alumni working in various leadership positions.)

In total, the Friends compiled a list of 88 recipients for a letter requesting basket donations for the library’s silent auction. Impressively, 53 of those contacted wished to take part!

Kristin Travis attributes this response in part to flexible participation options. Donors did not have to devote time and effort to a themed basket if they did not want to. A cash donation option eliminated that barrier. In those cases, the Friends assembled an appropriate basket.

All these efforts reaped a range of dividends. Exposure helped the Friends boost their profile and nearly double the size of their Board (from 5 to 9). Every auction item sold during Horse and Buggy Days weekend, allowing the Friends to buy a computer and needed software for the library. Moreover, “Basket Book-nanza” raised so much that the Friends had enough left over to buy the facility a new Cricut machine and about $200 worth in DVDs.

This last acquisition brought with it an encouraging ripple effect. Elmore Public Library recently weeded its outdated VHS collection but had little to offer by way of new and in-demand DVD titles. This post-auction donation helped change that situation. DVDs now in rotation account for nearly 50 percent of the library’s entire circulation. “It has also fueled an interest in community members willing to donate movies,” noted Travis. (Approximately 1,300 are now available, up from just 100 last July.)

Friends of the Elmore Public Library is eager to try their hand at this fundraiser again – but next go around, they aim to reach out to an expanded contact list of nearly 150 businesses.

'Library Friends Day' Line-Up Announced

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Posted by jim under MLA Conference


MLA is celebrating its ‘Quasquicentennial,’ and MALF wants YOU to be a part of it! Join us in Duluth for a full day of programming targeted specifically at Friends of the Library. You will learn about successful Friends grants, fundraising opportunities, community partnerships, member campaigns, and more. Register now!

When? Thursday, September 29, 2016

→ Where? Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, 350 Harbor Drive
→ Cost: $65/person if purchased before 8/29; $85/person after [Friends rate] 

8:50-9:50 // Being the Voice of an Organization: A New Approach to Advocacy 
Advocacy is a long-time MALF and MLA focus area, and guest speaker Sam Walseth knows the territory better than anyone. As a VP of one of the state’s lead governmental affairs consultant agencies, Walseth has championed public library priorities in state government for years. Attendees will come away with tips on how to advocate, individually and organizationally.

10:55-11:55 // Forming a Partnership Between Community Partners of Libraries
In addition to dedicated staff, libraries rely on the tireless efforts of three sometimes overlapping groups: (1) Friends of the Library, (2) Library Foundations, (3) Library Board / Trustees. Each has its own functions, but all are ultimately working towards the same goal: strong libraries. MALF and MLTA will spend a productive hour examining ways that these different organizations can better work in tandem. 

12:05-1:35 // Lunch Keynote: "Relevance," with Nina Simon
In an interactive address, author Nina Simon will share inspiring examples and practical theories on how to make your work more vital and valuable to diverse communities. 

1:45-2:45 // MALF Annual Meeting + Idea Exchange
Back by popular demand, MALF is bringing its “popcorn style” Idea Exchange to MLA. Share ideas, and learn about: successful membership drives, creative fundraising, advocacy and more. MALF will devote the second half of the hour to the organization’s annual meeting. Stay and learn what MALF has been up to in 2016!

3:50-4:50 // Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of the Library
MALF will spotlight three exceptional projects made possible by member Friends groups between January 2015 and January 2016. Representatives from three finalist groups will offer 10-minute overviews of their projects before the big winner is announced. Attendees are guaranteed to come away with at least one replicable idea!