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MALF Blog

Minnesota Association of Library Friends

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
 here.)

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.

Reminder: Members-Only COVID-19 Grant Program

Posted by jim on June 11, 2020

One week remains to put your Friends of the Library forward as a candidate for MALF’s special COVID-19 Grant Response Program. Up to ten grants, each of ≤ $500, are available. Qualified expenses include virtual programming, direct operational costs incurred by Friends, and direct support to the library.

Eligible applicants are support organizations that (1) serve a Minnesota-based public, school K-12, college/university, or special library, (2) are 501(c)3 nonprofits eligible to receive tax-deductible donations, and in good standing with the IRS and Minnesota Secretary of State, (3) are current in their annual MALF membership dues, and (4) are willing to report back on expenditures and impacts using a 1-page template provided by MALF. 

Additional details, plus application form, are available
 here.

June 10 Webinar - Last Call!

Posted by jim on June 9, 2020

Thanks to everyone who has registered for tomorrow’s (1-3 p.m.) webinar, Library Leadership Cultivation - During COVID-19, and Beyond. We’re expecting a good crowd!

Attendees can expect a primer on a board’s Five Major Responsibilities, pointers on sowing seeds for future success, and low-pressure breakout activities that will drive these messages home.

Missed the sign-up cutoff? Good news: MALF is accepting a limited number of late registrants. Send an email to info@mnlibraryfriends.org before 11 a.m. on June 10, and a representative will share log-in details.

About Our Speaker: Since founding Trillium Leadership Development in 1992, Mary Jo Wimmer has coached dozens of not-for-profits, businesses and civic bodies across rural Minnesota toward actualizing their mission statements and achieving full organizational potential. Her core competencies include teamwork cultivation, leadership training, training on workplace conflict, and assisting organizations with intercultural competency development.

"Now, Today, This Very Minute..."

Posted by jim on June 2, 2020

Earlier this month, global library cooperative OCLC released a stirring call to action. It reads, in part:

“We sometimes refer to libraries and archives as memory institutions. That’s not a bad description. But it’s not complete. Because memory implies something that is in the past. Something that isn’t active. And so much of what happens in the work we do for our communities happens now, today, this very minute.

What is happening now requires a response. We must speak out against racism and injustice.”

In the two weeks since George Floyd’s tragic and shocking death in Minneapolis, libraries across the country have taken up OCLC’s call. Action plans differ – such is the nature of the diverse library landscape. We strongly encourage you to reach out to your library’s leadership about their equity initiatives (ongoing and in the works), and how the Friends might intersect with and amplify that work.


Looking for resources on how to spark a meaningful dialogue about racism and institutional inequities? Metronet has bundled curated lists of books, articles, documentaries (and more) in recent issues of MetroBriefs. They have thoughtfully archived recent issues of the publication here.

Speaking of standout leaders, take a moment and reflect. Does your Friends group have a strong pipeline of up-and-coming leaders? Is your recruitment process effectively stalled? Something in between?

Regardless of where exactly you fall on this spectrum, you’ll likely learn something of value in MALF’s upcoming webinar Library Leadership Cultivation: COVID-19, and Beyond.

Mary Jo Wimmer, business coach and founder of Trillium Leadership Development, will discuss recruitment, orientation, and board development more generally on Wednesday, June 10 (1:00 – 3:00 p.m.). As with our in-person workshops, the webinar is free to attend. However, advance registration is required.

In another nod to the surreal times we are collectively living through, MALF will cap the June 10 webinar with a free-form ideas sharing component. As with our in-person “popcorn style” sharing sessions (which we’ve enjoyed bringing to communities across the state since 2012), this is a no-agenda opportunity to air frustrations, share ideas, and learn a little about what your counterparts across Minnesota are up to.

Reminder: COVID-19 Grant Response Program

Posted by jim on May 26, 2020

MALF is still accepting applications for its COVID-19 Grant Response Program. Up to $500 is available per eligible Friends group to defray operational costs, jumpstart virtual programming, or provide direct support to your library in this time of pandemic.

What’s the catch? There isn’t one. Our newest grant program is intended to be broad and responsive in nature. After all, even in good times, library systems and the Friends groups supporting them are each a little different. As we inch towards recovery and a new normal, it stands to reason that each will do it a little differently.

Applications for this inaugural cycle of the COVID-19 Grant Response Program will be accepted, on a rolling basis, through Friday, June 19 and until certain cap limits are reached. Early submissions are encouraged, as the MALF Board of Directors will evaluate proposals and award funds on a monthly basis (and only until caps are hit). Click here for details.

Over the past four years, Friends of the Library groups in Minnesota have recognized an astounding sixty volunteers with MALF’s Stand Up for Standout Friends honorific. Interest in this program has far exceeded our modest expectations for it (not that we’re complaining)! Given this enthusiasm, MALF is pleased to announce that SUFSF will continue in 2020 – and, like so many things, make the jump to the virtual space.

What Are ‘Standout’ Qualities?
In short, it is up to you! Some may wish to acknowledge a current or former board member or other executive for their contributions in a leadership role. Others may choose to 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.

Program Benefits
MALF’s “Gallery of Friends” – which showcases the contributions and achievement of each Friend – is consistently the most visited section on our website. As in years past, we will feature a write-up on each honoree. We will also share word with United for Libraries (the Friends of the Library arm of the American Library Association), and draft personalized letters to mayors and other public officials in the hometown of each recipient (example).

Due to COVID-19, we will not be able to celebrate the 2020 “class” in person this fall. As a substitute, MALF will honor each in a video that will be aired as part of a soon-to-be-announced virtual Friends event in late September. See the nomination form for details.

Every recipient will also receive a matted and frameable Certificate of Recognition. As a final token of our thanks, honorees will receive a copy of Minnesota Book Award finalist “This Tender Land,” signed and personalized by Minnesota’s own William Kent Krueger!


Eligibility and Next Steps
Each member organization may only submit one name per year for the Standout Friends honor. Any Friend is eligible, provided he or she is part of a Friends of the Library group current in its MALF membership and is willing to have his or her name shared publicly on award materials distributed across the state.

Click here to access the nomination form. Submitters from previous cycles will find much that is familiar. Please pay mind to the acknowledgement checkboxes at the bottom of the page. Note also that, for the first time, we are requesting a photo of your candidate. Submit your application (and supplementary materials as appropriate) to 
info@mnlibraryfriends.org by Friday, August 7.  

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