Minnesota Association of Library Friends

Recruiting talented, invested and diverse leaders is a challenge for any all-volunteer enterprise – even in the best of times. And these are far from the best of times.

That’s not the only pain point, either. Once on board – pardon the pun – new recruits need to be trained in. It sounds so basic, but MALF routinely fields queries from Friends board members confused about their role, responsibilities, and restrictions. This onboarding, or lack thereof, often reflects grey areas in a board’s policies and practices more generally.

If this is resonating, you might find value in MALF’s on-demand webinar Library Leadership Cultivation - During COVID-19, and Beyond.

Dozens of Friends joined us earlier this summer (virtually, of course!) for this live, free event keynoted by subject matter expert Mary Jo Wimmer. Principal consultant at Trillium Leadership Development and a senior trainer for the Blandin Foundation, Wimmer has coached scores of not-for-profits and civic bodies across Greater Minnesota on recruitment and leadership best practices.

Library Leadership Cultivation hinges around what Wimmer calls her Five Major Responsibilities, or pillars, of board excellence. Click here to watch the webinar on YouTube – and be on the lookout for news about MALF’s next 2020 webinar, coming soon to a screen near you!

MALF Announces COVID-19 Grant Recipients | Pt. 3

Posted by jim on August 13, 2020

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, MALF was able to expand our members-only COVID-19 Response Grant program to five more Friends groups (on top of our original slate of ten recipients)! They are:  

willmar.png11. Friends of the Willmar Public Library
Last summer, the Friends of the Willmar Public Library coordinated their first author gala. Featuring beloved Minnesota authors like William Kent Krueger and Kao Kalia Yang, the inaugural Wisdom and Wine netted $5,000 from a sellout crowd of more than 175 bibliophiles. Before the pandemic put the breaks on the 2020 sequel, the Friends had looked forward to hosting Faith Sullivan and Leif Enger. While this stellar line-up may come to fruition at some later date, MALF’s grant will cover projected summer reading and community read expenses for the Willmar Public Library in the meantime.

12. Friends of the Virginia Public Library
Virginia.jpgThe small Virginia Public Library, located halfway between Duluth and the Canadian border, leans heavily on its Friends group to offset a wide range of expenses. Proceeds from biannual Friends book sales go towards the library's summer reading program for area children; "Hot Reads for Cold Nights" winter programming for adults; and the popular Queen City Reads community initiative. Given the trajectory of the pandemic, it is likely that at least two – and maybe more – book sales will be cancelled before some manner of normalcy returns. MALF’s grant will cover part of the budgetary shortfall.

13. Marine Library Association
marine.jpgMarine Community Library is an all-volunteer enterprise – one of only a few operating in the Midwest. Needless to say, it is funded in a fairly unconventional way. As such, it is particularly vulnerable to the trials and travails of the pandemic. MALF's grant will assist greatly with Phase II of the Library's reopening plan, which requires a variety of structural changes to the facility (one of the oldest public buildings in Minnesota still used for public purposes). Purchases will include plexiglass barriers for the volunteer desk, hand sanitizer and disposable gloves, and other sanitation supplies.

14. Friends of the Lakeville - Heritage Library
lakeville.jpgWhile the doors of the Lakeville Heritage Library (Dakota County Library) may be closed and its services limited, the Friends want to make sure that residents retain some connection to this valued public resource. As one means to that end, the Friends are kickstarting a virtual book club. This move brings with it implementation and publicity expenses, albeit modest ones. In addition, the Friends are considering a wide-ranging awareness campaign targeted at Lakeville residents of all ages. Among other inexpensive giveaways, they will distribute Friends- branded chalk to children.

15. Friends of the Saint Cloud Public Library
StCloud2.jpgIt's not unusual for the Friends of the Saint Cloud Library to raise more than $50,000/yr for Great River Regional Library. Much of this income comes from an on-site bookstore that is one of the best kept secrets in Stearns County. When the pandemic shuttered the Library, however, it also closed down this year-round source of revenue. In a normal year, much of the Friends’ proceeds go towards children’s programming and achievement prizes. Expecting a singularly strange school year, the Friends will use MALF’s grant to ensure at least a modicum of normalcy remains for Saint Cloud’s younger residents.

Join Us September 19 for 'Saturday Splash'!

Posted by jim on August 7, 2020



COVID-19 has had a distressing ripple effect within public libraries, forcing the closure of buildings and wholesale cancellation of programs. Friends' activities, including MALF’s, are by no means excluded from this tsunami wave. If all had gone to plan, 2020 would have been a year jam-packed with workshops and seminars across the state.

In lieu of these in-person opportunities, MALF is preparing to make a splash (in a positive way) next month. Please join us the morning of September 19 for the inaugural and fully virtual “Saturday Splash.”

kent.pngNew York Times bestselling novelist William Kent Krueger will keynote and emcee the festivities, which will run from 10 a.m. to about noon. Krueger, best known to many for his chart-topping Cork O’Connor mystery series, will kick off the program with a keynote talk on the timeless power of storytelling (and the role libraries play in preserving and spreading stories). An audience Q&A will follow.

Next, MALF will introduce our three 2020 Evy Nordley Award finalists. Representatives from the Friends of the Library in Brainerd (“Virtual Storytimes”), Marine on St. Croix (“River Radio”) and Isanti (“Bowling Junction Book Sale”) will recap the planning and implementation of their innovative and replicable 2019-2020 projects, before William Kent Krueger announces the big winner. Top prize is $1,000.

MALF will cap off Saturday Splash with a celebration of our 2020 class of Stand Up for Standout Friends. Each year since 2016, we have honored local movers and shakers whose dedication and energy help their Friends group and Library excel. We would hate for this popular recognition program to go dormant, and so are happy to transition it to the virtual space!

Saturday Splash is completely free to attend, but advance registration is required. Please do so by September 12 (i.e., one week before the event) at the latest.


NOTE: After you click SUBMIT, you should see "Webinar Registration Approved" in blue lettering. This confirms reservation of your spot on September 19. You will NOT receive an email at time of registration. However, MALF will send reminders to attendees as we draw close to the date. (Feel free to make a record of the Webinar ID and Join Link at the bottom of the confirmation screen, but know that these details will be provided again in those forthcoming MALF emails.)

MALF Announces COVID-19 Grant Recipients | Pt. 2

Posted by jim on July 27, 2020

6. Friends of the Pelican Rapids Library
be5df7f3-b5b7-42a6-94d9-b2bbe7a7d7c3.pngLibraries are for everyone – even the very youngest among us. In service to this mantra, the Friends of the Pelican Rapids Library gifts a complimentary “Baby Bundle” to each newborn in their Library’s service area. Bundles include a flannel receiving blanket, crocheted sweater, handmade quilt, library card application form and (of course!) board books. MALF’s grant ensures continuity of this popular program, even while the Friends’ profitable book sales and silent auction are necessarily on pause.

7. Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries
brochure.jpgOut of an abundance of caution, many Minnesotans are seizing on this turbulent time as the perfect opportunity to assess their estates and revisit personal wills. The Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries (FRCL) hope that library lovers in their area will consider including The Friends as
recipients of a planned gift. Families who pledge such a gift in advance are honored as part of a select Legacy Circle. FRCL will use MALF’s grant to hire a graphic designer to create collateral materials explaining and promoting this growing Legacy Circle.

8. Friends of the Rochester Public Library 
intern1.pngDuring a “normal” year, the Friends of the Rochester Public Library subsidizes a $1,000 education scholarship for one of the Library’s interns. (Beneficiaries are selected through an essay contest focused around applicants’ feelings on the importance of libraries.) In the wake of the pandemic, the Friends have suspended donation intake and seen online book sales slow to a trickle. They will use MALF’s grant to fill the resulting budgetary shortfall, thereby ensuring that a 2020 intern can receive the usual stipend to offset tuition and textbook costs.

9. Friends of the Rock County Library 
53bed07a-7fd7-4fa5-b80a-8f4106185f3a.jpgAs is the case just about everywhere, children in and around Luverne are missing their usual summer pastimes: camps, sports, and the like. Library programming is another casualty of COVID-19 closures. As a substitute for all the fun activities that cannot be held in the Rock County Community Library this summer, the Friends are funding biweekly “Make and Take” crafts. Free for the taking, these kits tie into the Library’s summer reading program theme (Dig Deeper). In this trying time, parents can never have enough screen-free diversions!

10. Friends of the Saint James Library
ancestry.pngCOVID-19 has adversely impacted every aspect of the Friends of the Saint James Library's diverse fundraising model. Less revenue, in turn, makes for exceptionally touch choices on what the Friends fund for the Watonwan County Multicultural Library. One asset deemed especially important is Ancestry [dot] com. MALF's grant will go a long way toward guaranteeing patrons continuity of this perennially popular amenity.


MALF Announces COVID-19 Grant Recipients | Part 1

Posted by jim on July 25, 2020

Earlier this summer, nearly two dozen Friends of the Library organizations submitted a proposal as part of MALF’s special COVID-19 Response Grant program. This strong turnout – and the diversity of funding priorities identified – offers a compelling proof that Friends provide a vital bulwark to their libraries in tough times. (As if further evidence were needed!) 

In the interest of fairness, MALF’s judging panel conducted a randomized drawing to identify the ten winners. Each will receive a $500 grant for their specified purpose.   

1. Becker County Friends of the Library
As the Lake Agassiz Regional Library system deliberates over reopening plans and procedures, hygiene and PPE are top of mind. Becker County Friends of the Library wish to soften the budgetary impact of these measures. They plan to purchase plexiglass barriers for all service desks; floor decals to signal one-way directional flow and encourage social distancing; and disposable masks for the Detroit Lakes Public Library and satellite LINK locations in the towns of Lake Park, Cormorant and Frazee.

2. Friends of the Buffalo Library
For years, the Buffalo Public Library has touted its services and upcoming events with a roadside sign strategically located along Buffalo’s main traffic corridor. In its current incarnation, the sign is small (limiting what can be advertised) and lightweight (liable to blow over in inclement weather). The Friends will use MALF’s grant to purchase a larger, more durable replacement – one boasting wheels for easy transport and a sand ballast port to combat strong winds. Leftover funds will go toward 24'' x 76‘’standing signs for the Library’s vestibule.

3. Friends of the Cook Library
Last year, generous Friends funding allowed the small but proud Cook Public Library to expand its physical footprint with a front patio. This outdoors addition allows patrons additional space to read and to access the free WiFi. In this Age of Coronavirus, the easy social distancing allowed by the patio makes it an even more valuable asset. Unfortunately, the original project budget could not be stretched to purchase tables or chairs for the new space. The Friends will use MALF’s grant to purchase appropriate furnishings.

4. Friends of the Fergus Falls Library
Library staff everywhere are going “above and beyond the call of duty,” ensuring patrons continuity of vital services during this uncertain and unprecedented time. Needless to say, many of the safety and service measures now in place were not part of their original training! In recognition of this fact, Friends of the Fergus Falls Library wish to allocate money to a staff development fund. MALF’s grant enables the Friends to provide a range of online continuing education and virtual networking opportunities.

5. Jackson County Friends of the Library
Minnesota's libraries sponsored more than 72,000 events, classes and other programs in 2018. That averages out to more than 200 per location! Naturally, 2020 will be a stark contrast given the rash of spring and summer cancellations – plus continuing uncertainly about when group activities can resume. In recognition of this fact, Jackson County Friends of the Library intend to purchase a recording kit for Library staff to conduct virtual storytimes and book clubs. Kit will include an iPad, high quality microphone kit, and tripod with mount.

MALF Seeks Board Treasurer

Posted by jim on July 23, 2020

MALF is currently seeking a board treasurer to serve a 2-year term (with the option of renewal). Among other key responsibilities, the Treasurer guides the creation of MALF's annual budget, liaises with the organization’s CPA and investment management firms, and records all transactions in QuickBooks. Other duties and expectations are laid out in the position posting.

If interested, submit a resume and cover letter to Apply by 
Friday, August 14 for first consideration.

Across our state, libraries and Friends groups of all sizes are grappling with a pair of year-defining issues. COVID-19, and the resultant closure of brick-and-mortar libraries, has created social isolation and exacerbated existing resource gaps in many communities. This, alone, would make 2020 an historic year for Minnesota –– but of course, that’s not all. Since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, our state has also become a flashpoint for national conversations about race and racism.  

With this background in mind, the Minnesota Center for the Book kickstarted a statewide community read program. (Its inaugural season, featuring Newbery Award winner Kate DiCamillo and her beloved classic Because of Winn-Dixie, engaged libraries, classrooms, and book clubs across the state. More than 3,000 attendees “turned out” – virtually, that is – for a capstone talk and Q&A by the author herself on May 20. You can view a recording

Over the summer, the Center for the Book and its partners invite readers to take an unflinching – and, frankly, long overdue – look at the stark racial disparities all around us. As a vehicle for this exploration, the second One Book | One Minnesota selection is A Good Time for the Truth. In this series of essays, sixteen of Minnesota’s best writers offer candid and often heart-wrenching stories about what it means to be a Native person or person of color in modern-day Minnesota.

How Friends Can Participate

Now through August 23, residents of Minnesota can access a free e-book copy of A Good Time for the Truth through EBooks Minnesota! In addition, a variety of reading guides and other downloadable resources are available (here) for book clubs and other interested parties.

Naturally, with a topic as broad and as sensitive as racism, brave and honest conversations can be difficult to start. In recognition of this fact, the Minnesota Center for the Book has curated lists of both authors/speakers and experienced discussion facilitators for libraries, Friends groups, and private workplaces to turn to for assistance.

This list includes 13 of the A Good Time for the Truth essayists, including collection editor Sun Yung Shin and Minnesota Book Award winners Heid E. Erdrich, Shannon Gibney, Carolyn Holbrook, Diane Wilson, and Kao Kalia Yang. (See the complete list
 here.) Each is ready and eminently qualified to lead your group through a productive conversation around race and racism… through Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, or any number of other virtual tools.

Click here for further details, including honorarium recommendations for invited speakers.

Note: If you are an active member of MALF, your Friends are encouraged to consider our Chris D. Olson Event & Programming Grant as a means to cover some (and very possibly, all) expenses attendant with such a program!

Evy Nordley Award: Deadline Fast Approaching!

Posted by jim on July 3, 2020

If you wrack your brain and think waaaay back, can you remember the year 2019? Given the eventful, tumultuous year we’re only mid-way through, it can be surprisingly difficult! However, before library closures and social distancing measures interrupted the flow of “normal” operations, Minnesota’s many Friends of the Library groups conducted a number of clever and successful fundraisers, membership drives, and library programs. We’d hate to give them short shrift.

Remember: Friends initiatives orchestrated any time after January 1, 2019 are eligible for MALF’s 2020 Evy Nordley Award for Best Project. Top prize is $1,000, and monetary prizes will also be awarded to runners-up.

Given the current climate, MALF is foregoing the traditional finalist presentation component of the Award. In lieu of any in-person presentation, a rep from each finalist group will instead be asked to prepare a brief PowerPoint and record an 8-10- minute talk outlining the planning and implementation of their project. MALF will handle all tech considerations, including but not limited to recording and editing. Recordings can be done at a time convenient for each finalist.

After some light postproduction work, these short packages will be shared with MALF’s membership. MP4 files will also be given to the participating finalists, to be used as a video “calling card” to promote The Friends’ visibility and recruitment efforts!

Applications are due this Friday, July 10
. See our website for program details and application form.

rss-feed Archive




Newsletter Sign-up