Evy Nordley Candidate Profile #7: Friends of the Red Wing Public Library

The Red Wing Public Library dates back, in some shape and form, to 1893. That original incarnation of the beloved public institution - much like the young river town itself - would be unrecognizable to modern denizens of Red Wing.

goodhue2.pngThe one-room library did not circulate its materials, and patrons were not allowed to browse the stacks. The sole staffer (paid $300/year in 1893 dollars) retrieved materials upon request. This made research inherently difficult, as the library lacked a card catalog to point them in the right direction. (However, a printed manifest was available, but only for purchase!)

In late 2017, the Board of Trustees approached the Friends of the Red Wing Public Library about collaborating on a historical project to profile this and the many subsequent chapters of the Library’s long history. In point of fact, background work for a hoped-for book had already commenced. However, the Library lacked the wherewithal to give the volume a professional veneer, acquire the rights to appropriate illustrations, and get it published.

After some back and forth, The Friends agreed to spearhead a special fundraising push to hire a research historian and shepherd the project to completion.

Phase I required collecting $2,500 to hire the needed contractual help. As a means to that end The Friends’ standing fundraising committee drafted a targeted mailing teasing the long, untold history of the library – and summarizing The Friends’ own long track record for championing value-added projects of exactly this sort. After expenses, this campaign netted $2,599.

redwing.jpgGoing a step further, The Friends also researched and interviewed potential historians, to find just the right partner for the book. Ultimately, they landed on Char Henn, a Red Wing local and director of the Red Wing Pottery Museum – a subject matter expert if ever there were one.

Galvanized by that early success, The Friends opted to continue their support of the publication project with a special event: a harvest-themed autumn tea party and silent auction. Keynoted by Ms. Henn and Minnesota romance writer Lizbeth Selvig.

Friends volunteers worked overtime to make the tea event as cost-effective as possible. Christ Episcopal Church, located down the street from the Library, offered their spacious dining room, kitchens, and A/V equipment free of charge. Local businesses supplied each of the auction offerings.

In lieu of working with an expensive off-site printer, The Friends convinced the Library to allow for flyers, invitations, and other promotional pieces to be printed in house on the facility’s own computers (with cost defrayed by The Friends). This cut down markedly on the print publicity budget.

"The overarching objective was to raise funds for writing and publishing our history of Red Wing Public Library. This was the promise we had made," reiterated project lead Lois Burnes.

"During the planning process, however, it became clear that this fundraising format could be repeated annually." They intend to do just that, with the proceeds benefitting their Library in other needed ways.