MALF Blog

Minnesota Association of Library Friends

MALF Welcomes Three New Directors

Posted by jim on November 6, 2020

MALF is thrilled to close out 2020, and start up the New Year, with three new leaders. Each brings experience and a skill set that will be a major asset to our board of directors. It’s our pleasure to introduce you to each in turn:
 
Ed Fagerlund is a retired economist from Stillwater. He appreciates how libraries help citizens, how Friends groups help libraries, and how MALF helps Friends groups. Ed is already intimately familiar with MALF’s mission and work, having already spent one term on our board (about a decade ago). Moreover, he served as organization treasurer in 2012-2013 – a key leadership post he will return to in 2021. 

Before retirement, Ed’s diverse career in his field included time as a Peace Corps volunteer at an Ecuador credit union, and teaching economics in Kansas and Minnesota. His financial acumen will be a huge boon to MALF operations.
 
Marjorie (Marge) McPeak enjoyed a long and fruitful tenure with Hennepin County Library, one of the largest library systems in the country. Over the course of nearly three decades, she rotated between the Southdale, Penn Lake, Edina and Eden Prairie locations during pivotal points in those libraries’ history. (For example, Marge saw the grand opening of the 60,000-square-foot Southdale branch and the evolution of Eden Prairie from a double-wide trailer to a 10,000-square-foot building.)

After retiring in 1996, Marge moved to the Lake Vermilion area. In her new home, she has deployed her hard-won expertise on the board of the Arrowhead Regional Library system.
 
Carol Steele is a long-time member of the Friends of the Grand Rapids Area Library – where she spent seven years as either president or co-chair. The local Friends marked several singular achievements over her tenure. For example, attendance at annual meetings increased six-fold, due in large part to efforts enacted by Carol.

Over the National Friends of Library Week in 2013 alone, the Friends’ promotional efforts netted a +25% increase in membership. Carol's group gained a national commendation that same year from the American Library Association for their robust Friends Week efforts.

Friends of the Grand Rapids Area Library honored Carol as a Standout Friend during the MALF recognition program's debut year (2016).

WELCOME, Ed, Marge and Carol!

2020 Standout Friends Featurette #1: Benson

Posted by jim on October 26, 2020

Did you know that there are distinct Norwegian and American stylistic schools of knitting? Hege Herfindahl is expert in both, and has freely shared her skills for years with classes and clubs at the Benson Public Library. It’s just one of many ways in which this Standout Friend contributes to the success of this small library.

Herfindahl is closing in on a decade as part of the governing board of Friends of the Benson Library, and is presently in the middle of a productive term as vice president. However, much of her support falls under “other duties as assigned” (knitting coaching most definitely included).

"Hege is always willing to lend a hand at any library event or activity – whether that is simply hanging holiday decorations, or assisting with twice yearly book sales," shared head librarian Nicole Schmiesing. She can also be found promoting and attending Benson’s book clubs, artfully arranging materials for the Friends’ silent auction, and even scooping out ice cream rewards for young readers during the Summer Reading Program.

"Benson Public Library truly does appreciate all of the countless hours Hege has put in over the last eight plus years!" Schmiesing said.

Click here for a minute-long video featurette on Hege Herfindahl. Click here to view a video montage celebrating MALF’s full 2020 class of Standout Friends. Visiour website for details on our equally impressive 2016-2019 classes of honorees.

 

Two Popular 'Giving Holidays' Fast Approaching

Posted by jim on October 9, 2020

November 19 - Give to the Max Day
COVID-19 has upended a host of 2020 holidays and traditions. Happily, this year's Give to the Max Day is not one of them. Minnesota's semi-official giving holiday is a-go for Thursday, November 19. As in years past, GTMD brings with it a host of “bonus” fundraising opportunities. In total, a prize pool of $100,000 will be distributed to eligible nonprofits across 140 so-called golden ticket giveaways.

Friends of the Library across Minnesota have reported great success with Give to the Max Day – in no small part because of the campaign’s longevity, visibility, and donor trust. And the prospect of a $500-$6,000 golden ticket (one is awarded every 15 minutes) sure doesn’t hurt!

New to GTMD? 
Click here for donation solicitation tips and promotional resources.
 
December 1 - Giving Tuesday
If there’s a downside to Give to the Max Day, it is that Friends often find themselves competing with other nonprofits in their area for the same charitable dollars. As an alternative (or supplement to) next month’s competitive Give to the Max Day, consider Giving Tuesday.

Brainchild of the United Nations Foundation, Giving Tuesday falls the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in this case, Sunday, December 1), and is intended as a charitable counterweight to the commercialism of Black Friday. Since its inception in 2012, nonprofit fundraising on this day has ballooned from <$20 million to upwards of $400 million.

Now a standalone organization with leadership support from the Gates Foundation, Giving Tuesday offers nonprofits of all types a valuable toolkit, communications templates, and other tips for making the most of this giving “holiday.”  
Click here for further details (including, again, that treasure trove of usable resources).

"Virtual Galas, Real-World Lessons"

Posted by jim on October 6, 2020

 

Dinnertime galas – where Friends and other donors wine and dine with popular authors to benefit their library – are a favorite fundraiser model in communities large and small. For obvious reasons, though, it’s not a strategy that translates with great ease into the digital space!

Fresh off their first-ever virtual Opus & Olives event (Minnesota’s largest Friends-sponsored author gala, and one that’s been on the scene 16 years), The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library are hosting a FREE webinar on the subject.


Liz Boyd (Director of Special Events) and Greg Giles (Sr. Director of Development) will recap what went well, what didn’t, and offer replicable ideas worth your consideration. Hosts will also welcome your stories about transitioning long-standing fundraisers to the virtual space – good, bad, and otherwise!

“Virtual Galas, Real-World Lessons” will take place 12:00-1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 14. 
Click here to register for the free webinar.

'Saturday Splash' Recap

Posted by jim on October 1, 2020

wkkk.jpgICYMI: Friends from Crookston to Rochester – and many points in between – convened virtually on September 19 for MALF’s inaugural Saturday Splash mini-conference. New York Times bestselling novelist William Kent Krueger delivered a stirring keynote on the timeless power of storytelling, and emceed MALF’s annual awards presentation.
 
If you missed the morning’s “edu-tainment,” care to revisit, or want to share with colleagues, Saturday Splash is now available for encore viewing on YouTube.

 
  ●  Saturday Splash (all segments) [1:50:43]
  ●  Evy Nordley Awards [41:51]
  ●  2020 Stand Up Friends Montage (full) [13:16]
 
If you joined us on the 19th and have not yet filled out the attendee survey, we would greatly appreciate your candid thoughts on Saturday Splash (both content and mode of delivery). Your feedback will be a shaping factor in MALF’s future virtual programming!

With an easy return to pre-pandemic “normalcy” seeming less and less likely, more and more libraries are doubling down on virtual storytimes for their youngest patrons. Large and nationally reputed libraries like New York City and San Francisco have enjoyed the limelight over the past several months for their rapid adoption and perfection of this new style of programming. However, as parents and tots across central Minnesota can attest, the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library have been right there with the Big Boys from the beginning.

brainerd.pngThe beginning, for all intents and purposes, was mid-March 2020. Long-time board member Sheila DeChantal landed on the concept as the perfect way to keep kids engaged with their Library during the unprecedented facility closure.

In a lightning fast turnaround, “Reading with Friends” moved from idea stage to implementation after just one brainstorm meeting and several frenzied calls with possible readers.

Fortunately for DeChantal, she had a ready short list of qualified prospects to tap. For the past eight years, The Friends in Brainerd have coordinated Wine and Words – a hugely successful gala featuring popular authors hailing from across Minnesota and beyond. Wine and Word “alumni” including Barbara Claypole White, Kristina McMorris, and Heather Gudenkauf volunteered to take early shifts. DeChantal herself took the inaugural morning slot on March 23, with the apropos selection “The Night Library” by David Zeltser.

Hungry for content, families tuned in – to the tune of 200-1,200 hits per episode. These impressive figures factor in views of recordings available after the time of original broadcast. Ready availability of that archive is a prime reason that The Friends tapped Facebook Live for their livestream needs.

facebooklive.pngThese numbers augured well. “While we did not place ads, we received newspaper and radio coverage for what we were doing, because it was one of the first programs back up and running in our community after COVID hit,” explained DeChantal.

Once the program gained momentum in this way, volunteers came out of the woodwork to apply. Between March and May, readers representing community organizations as diverse as the YMCA, United Way, and Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce put themselves forward. Naturally, library staff and Friends leaders also took a turn – or two.

Daily story times (excluding Sundays) concluded May 2. During this run, nearly 70 videos racked up an impressive 27,881 hits. Moreover, the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library grew their Facebook following nearly 50 percent: from 724 to 1,059.

In other ways, the dividends are harder to quantify. “We now have people checking in to see what we’re doing next,” DeChantal noted. The Friends parlayed some of that interest into views in their summer experiment: a series of Brown Bag Virtual Author Visits featuring award-winning novelists like Peter Geye, Brian Freeman, and Sarah Stonich.

fial.jpgIn addition to more than 350 brick-and-mortar public libraries, Minnesota is home to dozens of bookmobiles and outreach stations. Satellite service sites like these are necessary to extending regular library service to residents in Minnesota’s most rural areas. The compact Isanti Outreach Library (part of the East Central Regional Library) is a perfect example.

Outsiders could be forgiven for not expecting anything beyond the minimum from Isanti Outreach Library. It is tucked into one corner of Isanti City Hall, has just one computer terminal, and is open only four hours a week. In many ways, however, this Library hits beyond its weight class. The Friends of the Isanti Area Library (FIAL) and their periodic book sales are one reason why.

While book sales are of course a Friends fundraiser staple, we’re not aware of any before now that have been held in a bowling alley!  

It wasn’t always this way. Lacking spaces within their modest Library to organize and display materials, FIAL hosted their first five annual sales inside a member’s home. Once the materials on offer approached 4,000 (in a town of 5,200, mind you!), this venue became untenable.

Mike Warring, owner Bowling Junction, sits on the board of the Friends. For the sixth annual sale – held in February 2019 in conjunction with I Love to Read Month – the Friends set up shop at this popular community establishment on the north side of Isanti.

FIAL Book Sale MW.jpegWishing to optimize the added square footage and “plus” the event, FIAL invited area authors to set up tables around the periphery of the book sale for meet-and-greets and signings.

This move drew book lovers who do not frequent book sales as a general rule. FIAL’s strategic pricing structure also drew in browsers from every adjoining county and beyond.

“We sold all materials for 25 cents each. When asked why we didn’t charge more, we reminded people that our primary goal is getting books into the hands of citizens – making money is secondary. For example, I saw one mother with three children at the sale. She told them they could each choose only one book, because that’s what she could afford. If we charged even 50 cents, those children could have missed out.”

At the same time, however, volunteers manning checkout encouraged buyers able to do so to donate to FIAL beyond this base fee. Consequently, revenue on the 1,700 items sold was substantial by the standards of a rural outreach library.

FIAL will use the proceeds in expand their community reach in the coming year. Among other uses, they intend to purchase Give & Take Bookshelves (somewhat like a Little Free Libraries) for installation within various community businesses.

Some say that it’s not about what you know, but who you know. However, any such distinctions are moot for husband-and-wife team and Marine Library Association stalwarts Gayle Knutson and Jim Maher. Their latest passion project, “River Radio,” is the newest initiative to come out of an unconventional Library with a long track record for creativity.

river-radio.jpgMarine Community Library is one of only a handful of volunteer-run public libraries in the Upper Midwest. Although formerly part of the Washington County Library system, the Library reconstituted itself as a Friends of the Library operation after budget belt-tightening threatened its closure in 2011. While small in square footage, the Marine Community Library offers most of the services available at larger and more conventionally funded libraries.

Knutson and Maher are prominent among the residents who regularly contribute their time and talents to the Library’s operations. In fact, Maher is currently chairperson of the Association’s board of directors.

Providentially, both Friends are also veterans of the radio world. After the heightening coronavirus pandemic brought normal operations to an abrupt halt in March, the pair decided to deploy their skills in service to the Library. With assistance from fellow Friends, they hatched “River Radio” – named in homage to Marine’s location along the St. Croix River.

Ingeniously, the partners realized that you don’t need FM airwaves – or even a true station – to pull off a successful radio show. They invest just a few bucks a month into a Zoom videoconference subscription, which they tap for its reliable audio recording and broadcasting capabilities.

River Radio debuted on March 28, and new episodes have debuted weekly ever since. Featured subjects truly run the gamut, and this impressive topical diversity is matched by guest speakers’ credentials in their respective fields. Knutson and Maher have welcomed Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, NPR/MPR senior economics reporter Chris Farrell, and award-winning folk musician John Gorka. Other guests to date have included the mayors of Marine and Scandia, University of Minnesota specialists in economics and epidemiology, and representatives from the National Park Service and varied history and culture institutions.

_logoSmall.jpgUnsurprisingly, given the origins of River Radio, speakers from area libraries and bookstores are also frequent guests of Knutson and Maher.

As you can glean from that line up, the program offers timely content on the unfolding COVID-19 crisis – as well as much needed diversions.

“We feel that River Radio has had great impact on the wellbeing of the Marine community, offering at least something from the Library during the continuing closure,” explained Loralee DiLorenzo, vice chair of the Marine Library Association. On-air surveys, available through Zoom to listeners who tune in live, corroborate the sentiment.

Fortunately for residents of Marine – and really, anyone in or even beyond Washington County who cares to tune in – River Radio is likely to stick around. “The Library is considering offering occasional episodes for part of the summer, and then a more regular schedule again in the fall.”

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