Evy Nordley Finalist Spotlight: Pipestone Area Friends of the Library

Last fall, for one night only, the Pipestone Area Friends of the Library (PAFL) transformed the local Meinders Community Library into southwest Minnesota’s most innovative museum.

Pipestone’s library is a relative rarity in today’s landscape, notes director Jody Wacker. It is a combined school and public library facility; it serves the Pipestone Area Schools, as well as the 4,000-person community at large. “We are therefore in a unique position to create ties inter-generationally, and across the cultural and socio-economic divides common in our town,” Wacker explained.

PAFL did just that on November 20 with its inaugural “Night at the Museum” – the largest ever library event hosted inPipestone.

pipeston.gifInspired loosely by the popular movie of the same name, the event’s dovetailing goals were to give students an opportunity to showcase their artwork, bridge generation gaps, and get people into the library. “Students have few people with whom to share their art and academic success with, as school projects that take time and effort are then typically crammed into backpacks and are often seen only by teachers and parents,” Wacker explained.

Planning and promotion began in September. All told, 216 area students (3rd-12th grades) contributed a total of 91 exhibits to Night at the Museum. These varied widely, from canvas art and educational displays, to short feature films and podcasts – and even a cheesecake-making demonstration and a scone taste-testing!

A turnout of over 160 attendees beat expectations – despite the night coinciding with the year’s first big snowfall. After the main event, 50 students and adults stuck around to watch “Night at the Museum.”

For a program with so many moving pieces, PAFL’s event could not have been more cost effective. The Friends provided about $35 towards refreshments, but most other costs were picked up by local media and patron donors. Naturally, the students did most of the set-up and tear-down work.

Building on this first year’s success, Jody Wacker feels that as little as $500 for paid promotions would go a long way towards making any “sequels” even bigger community affairs.

By all accounts, Night at the Museum is an achievement worth repeating. “We successfully brought together two demographics within our community that typically have little interaction and great misconceptions of each other: our youth and our elderly,” Wacker said. “All night – and for months afterward – we heard how much people enjoyed spending time with the youth and seeing them in a whole new light. The impact was significant enough that the library continues to highlight student projects.”