Announcing "Making New Friends: Volunteer Recruitment and Cultivation"

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"It’s so hard to find good help these days.” It’s trite, but true – and something MALF hears regularly from Friends of the Library across our wide network.

If enticing and motivating new volunteers is a problem for your organization, MALF’s next webinar is sure to be of interest. Join us over the lunch hour on Wednesday, June 23 for “Making New Friends: Volunteer Recruitment and Cultivation.”

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Beth Steinhorn, president of Colorado-based VQ Volunteer Strategies, will lead the 90-minute session. In her decades of consulting, Steinhorn has aided not-for-profits as varied as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, American Red Cross, and Meals on Wheels. Past clients in the library sphere include the Public Library Association (PLA) and California Library Association.

“VQ Volunteer Strategies believes that by helping our clients shift how they think about and approach volunteer engagement, there’s no limit to what they can achieve,” Steinhorn shared.

Her deep understanding of national volunteer trends and emerging best practices will be of enormous value to grassroots Friends groups.

VQ_secondary_horiz_blue.png“While we don’t always think of it this way, Friends of the Library are in competition with many other worthy causes in their community for a finite amount of volunteer ‘bandwidth,’” explained MALF board member Melissa Brechon. Compounding matters, “There’s never a shortage of life obligations and other distractions to deter people from a new volunteer commitment.”

In addition to the training seminar, participants will come away with valuable sample and rubric documents from VQ: boilerplate volunteer position descriptions, a targeted recruitment primer, and samples of strategic messaging, to name a few.

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Best of all, “Making New Friends” is free to attend.
 Registration is required – though open until one hour before the start of the 12:00-1:30 CDT event. (Don’t delay, though. Early registrants will receive additional communications as we draw closer to June 23.)

Standout Friends Spotlight: Kathy Sommers, Northfield

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Five years ago, a renovated and expanded Northfield Public Library reopened on the city’s downtown thoroughfare. Built around a century-old Carnegie, this enlarged facility incorporates a two-story glass atrium, expanded children's area, and modular community spaces. In the words of one architectural reviewer, this construction restored the Library’s place as the "civic beacon" of Northfield.

Naturally, such a large-scale but tasteful overhaul comes at a cost – in this case, $3.4 million. That daunting target simply would not have been met without spirited fundraising from The Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library, who ultimately contributed close to $1 million. The Friends, in turn, credit much of that success to 'Standout Friend' Kathy Sommers.

Kathy served as an integral member of the organization's board for eight years. This includes a significant investment of time and energy as treasurer.

"She leveraged years of experience in accounting to modernize our financial recordkeeping, and worked hard to establish the financial framework that we still use," noted board member Lynne Marie Young.

This back-end work - often uncelebrated - paid huge dividends when the Library needed assistance with capital reinvestments at several points in Kathy's tenure. In addition to the 2015-16 rebuild, examples include the purchase of a second bookmobile (“Booker II”) in 2006, and the subsidization of the Library’s first major foray into loanable e-readers.

In between marquee purchases, she volunteered "on the ground" at the Friends' many social and fundraising events. These include the Friends' popular annual Trivia Bee, where she handled all ticketing and money-handling.

Although she is no longer on the leadership team, Kathy remains an active member of the Friends. Nevertheless, she is sorely missed by the board. “Kathy brought a kindness, a sense of humor, and a cool, critical perspective to each meeting,” said Lynne Young. “Decisions were better, and discussions more productive, through her ever-vigilant commitment."

Do you have a Standout Friend in your midst that you’d like to acknowledge on a statewide stage? MALF is now welcoming nominees for the 2021 "class" of Standout Friends.
 Visit our website to learn how to put a peer forward - but be sure to do so before Friday, August 6.

Friends Invited to 'Media Landscapes - 23 Things'

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We live in an information-rich world. Making sense of what's most relevant, what’s timely, and what is trustworthy can be a challenge - even for librarians, who deal with information professionally! With this internet age conundrum in mind, a coalition of state library partners has just launched a new self-paced (and entirely free) online curriculum.

Media Landscapes - 23 Things is intended, first and foremost, as a professional development tool for library staff. However, trustees and Friends are openly invited to take part… and, by the end, you will be spotting misinformation and writing attention-grabbing web copy just like the pros!


Click here to see the curriculum modules available to date. (Note: More will be added in the coming weeks.) Click here to register and get started!

2021 Nordley Award Cycle Recognizes A Unique Year

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An F. Scott Fitzgerald inspired dance party. A student-led cheese-making demo. A chautauqua style community expo featuring a ragtime clarinetist and DNR rangers. What do these events have in common (besides, of course, being incredibly creative)? All were held in Minnesota libraries, and coordinated by Friends. Each was put forward for MALF’s yearly Evy Nordley Award for Best Project by Friends of the Library.

We know that 2020 wasn’t replete with many social events like the ones outlined above. However, the pandemic and its fallout offered Friends a unique opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and resilience. Whether a fundraiser, membership drive, advocacy campaign, or something else – MALF wants to know what you’ve been up to!

Indeed, any Friends-supported project is eligible, provided that (1) project implementation began after January 1, 2020; and (2) either the Friends or their library was the primary beneficiary.
 Click here for details on eligibility and how to apply. Top prize is $1,000. Deadline is coming up fast: Friday, July 9

Minnesota Author Project Seeks Judges

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MN Writes MN Reads is bringing back the Minnesota Author Project for its fourth year!

As the name suggests, this novel program (pun intended) recognizes the quality work of first-time authors eager to find a wider audience. Only self- or indie-published materials, and only ebooks by Minnesota authors, are eligible for consideration.
 Click here to learn more about the program.

Here’s where you come in. MN Writes MN Reads relies on panels of volunteer judges – composed of librarians, Friends, booksellers, teachers, and other bibliophiles – to carefully read and review submitted materials. (It’s no small thing: Winners receive $1,000, a full-page print spread in Library Journal, and inclusion in popular ebook databases!)

Evaluators will begin to receive submission materials after May 31, and have until September to grade. For more information, and to throw your hat into the ring, fill out
 this Google Form.

Minnesota Book Awards Announced April 29

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The linchpin event of the state’s literary calendar is nearly upon us! The virtual Minnesota Book Awards will take place next Thursday, April 29. Category winners will be announced in real time, and Minnesota screenwriter and justice advocate Alexs Pate honored with the '21 Kay Sexton Award. A mix of pre-packaged videos celebrating books and book-lovers in Minnesota will round out this memorable evening in the virtual space.

(Waiting on a formal invite? Well,
 here you go!)

Attending is free, but you must register.
 Click here to do so, and to read up on the 36 outstanding finalists across all nine genre categories.

The Next Chapter in Used Book Sales - Recap, Recording

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Thanks to the more than 120 of you who turned out in real time for “The Next Chapter in Used Book Sales.” Attendees hailed from Caledonia to Crookston, and from Marshall to Mountain Iron – a true testament to the distance-bridging power of webinars!

Our featured speakers, too, represented a nice cross-section of Minnesota. We heard from Susi McCune in tiny Isanti, who has overseen the local book sale’s move to a special, spacious location: the town bowling alley! On the opposite end of the size spectrum, Susan Miller and her Friends colleagues in suburban Ramsey County have pioneered new, sustainable ways of organizing curbside used book sales perfect for this age of social distancing.

Meanwhile in Moorhead, Karen Jacowitz is reselling higher value materials through a special consignment arrangement with an out-of-town book vendor, and exploring the viability of a brick-and-mortar storefront in the local mall. Rounding out our list, Brooke Barsness from Fergus Falls overviewed her group’s reconceptualization of the standard book sale as a series of silent auctions.

Is that enough to leave you intrigued? You can now watch “The Next Chapter in Used Book Sales” in full
 on our YouTube. For a limited time, supporting documents are also available on our website.

2020 Standout Friends Featurette #5: Grand Rapids

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For the Friends of Grand Rapids Area Library, leader Bonnie Gelle is not just instrumental. She is foundational. Her name can be found front and center in the group’s 1985 incorporation papers.  

In those early years, Bonnie put together Grand Rapids’ first book sales in the modest basement of the community’s old Carnegie Library. (Nowadays, COVID notwithstanding, that sale is a summer bonanza that spans three days.)  

Bonnie was also present when Itasca Community Television opened its first studio at Itasca Community College. For years, she partnered with a TV crew to broadcast story times – a popular supplement to the public library’s children’s programming. (At present, the children’s department in Grand Rapids is the busiest outside of Duluth in the Arrowhead region, and the Friends’ commitment to the library’s efforts continues apace.)
 
“Over the years, Bonnie has also served as secretary and president,” explained group treasurer Susan Hayes. “If you ask her, she’ll tell you that she served as president ‘way too many years’ - but you will not find a Friend among us who agrees with her on that one!”


Who is your Bonnie Gelle?

Last year brought a daunting array of challenges for libraries and their support organizations. However, it also gave volunteers new opportunities to showcase their ingenuity, dedication, and service ethos.

With these standout individuals in mind, MALF is pleased to renew Stand Up for Standout Friends for its 6th consecutive year! 
Click here to learn how to nominate a peer for this recognition. Each and every MALF member organization is invited to put one name forward for 2021!

Introducing "Friends 101"

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Self-promotion and volunteer recruitment are two perennial challenges for Friends. Knowing this, MALF is excited to share a little something to boost your “elevator pitch.”

Background: Earlier this year, in partnership with the Library and Information Science program at St. Catherine University, MALF crafted a 20-minute “Friends 101” video for inclusion in the institution’s LIS master’s degree curriculum. Topics included:

  • Who are Friends, exactly?
  • What do Friends do? What can’t they do?
  • What are commonplace Friends fundraisers?
  • Where does an umbrella organization like MALF come in?

Naturally, librarian trainees are not the only people who stand to benefit from this primer. So, we’ve just *recut* that video for use with a wider of audiences and situations. View/download it here, and use however you see fit!

Minnesota Book Awards: Gala Registration, Call for Selfies

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The more things change, the more they stay the same:

While the pandemic has forced the Minnesota Book Awards online for the second year running, this linchpin program is holding strong. Registration is now open for the culminating announcement ceremony on Thursday, April 29. It is free to “attend.”


Click here to register. Click here to read up on the 36 finalist authors and titles in each of nine literary categories.

As one upshot to the online format, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library (organizers of the Minnesota Book Awards) are pursuing new and creative participatory opportunities for book lovers. Among these is a call for “bookish selfies.” From their website:

"We’re asking readers from every corner of Minnesota to show us their love of reading – and their state. It’s easy: take a selfie with a book you love in a place you love. Any book. Any place. (Let’s see some Minnesota landmarks, people)! Then share it on social media with #mnbookawards for the chance to be featured during this year’s virtual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony!"

Visit thefriends.org/selfie for more details.

RaiseMN Campaign Institute Offers Fundraising Assistance

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In a recent survey of Minnesota nonprofits, GiveMN determined that only 30 percent are confident in their fundraising knowledge and current strategies. Charities serving Greater Minnesota feel at a particular disadvantage in this regard. As one means of bridging the gap, GiveMN has created the RaiseMN Campaign Institute.  

Funded with support from the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, RaiseMN is a six-month fundraising training regimen for small- and medium-sized nonprofits (defined as ≤$2 million a year in revenue). Participating organizations will be paired with a seasoned professional as their personal fundraiser coach, enjoy a variety of cohort learning and networking opportunities, and come away with custom, actionable fundraising strategies.

Friends of the Library organizations and other eligible nonprofits must be based outside the Twin Cities, currently conduct at least one fundraising activity per annum, and have board members or other internal stakeholders ready to invest time and energy in the RaiseMN Campaign Institute curriculum.


Click here to learn more, and to access the application form. Submit your candidacy by Friday, April 2. Direct any questions you may have to raisemn@givemn.org.

Online Learning Opportunities Galore!

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We’re all eagerly awaiting the return of in-person workshops, author talks, and other events. However, there’s been one upshot to the pandemic. With trainings, fundraisers, and other programming migrating online out of necessity, it has suddenly become time and cost effective to indulge in a variety of opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach. MALF has flagged a few upcoming programs that might be of special interest to Friends.

Webinar: Retraining Volunteers Amid Uncertainty (March 11)
Even before COVID-19 reared its head, nonprofits of all stripes reported a shared and worrying trend. Finding long-term volunteers (and would-be leaders) is harder than it used to be. With the pandemic now causing so much uncertainty, recruiting and retaining dedicated volunteers has become an even bigger challenge.

This upcoming Thursday, March 11 (1 p.m. CT), Sterling Volunteers and VQ Volunteer Strategies are offering a FREE webinar on this important topic.
 Click here to learn more – and here to jump straight to registration for “Retraining Volunteers Amid Uncertainty: Converting One-Timers to Repeat Volunteers.”

Showcase: Penguin Random House Book Festival (April 6)
Penguin Random House is teaming up with Library Journal to celebrate 2021 National Library Week in a new and exciting way. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, April 6, when librarians, Friends and other book lovers are invited to gather together (virtually, of course) for a day-long celebration of the written word. PRH will showcase current and upcoming release from its impressive stable of imprints, including Knopf, Doubleday, Pantheon, Vintage, Putnam, Riverhead and Ballantine. Whether you are interested in mysteries, memoirs, or a mix of everything, the inaugural Penguin Random House Book Festival is sure to leave you with a long “must read” list!

Click here to reserve your spot, and to learn more about free e-galley book opportunities, prize giveaways, and other fun festival tie-ins!

Conference: ALA Annual Exhibition (June 23-29)
Every summer, the American Library Association holds a national convention in a major city. In a normal year, registration and travel costs preclude Friends of the Library from attending this mega event, which is dominated by librarians and other field practitioners. For the June 23-29, 2021 conference, organizers are moving the whole affair online.

As with every ALA Annual Exhibition itinerary, this one will be chock-full of high profile author presentations, can’t-miss keynotes, and hundreds of educational programs covering nearly every aspect of librarianship. Tickets are reasonable, starting at $69. On the fence? 
Visit their website, or follow conference developments on Twitter (@ALAConferences, #alaac21). Don’t wait too long, though; early bird rates all expire April 16!

2020 'Stand Up for Standout Friend' Spotlight #4: Cook

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Auctions built around themed gift baskets are a common Friends fundraising strategy. In general, they are favored by charities in communities with a strong commercial sector. This makes sense. After all, the majority of the donated baskets come from local businesses. However, the tiny town of Cook, Minnesota (pop. 570) is something of an exception to that rule – and Standout Friend Linda Kronholm is a chief reason why.

Kronholm is a driving force behind the Friends of the Cook Public Library’s annual Holiday Basket Fundraiser. Contrary to what the name would suggest, planning for this lucrative event is a year-round commitment, and one that Linda tackles with an alacrity that would put Santa himself to shame!

In addition to scouting donations, FOL president Kathy Sacchetti reports that Kronholm plays point on the “decking out” of the library as a winter wonderland, and coordinates many of the logistics associated with a holiday tea that the Friends run in conjunction with the auction. (For a town of Cook’s size, it really is a community happening!)

In truth, Kronholm’s leadership role with the Holiday Basket Fundraiser is just one of many ways in which this long-serving board member and group vice president contributes to the success of the Cook Public Library. “This is demonstrated daily by her frequent emails and attendance at nearly all library functions!” explained Sacchetti.

Call For Panelists: Forthcoming Book Sale Webinar

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, this past year’s limitations on travel and social activities have had an indirect impact on another favorite pastime: leisure-time reading. More people are reading – and on the whole, readers are reading more. In contrast to that marked uptick, it is a slow and confused time for that most tried-and-true Friends of the Library fundraiser: used book sales.

With accruing inventories and “pent up demand” on the one hand, but safety considerations like building occupancy rules on the other, how are Friends managing today? This question will be the crux of MALF’s next free webinar.

Unlike recent installments, this next program will be a panel discussion – and speaker slots are still available! If your group has insights and replicable ideas to share on the topics of online book sales, flash sales, or other book-based fundraising alternatives, MALF would love to showcase your stories. Email
 info@mnlibraryfriends.org to learn more!

MALF's COVID-19 Grant Program Returns For 2021

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It would be a futile exercise (not to mention a depressing one) to try and list out the many ways that the pandemic has adversely impacted Minnesota’s libraries. Suffice it to say, COVID-19 has upended normal for each and every one. Fortunately for many, the stalwart support of local Friends of the Library helped somewhat to “blunt the blow” in 2020. 

Last year, MALF encouraged and empowered Friends to redouble their support by piloting a new grant initiative: the aptly named COVID-19 Grant Response Program. In all, 15 member organizations received thousands of dollars to fill fundraising shortfalls or offset important expenses that the Friends’ coffers could not otherwise cover.

With coronavirus still a defining characteristic of our daily lives, MALF is pleased to announce the renewal of this popular grant program for 2021! Between now and Friday, April 30, MALF invites member Friends groups to put their names forward for one of ten $400 mini-grants.

This program is, by design, broad and responsive in nature. A wide array of purchases and priorities are qualified for consideration, so long as you can demonstrate value for your library and, by extension, its patrons. See the form for eligibility and applications requirements. (We promise they are mercifully few!) Note: Organizations who received financial assistance from MALF in 2020, as part of this or any other grant initiative, are eligible to (re)apply.

In early May, MALF’s awards committee will randomly draw the ten winners from a pool of all fully eligible requests. All applicants will be notified of outcomes around this time.  

Interested in applying, but unsure how to most effectively deploy $400? We recommend asking with your library’s leadership team! You can also peruse
 MALF’s blog for featurettes on all the 2020 award recipients, which is sure to give you ideas.

April 4-10 Marks National Library Week

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The American Library Association has announced the 2021 dates for National Library Week. Mark your calendars for April 4-10!

As the name suggests, the raison d'être of National Library Week is to spotlight the mission and achievements of our libraries. There is no one right way to celebrate. ALA recommends customizing the opportunity to the circumstances and needs of your library.

In years past, Friends have leaned on National Library Week as the framework for successful public advocacy and funding initiatives, major membership drives, and substantial capital campaign fundraising efforts. Visit the ALA website for ideas, case studies, and a “library” of usable templates.
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“Welcome to Your Library” is the theme of the 63rd(!) year of National Library Week. ALA selected it to promote the idea that, in practice, library service extends well beyond the four walls of a building. That’s not a new concept, but in light of COVID closures and continued restrictions, the message is particularly timely!


If you decide to conduct a program or project around National Library Week, be sure to keep it in mind for the 2021 cycle of MALF’s own Evy Nordley Award!

MALF Welcomes 2021 'Standout Friends' Nominations

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Last year brought a daunting array of challenges for libraries and their support organizations. However, there was also something of a silver lining to a year defined by COVID-19 and all that flowed from it. It gave staff and volunteers new opportunities to showcase their ingenuity, dedication, and service ethos.

MALF is eager to recognize individual Friends of the Library who went “above and beyond” in service to their group and its library in 2020. As means to that end, we are pleased to bring back our popular Stand Up for Standout Friends program for its 6th consecutive year.

What are ‘standout’ qualities? In short, it is up to you! Some acknowledge a current or former board member for their contributions in a leadership role. Others honor a Friend who has been with their organization since the beginning. You are also welcome to bestow the honorific based on number of hours volunteered, amount of money raised, or any mix of these and other factors. Note: You do NOT need to focus your nomination around 2020 and COVID-19. It’s just one new avenue to consider.

Perks include a matted certificate from MALF, commendation letter to the mayor and county commissioner in each recipient’s hometown, inclusion in a special video tribute [
example], and a written featurette in an upcoming MALF e-newsletter. (Speaking of: Read on to learn a bit about the next in our line of 2020 award recipients.)

Click here for details about the recognition program, including eligibility requirements and a 2021 application form. Pay mind to the acknowledgement checkboxes at the bottom. Note also that MALF now requests photo(s) of all candidates. Please submit your nomination to info@mnlibraryfriends.org by Friday, August 6.

MALF Welcomes 2021 'Standout Friends' Nominations

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Posted by jim under Grants & Awards

Last year brought a daunting array of challenges for libraries and their support organizations. However, there was also something of a silver lining to a year defined by COVID-19 and its fallout. It gave staff and volunteers new opportunities to showcase their ingenuity, dedication, and service ethos.

MALF is eager to recognize individual Friends of the Library who went “above and beyond” in service to their group and its library in 2020. As means to that end, we are pleased to bring back our popular Stand Up for Standout Friends program for its 6th consecutive year.

What are ‘standout’ qualities? In short, it is up to you! Some may acknowledge a current or former board member for their contributions in a leadership role. Others honor a Friend who has been with their organization since the beginning. You are also welcome to bestow the honorific based on number of hours volunteered, amount of money raised, or any mix of these and other factors. Note: You do NOT need to focus your nomination around 2020 and COVID-19. It’s just one new avenue to consider.

Perks include a matted certificate from MALF, commendation letter to the mayor and county commissioner in each recipient’s hometown, inclusion in a special video tribute [
example], and a written featurette in an upcoming MALF e-newsletter. (Speaking of: Read on to learn a bit about the next in our line of 2020 award recipients.)

Click here for details about the recognition program, including eligibility requirements and a 2021 application form. Pay mind to the acknowledgement checkboxes at the bottom. Note also that MALF now requests photo(s) of all candidates. Please submit your nomination to info@mnlibraryfriends.org by Friday, August 6.

2021 Evy Nordley Award Materials Now Available

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Last year brought monumental challenges for libraries and their Friends. As a silver lining, though, it afforded Friends of the Library an unprecedented opportunity to showcase their creativity and perseverance.

MALF cannot wait to showcase what you managed to learn and accomplish in 2020. Our long-running Evy Nordley Award for Best Project offers a perfect mechanism to do just that.

“Project” is an intentionally broad term. Any Friends-supported project is eligible, provided that (1) project implementation began after January 1, 2020; and (2) either the Friends or their library was the primary beneficiary. (In other words, efforts jointly developed with or sponsored by non-Friends organizations are qualified under many circumstances.)

Common project types are special events, successful fundraisers, membership drives, and advocacy campaigns – but the sky is the limit! In a year defined by COVID-19 and long library closures, MALF full expects and absolutely encourages unconventional entries.

Click here for more details, including early access to the application form. Submission deadline is end of day 
Friday, July 9.

ALA 'Libraries Transform Communities' Engagement Grant

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transform.jpgWhile we’re in a “grants” frame of mind, spare a minute for the Libraries Transform Communities Engagement Grant. The mission of this popular annual initiative is to recognize and support libraries’ ability to act as a community nexus and catalyst for change.

That is a broad mandate, to be sure. For this reason, each year’s program spotlights a specific theme. This year, that theme is is diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) – with a specific focus on anti-racism. Per ALA, competitive applicants will have “a demonstrated commitment to anti-racism work,” and a clear roadmap for using $2,000 to enhance the library's community engagement around this important and timely topic.

Visit the program’s web page for an extensive FAQ - as well as basic ideas on ‘in scope’ collaborations and programs to spark your thinking. The firm application cutoff is Friday, February 5.

New Programming Grant - Peggy Barber Tribute Grant

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peggy.jpgLooking for seed money to kickstart your next Evy Nordley Award contender? Take a look at the American Library Association’s newest assistance program.

Named after the ALA leader who masterminded such programs as National Library Week and the juggernaut Celebrity READ series, the new Peggy Barber Tribute Grant will award $2,500 to three eligible libraries to support their own programming efforts. For this inaugural cycle, ALA's Cultural Communities Fund is specifically inviting proposals centered around humanities programming – a personal passion of Barber’s.

Public, academic, K-12 and special libraries are all eligible for consideration, as are Friends partnerships. Applicants must hold membership in ALA or one of its divisions, either at the institutional or personal level.

Strong preference will be given to libraries that can demonstrate an acute need and general track record of under-funded programming. Additional guidelines are available here. Be prepared to submit your proposal (online only) by Friday, February 5. Click here to do so.