Winston Churchill once opined that: “You make your living by what you get – but you make your life through what you give.” If judged by that yardstick, many Friends of the Library among us are leading an extremely rich lifestyle.
As a support organization for the whole of Minnesota, MALF is privileged to regularly hear stories about volunteers across the state who go above and beyond in service to their local Friends of the Library. This takes many forms. Last year alone, standout achievers rejuvenated (in one case, doubled) paid memberships. Others poured time and passion into brand new fundraisers. In at least two cases, volunteers even took on the herculean task of establishing a Friends nonprofit from scratch!
Most of these “Standout Friends” remain unsung heroes. In 2016, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends created its annual Stand Up for Standout Friends program as a chance to spotlight and celebrate volunteers who go above and beyond. Over the past 7 years, we have officially recognized no fewer than 90 honorees through video montages, conference presentations, letters to local elected officials, and other coordinated efforts.
Stand Up for Standout Friends is officially back for 2023. It’s likely to hold distinction as the year we celebrate our 100th award winner, and we want YOU to help add to the class!
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.
Perks include a matted certificate from MALF, commendation letter to the mayor and county commissioner in each recipient’s hometown, and a written featurette in an upcoming MALF e-newsletter.
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. In order to prevent duplicated efforts, MALF asks, though does not require, that the nomination come to us from the current president of each member Friends group.
In order to participate, your Friends group must make their selection and submit this form – along with an explanatory cover letter – to us by July 28, 2023. Please do so via email (to: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Austin native Peggy Keener has seen more of the world than most Minnesotans. During the 1960s, her husband Glen’s career in the armed forces required their growing family to live in the “Far East” (or so it was called at the time) for extended periods. In 2010, Peggy shared her challenges acclimating to new cultures – and her improbable claim to fame as a personality on Japanese television – in a memoir titled Potato in a Rice Bowl. Her book's release happened to coincide nicely with the first annual Austin Artworks Festival, held in 2011. This visit home, together with another to speak at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Austin Public Library, had a lasting influence on Peggy and factored heavily into the author’s decision to move back home.
Fortunately for Austin, the Friends' influence on Peggy is matched by her impact on the organization. She joined the board in short order and, in the words of current president Bethie Carlton, "completely transformed how our two annual book sales were run," pairing genre sorting with author alphabetization for the first time. Peggy was also a shaping influence behind the organization’s popular Christmas New Book Sale, which won the MALF Evy Nordley Award in 2015.
It is common enough for a Friends treasurer to manage endowments earmarked for new buildings, expanded collections, and staff professional development. But how many nonprofit treasurers do you know who have served as fiscal agent for a "Pteranodon Fund"? Blue Earth resident Wilma Bittinger holds that singular honor. For many years, the Blue Earth Community Library maintained a permanent Fossil Discovery Center. During that collection’s expansion phase, donors pooled to purchase a Pteranodon fossil model valued at $40,000. Wilma and the Friends of the Library ably managed those funds, cementing their library’s reputation as a unique destination for learning.
Wilma was an original member of the Friends of the Blue Earth Community Library. Like many founding leaders, she has had a finger in a wide range of Friends initiatives. Wilma prepares and serves treats for the Friends' annual Valentine tea, as well as for the Chamber of Commerce sponsored wine walk (which stops by the library). She sorts and finds homes for thousands of photo negatives donated to the Friends by defunct photography studios, stocks the four Little Free Libraries maintained by the Friends, coordinates the group's popular quilt fundraiser, and represents the library at Blue Earth’s annual Giant Days parade. Her impact is simply enormous – and for the record, so is that Pteranodon!
Cook Public Library may not rank among the largest or most trafficked libraries in Minnesota, but it punches above its weight class in terms of curb appeal. It wasn’t always this way. For years, the library suffered from blighted and crumbling flower beds. One day, Friend of the Library and green thumb Michelle Koskovich came to her board with a generous offer: supply a little seed money (pun intended), she would spearhead the demolition and redesign of the library’s landscaping. Michelle made good on her word, and the Cook Public Library is now graced with three 10-foot flower beds under the front windows.
Since Michelle first joined the Friends of Cook Public Library in 2019, the group has "bloomed" in other ways as well. Among other achievements, Michelle recently forged a promising partnership with the local McDonald's franchisee. Visitors to the popular McDonald’s PlayPlace in Cook can now browse (and take home) books from a large shelf maintained by the Friends. Michelle also deserves credit for meaningful behind-the-scenes changes to the group's Timber Days Book Sale, including sunsetting an impractical “Book Barn” in favor of an in-library solution for book sorting and storage.
That’s not all, either. In addition to the roles already named, she is also library board secretary, a circulation desk volunteer, and story time leader!
Friends of the Library often see deal hunters queue up early for first dibs at their book sale inventory. In Stuart (Stu) Mackechney, the Douglas County Friends and Foundation have something much rarer: a dedicated volunteer who vies to be the first in the door for book sorting, pricing, and the other tasks needed to hold those blockbuster sales in the first place! Stu is equally instrumental in the immediate run-up to sales, held at Alexandria’s large Runestone Community Center. He coordinates with the trucking department at Alexandria Technical & Community College to provide a semi-truck for moving day, and partners with the local high school baseball team to volunteer the muscle needed to set up the community center space.
Stu has marshalled small armies of volunteers in other ways, as well. He is active with LifeRight Outreach Transitional Housing Ministry, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the recently incarcerated reintegrate into society. Volunteering is one means towards that end. Likewise, Stu maintains ties to the Douglas County Sheriff’s office and is happy to find meaningful work for individuals required to give back to the community through the County’s sentence-to-serve program. In addition to the Friends of the Library, both the Douglas County Outreach Food Shelf (where Stu is president) and local Salvation Army benefit tremendously from the talents and connections of this Standout Friend.
During the COVID-19 lockdown and for months thereafter, most Friends book sale operations ground to a screeching halt. Ironically, lockdown also prompted many households to buckle down and deep clean their homes. This resulted in a “bumper crop” of used books and precious few places to donate them. In the Twin Cities, the Edina Community Library was a conspicuous exception – thanks largely to the efforts of Friends of the Library leader Chris Sadar.
After the pandemic forced Hennepin County Library branches shut their doors, Chris approached staff at the adjoining Edina Senior Center about serving as surrogate drop-off site for book donations. They agreed, on condition that the Friends pre-scheduled appointments and met donors at the door. Chris took those tasks upon herself, spending time on site nearly every Wednesday morning. The Friends of the Edina Library maintain the strong relationship with the Edina Senior Center forged during the pandemic. Donors still drop off books at the latter (though now, without appointments), and senior center staff maintain a cart and closet to store them.
Behind the scenes, Chris wears two hats: president and assistant treasurer. Her co-president Carol Goode describes Chris as an invaluable asset. “Chris handles all areas of her leadership with a prompt response and wise decisions. She has proven through her creativity, organizational skills, and positive attitude that the Friends can achieve our goals, even when the going gets tough.”
For library lovers in Hastings, 1993 stands out as an historic year. Thirty years ago, a fire ravaged their facility, causing $1 million in damages and destroying 73,000 books. Partly because of that setback, residents established the Friends of the Pleasant Hill (Hastings) Library that same year. Shirley Tammen has been a leader in this organization from Day 1. Early highlights of that long tenure include seeing the new Pleasant Hill Branch Library take shape and reopen to the public in September 1994 – just 15 months after that disastrous fire.
More recently, while serving a term as vice president, Shirley took ownership of the Friends’ scholarship initiative. Courtesy of this program, dozens of Hastings area high schoolers have graduated with a stipend to defray college expenses. Like so many Friends leaders, Shirley is also instrumental to her organization’s book sale operation. She serves as de facto volunteer coordinator, personally calling peers to arrange coverage for shifts. (She leads by example too, often working all these shifts herself.) Last but not least, Shirley maintains the Friends of the Pleasant Hill Library’s ‘Little Free Library’ footprint, including a heavily trafficked kiosk at the Three Rivers Mobile Home Park.
The Friends of the Heritage Library in Lakeville marked the group’s 15th anniversary in 2023. They have plenty to celebrate. Since the group’s inception in 2008, volunteers have launched numerous successful and sustainable programs. You will find the fingerprints of Standout Friend Donna Powell on nearly all of them – and that’s no coincidence.
"Donna Powell demonstrates her unwavering commitment to literacy, inclusivity and empowering others through her work here at the Friends,” shared group president Ann Brucciani Lyon. “We’re so fortunate to have Donna on our board and involved from the very beginning.”
Specifically, Donna has helmed the group’s book sale, an annual extravaganza that spans four days each fall. She was also a shaping influence behind OneBook, OneLakeville. As the name suggests, OneLakeville is a community-wide reading program. In years past, the Friends have showcased work from and coordinated author visits by literary luminaries like historical fiction mainstay Ruta Sepetys, bestselling memoirist George Hodgman, and Minnesota’s own William Kent Krueger. In 2023-24, Donna is helping the Friends pivot from the OneBook model to a new and no less exciting format, Books with Friends. Furthermore, she is reliably among the vanguard of Friends members who volunteer as a reading partner at Lakeville area schools.
Jerry Golden is an old-school “jack of all trade,” and at one point or another, he has deployed nearly all those handy skills in service to the Friends of the Isanti Area Outreach Library (FIAL). Over the years, Jerry has designed risers for book sale tables, constructed sawhorse style signs to advertise events, and contributed many other homemade solutions to Friends problems that would otherwise put strain on the group’s modest operating budget. Jerry and wife Penny have also installed and maintain a popular “Give and Take Library” in their own yard – almost as if Isanti’s outreach library has an outreach library of its very own!
Equally popular is a “Treats and Treasures” program which FIAL hosts each summer in order to draw Isanti County residents into the library. Visitors on that day receive a tote with freebies and coupons geared towards adults, tweens or children. Soliciting giveaways for this initiative is a months-long effort, and Jerry is never one to shy away from the ask.
In point of fact, he doesn’t shy away from much at all. “Jerry is a person who is always willing to respond to last-minute requests for assistance – and he does it with a smile,” shared FIAL president Susi McCune. He steps up for more than his fair share of the physical work associated with book sale sorting and set-up, and is equally versed in the desk work required to keep a nonprofit afloat. He served for years as treasurer, and is something of a de facto communications chair for the small group – regularly submitting press releases and news articles promoting Isanti Outreach Library and FIAL events.
William Lambert is well known to regulars at the Kasson Public Library, and so is his trusty GMC Sierra 1500 pickup. Both are central to the success of the Friends of Kasson Public Library’s biannual book sales. “Will manages the sales from start to finish – planning, scheduling, and staffing,” shared group treasurer John Talcott. Will and wife Maryann volunteer their trusty truck for the movement of merchandise and tables beforehand, and for the removal of unsalable books afterwards.
Will served on the board of the Friends of Kasson Public Library for nine years, including productive terms as president and secretary. His presidency coincided with the pandemic lockdown. During that tumultuous, uncertain time, many Friends groups paused their book gathering and sale operations altogether. Kasson took a different tack entirely. As a substitute for the usual summer and spring book sales, the Friends held free book giveaways in September and October 2020. It drew in takers from as far away as Oronoco and Zumbrota. In an interview with the Rochester Post Bulletin, Will explained the group’s generosity as follows: “We’re here to serve the community… and everyone [needed] some extra reading that winter."
With a population shy of 400, little McGregor, Minnesota is fortunate to have its own library. Residents in most communities of that size must travel one – or more – towns over to enjoy library services. Luckier still, the McGregor Public Library enjoys stalwart support from a small but dynamic Friends organization. Within those ranks, greatest thanks may be owed to volunteer Joan Wilson.
Joan can backdate her personal history with the group with precision: to October 22, 2003. On that date, she became involved with a library-sponsored book club. Unknown to her at the time, Joan would helm that group for an amazing 15 years! On June 16, 2005, she took on the further mantle of Friends of the Library president. The Friends can track milestones like these with pinpoint accuracy because of meticulous recordkeeping, which is one of Joan’s many legacies as a Friends leader. While keeping the house in order in this way, Joan also kept the general public apprised of Friends fundraisers and activities, even writing a “Joan’s Chatter” column in the local newspaper.
Joan’s single greatest legacy may be her stewardship of the Lights of Love program, a staple in the Friends’ programming year. Lights of Love offers residents the opportunity to purchase a luminary in memory of a lost loved one. Every year, those luminaries are hand-inscribed and lit on a special night. Proceeds go to a good cause (and you can probably guess which one).
Park Rapids resident Claire Evink enjoys a reputation across Hubbard County as someone who cares deeply about helping others. It comes well deserved. Claire worked in the healthcare industry for nearly 40 years before settling into retirement. In her case, though, retirement is something of a misnomer. Her commitment to others continues apace. At the suggestion of a friend, Claire joined the Friends of the Park Rapids Area Library. It was not necessarily a hard sell. Claire received her first library card in eighth grade. She treasures that distinct memory to this day, and has remained an avid library user ever since.
Claire is now a true tour de force within the Friends of the Park Rapids Area Library. You will find her hard at work in support of the group’s quarterly book sales, which require behind-the-scenes sorting sessions every week in order to pull off. She is the volunteer in charge of labeling books with their prices – a responsibility which many volunteers find tedious, but which Claire has been happy to shoulder. Claire also decides which titles merit inclusion in the sales’ “face out” displays. Colleagues agree that she has a unique knack for knowing which merchandise is most likely to catch the eye of book sale browsers.
In baseball, every team manager knows the worth of a strong pinch hitter: a substitute player who can be relied on to step up to the plate with little notice and no hesitation. The Friends of the Plymouth Library boast something of a "pinch hitter" of their own in volunteer extraordinaire Katherine Jaeger. Katherine joined the Friends board in 2011, and took the financial reins as treasurer in 2024. In 2016, organizational needs pivoted Katherine's attention from finances to book sales. She chaired the book sale committee until 2018, after which point she returned to the treasurer role.
No matter her formal role, though, Katherine demonstrates a commitment to organizational efficiency and sustainability. She is responsible for establishing the Friends' business accounts at Office Depot, UPS and Amazon Smile, as well as for setting the group up with their first Post Office box. Katherine has designed and printed promotional materials for Friends-sponsored garden sales, recruited and orientated new colleagues as chair of the nominating committee, and developed reusable "punch lists" for the benefit of book sale volunteers.
Friends president (and former Standout Friend) Cathy Fischer praises: "We so value how Katherine cheerfully fills in or assists on tasks when others are not able to do them, as well as her penchant for improving the processes and procedures of this organization."
Friends leader Judy Anderson enjoys a unique perspective on youth literacy. Her professional background includes time as school librarian at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood, as school media specialist for several metro elementary schools, and as a volunteer reader for the blind at a special Minneapolis charter school. She has found another perfect outlet for this devotion to youth literacy in the form of the Ramsey County Library Friends.
Judy joined the board of directors in 2009 and served in leadership capacities for six years. Among other achievements, Judy co-created the popular Reading Friends Literacy Program. Launched in 2010 with Judy as the first volunteer, this initiative aims to enhance the literacy skills of underserved K-5 students living across Ramsey County. The Friends reach that audience through partnerships with community organizations like Early Childhood and Family Education (ECFE), Head Start, and Community Partners With Youth. Once the program proved popular, the Friends recruited additional volunteers and expanded to three community locations in New Brighton and White Bear Lake.
While tutoring is typically a sit-down activity, other Friends activities keep Judy on her feet. Highlights include serving on the "Book Cart Drill Team," which represents the Friends in parades, and coordinating ice cream socials and other public events held in support of Ramsey County Library capital campaigns.
As a general rule, copying someone's school work is frowned upon, and it rarely leads to a good end. As an amusing exception, the Friends of the Rochester Public Library can point to their own Al Dollerschell. While attending St. Cloud State University in the 1950s for a teaching degree, Dollerschell “copied” a friend’s example and tacked on a minor in library science. He did not think too much of the decision at the time; but in short order, librarianship would become his career and calling. Decades later, after retiring from full-time work at Rochester Community & Technical College (Goddard Library), Al decided to commit his experience to the betterment of Rochester Public Library.
Al accepted a part-time cataloging job at RPL in 1997 and joined the Friends of the Rochester Public Library that same year. He would serve on the board of the latter for nearly a decade, from 2001 to 2010, including terms as President and VP. He remains active in book sales, and holds a singular distinction: single-handedly raising $110,000 for the library. He hit that milestone in March 2021 after research and selling thousands of books online. Al pivoted his attention from traditional book sales to Amazon resale back in 2004, when a book dealer purchased a book priced at 50 cents but later resold for hundreds of dollars online. Trial and error, coupled with his decades of first-hand experience in librarianship, allowed him to grow sales from an average of $100/mo. to a remarkable (and record) $10,000 in Summer 2007!
Babbitt, Minnesota sits at the edge of the Iron Range and is home to just 1,400 souls. In a community this size, a passionate and well-positioned volunteer can touch almost everyone in town. Friends of the Library member Beth Morgan is proof that this is so. For the past seven years, Beth has led the library’s popular summer reading program. As other Friends involved in these programs can attest, this is no nominal leadership role. Since 2016, Beth has led more than 70 storytime and activity sessions for kids of all ages. While she is now a seasoned session leader, she still devotes prep time to each and every program as if it were her first. It’s a labor of love that doesn’t go unnoticed. Beth’s personal motto – “You can learn it at the library” – is now a saying all across Babbitt.
From their impressive level of activity, one would never guess that the Friends of the Blue Earth Community Library is among the newest Friends groups in Minnesota. Founding member Nelda Turner is a big part of the reason this is so. Since the group’s inception in 2015, Nelda has applied for and received several Thrivent Action Grants to bankroll popular programs like an annal Valentine’s Day Tea. She is also the steward of a large photo archive bequeathed to the Friends from not one but eight area photo studios. This unsorted but invaluable cache of materials chronicles the history of Faribault County. Last but not least, Nelda is an essential part of Blue Earth’s semi-annual used book sales. We’d wager that few volunteers anywhere in the state have clocked as many hours hauling, sorting and shelving books as has Nelda Turner.
It seems like there’s always something new cooking at the Cook Public Library. Staff credit much of that creative energy to multitalented multitasker Kathy Sacchetti. After dipping her toe into the proverbial waters as a circulation desk volunteer in 2016, Kathy joined the small but mighty Friends of the Library. In the years since, she has worn the hats of secretary, treasurer and president. Kathy’s leadership skills shined particularly bright during the pandemic, which forced closure of the library building and a pivot to online and outdoor activities. Patrons may know Kathy best as one of the faces behind the library’s summer reading program and elementary school book club. Although Kathy’s professional background is in education, not development work, her surprising aptitude for grant-writing has been a boon for the Friends’ coffers. Last: If you ever visit the Cook Public Library – look up! The moose-themed barn quilt hanging above the library entrance was handmade by Kathy Sacchetti.
When it comes to Friends of the Library book sales, the Friends of Douglas County Library punch well above their weight class. Alexandria’s annual extravaganza has been a community highlight for nearly 40 years. When the sale outgrew the library, organizers shifted operations to the local National Guard Armory. Last August, the sale moved to the even bigger Runestone Community Center. Before doors opened on Day 1, volunteers had to set out and load up more than 120 tables. Organizers are confident they would not have pulled off that herculean task without the cheery leadership and tireless work ethic of Bob Dokken. Bob’s role is not confined to the week of the event. He delivers empty boxes to the library every month, and stages a backroom space for the Friends’ periodic book sorting parties. After the action dies down, he also finds a home for unsold inventory so the group can start afresh after every book sale.
Tarik Kamel has chaired the board of the Kasson Public Library for nine years. While that tenure is impressive enough on its face, it is doubly so when one considers what a transformative period the past decade has been for Kasson. Six years ago, the community constructed a brand-new library – one that is unlike any other in Minnesota. Its design is centered around a monolithic concrete dome. In a town with fewer than 7,000 residents, public construction on this scale requires public/private partnerships. Tarik was active behind the scenes with both ends of the public/private equation. In addition to his more formal role on the library board, Tarik is an enthusiast of and proponent for graphic novels. Visitors will find the Kasson Public Library well stocked in that department, courtesy of Tarik. If so inclined, odds are good you can find an opportunity to thank him in person. He regularly volunteers at summer reading events, Christmas programs, and other happenings at the newly revitalized Kasson Public Library.
Lynette Cargill has been an active and proud member of the Friends of the Lakeville Heritage Library for many years – too many to count. While she humbly refers to herself as a worker bee, Lynette’s peers will tell you that her contributions to the group’s programming efforts extend well beyond set-up and tear-down. Lynette is one of the shaping forces behind the library’s popular community read initiative, OneBook OneLakeville. She has also organized events in her own right. Standouts include a memorable Hmong Family Day at the Library, where participants celebrated Hmong culture through games, storytelling and art projects geared towards all ages. Library staff value Lynette for her astute suggestions around community partnerships and outreach tactics, and her fellow Friends appreciate how she models volunteerism to younger generations. She even brings her own granddaughter to volunteer at library events!
Sue Keller of Park Rapids may be Hubbard County’s most seasoned traveler. By the end of this year, when she returns from a sojourn in Australia, she will have visited each continent at least once. In between her globe-trekking adventures, she is so committed to the Friends of the Park Rapids Area Library that it may as well be a full-time job. In support of the group’s book sales, Sue attends weekly sorting sessions, researches the value of old and rare titles, and designs attention-grabbing posters. Thanks to the spirited efforts of Sue and a few other die-hard volunteers like her, this community of 4,000 is able to maintain not annual or biannual, but quarterly Friends book sales. Sue is also an avid quilter and enthusiastic member of a Park Rapids quilting group. She merges her passions by selling raffle tickets for quilt prizes, with proceeds benefiting the Park Rapids Area Library.
Dianne Dirkswager joined the Friends of Ramsey County Libraries in 1990, and served on the board of directors for a full 15 years. Her contributions to the group’s work are almost too many to name. For years, she coordinated a popular author luncheon series – seeing to everything from registration, to menu planning, to handcrafting beautiful table centerpieces. She also piloted a school partnership that brought Maplewood elementary students to the library for a tour and their first library card. That effort garnered an award from the American Library Association in 1994. Field trips of this sort are now commonplace, but Dianne was a true trailblazer. Her peers have come to expect this level of creativity. Other trend-setting ideas from the mind of Dianne Dirkswager include an antique appraisal event sponsored by the Friends. Even after rotating off the Friends board, Dianne has contributed to the Friends’ mission in ways that few others could. For example, she played a pivotal role in the 2006-2007 capital campaign that raised more than $113,000 towards renovation of the Maplewood Public Library.
Rochester Public Library is one of only a handful in Minnesota that maintains a year-round, brick and mortar bookstore presence. Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, this fixture of the downtown library shut its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic. That hiatus lasted longer than anyone expected, in part because the long-serving bookstore manager retired the following May. Seeing a void in leadership (not to mention Friends revenue), board member Dee Voldal stepped up to the plate. Instead of simply slipping into her predecessor’s shoes, though, Dee made the strategic decision to first evaluate the store’s operations model for efficiency and sustainability best practices. That brainstorming led to the creation of a six-person bookstore management team. Many hands make for light work, and Rochester Public Library’s bookstore reopened better than ever in October 2021 – a full 20 months after its closure. Make no mistake: It would not have happened without the initiative and ingenuity of Dee Voldal.
Mary Thrash has been a stalwart leader of the Friends of the Bemidji Public Library for more than 30 years. Her contributions to that cause seem countless. Marquee achievements include helming the Friends when the Bemidji Public Library built its current facility in 1994-95. She has also proven herself a key ingredient to the enduring success of the group’s on-site Red Door Bookstore – one of the Friends’ biggest money makers.
Mary’s lifelong passion for libraries, and the equitable access to information that they enable, grows from experiencing injustices and disappointments in her youth. In her segregated school district, county authorities promised weekly library service to every school – hers included. In practice, however, this service started out as erratic, and eventually stopped altogether… at least in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, where children needed and craved this lifeline most. But with Friends and advocates like Mary, we can be sure that such injustices will not be repeated.
Judy Rardin and Rita Hamann are the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library’s indispensable 'book sale ladies.' In a typical year, they head up not one but three annual book sales. These generate between $15,000 and $18,000 of the organization’s budget.
Obviously, the last year and a half have been anything but normal – but Judy and Rita have been far from idle. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the pair have created new and innovative opportunities for local Friends (and the Brainerd community at large) to purchase books… all in compliance with ever-changing CDC and local guidelines on gatherings. That’s no small feat. Remarkably, Rita, Judy and a small group of loyal volunteers have raised more than $12,000 since October 2020 – allowing the Brainerd Friends to maintain their financial commitment to their beloved library.
Cook Public Library has an unofficial mascot: the majestic moose. A moose statue can be found outside this small library in rural St. Louis County; a taxidermy moose graces the inside; and the animal can be found throughout branded materials. Credit for this last goes to Standout Friend and artist extraordinaire Josh Olson.
The Friends of Cook Public Library count on Josh to craft brochures and flyers for a host of occasions. Recent examples include their winter and summer reading programs, the library’s “quilt month,” a special fundraiser for new carpeting, and the Friends’ fun Cozy Mystery play series. For this last, Josh has also shown his thespian side and pitched in as a character actor. In a town of Cook’s size, the library really does depend on its Friends of the Library – and they, in turn, rely on Josh.
The Friends of Edina Community Library feel extraordinarily fortunate to count Connie Brekken among their leaders. Over the years, she has served with distinction as president – not just once, but over four consecutive terms. She has also taken a turn as both VP and Volunteer Coordinator.
Connie shares her passion and experience as a Friends leader with every onboarding board leader. In addition to these officer and mentor duties, this Standout Friend is an exemplary project manager, as well. Most recently, she shepherded a large Friends bequest earmarked for design and construction of a public art installation. Visitors to the Edina Community Library are now greeted by the photo-worthy "Bear and Bunny" sculptural bench in the front entry plaza.
Pat Fideldy’s contributions to the Grand Rapids Area Library are many and varied. Starting with the most visible to visitors, Pat served on the artwork committee tasked with beautifying the town’s new library building. She also worked with the Minnesota Children’s Museum and a consortium of other nonprofits to bring displays of Grand Rapids heritage to this new space. Most notably, the Children’s Library is now outfitted with a bait shop, boat, and related equipment to engage Grand Rapids Public Library’s youngest patrons.
Pat spends a lot of time in that Children’s Library. As it happens, her own daughter Tracy is the Children’s Librarian on staff! “Gramma Pat” can always be counted on to pitch in during busy summer story times.
Like most Standout Friends, Pat is also active in fundraisers. That includes a leading role in an Authors Quilt fundraiser that the Friends in Grand Rapids are particularly proud of. This one-of-a-kind quilt was comprised of swatches signed by some of Minnesota’s greatest living writers.
The pandemic and mandatory lockdowns were devastating to library services everywhere. With little guidance from government agencies, library directors were initially left to go it alone when determining how to safely operate their facilities. Most opted to simply remain closed. Patricia Shaffer-Gottschalk, the director of the Kasson Public Library, displayed true leadership qualities by rallying her team and providing some level of service continuity to Kasson patrons at the beginning of – and all throughout – the pandemic. It was a welcome bit of normal in an abnormal time. Because Pat’s commitment went so far above and beyond, the Friends of Kasson Public Library consider her more than just their director. She is a true Friend.
Karen Jacowitz is one of the longest serving board members of the Friends of the Moorhead Library and, according to her colleagues, among the most tireless volunteers you will find anywhere. Rarely a week goes by without Karen assessing and sorting donated books. Currently, Karen is also upping the Friends’ book sale game by building relationships with online booksellers, organizing outdoor “mini sales,” and exploring the viability of unstaffed bag sales.
However, no one will say she that Karen is ‘all work and no play.’ She also coordinates an Outlander book club in Moorhead, which is popular with fans of Diana Gabaldon. In addition to serving ably as book sale co-lead for a decade, Karen has been VP for the same length of time. She assumed the mantle of president in 2021, and her colleagues are excited to see what she has up her sleeves next!
Debbie Navarro is an educator by training. However, as her decade and more with the Friends and Foundation at Northfield Public Library clearly shows, she is a life-long learner, as well. As just one illustrative example: She took on - and redefined - the position of membership coordinator in 2012, and stayed engaged with membership until 2020. In that time, the library and Foundation undertook a massive capital campaign to fund a needed renovation, followed by extensive fundraising for a new bookmobile.
Major endeavors like this turned what was originally a modest position into a major commitment, but Debbie never shies away from new or expanded duties. Another example of this is her stewardship of the foundation’s scholarship program for area high schoolers. Debbie formed a committee and built this important initiative up from nothing, and it continues strong today.
When Shirley Lingle retired from her career with Park Rapids Schools, a friend gifted her a membership to the Park Rapids Area Friends of the Library. That nice gesture occurred some 20 years ago – but Shirley remains among the group’s most active and dedicated members. If you attend a gangbusters book sale in Park Rapids, you are bound to run into her. Colleagues love Shirley because she is among that rare subset of Friends volunteers who embraces book sales at all levels – planning, customer service, and the often thankless work of wading knee-deep into donation piles to process and price books.
Moreover, she has never been one to rest on her laurels. While the pandemic brought much of normal life in Park Rapids to a grinding halt, Shirley took it upon herself to explore ways to continue selling books and raising revenue without the usual showstopper events.
The Friends of Ramsey County Libraries juggle a number of fundraising programs. In addition to in-person and online book sales, they manage three used bookstores year-round; coordinate an annual 5k run/walk; and take a leading role in Ramsey County Library’s capital campaigns. (There have been not one or two, but FOUR such campaigns in recent memory.) The Friends even collect old cell phones for bulk resale, with proceeds benefiting area libraries. Each program alone, and certainly together, requires detailed financial tracking. Fortunately for them, the Friends have Doug Smith.
Doug has been prominent within the Friends of Ramsey County Libraries for 16 years, and treasurer for the last nine. He built out the group’s current accounting system and annual audit processes, and chairs their Finance and Investment Committee. In his time as treasurer, activities have raised more than $1.3 million for Ramsey County Libraries.
Mary Ann Sandeen grew up in Stillwater, and returned to Stillwater schools as an elementary school teacher from 1964 to 2004. Mary Ann has been involved with supporting the Stillwater Public Library continuously for over thirty years, on not one but three support groups. Wherever she volunteered, she became a leader.
Beginning in 1988 she sat on the Board of Trustees - where she also served as President. In 1998, she was a founder of the Friends group - and she sits as president of that group today. Later she became a founding director of the Stillwater Library Foundation, too.
Over the years, Mary Ann has contributed to many projects – such as the restoration of Stillwater's Carnegie Library in 2006 and the installation of Hearing Loops in the Library. Last, she has also made an impression on the state stage, serving on the board of the Minnesota Association of Library Friends in 2014.
Emily Tipton joined the board of the Friends of the Winona Public Library in 2019 – a remarkably short time ago, considering her almost superhuman contributions to date to our programming reach and fundraising capacity. Emily almost singlehandedly brought the Dolly Parton Imagination Library initiative to Winona. At the onset, she secured tens of thousands of dollars in grant funding to bring this nationally reputed literacy program to our area. When the program kicked off formally in June of 2020, we hoped to register one sixth of Winona County’s eligible children (ages 0-5). We surpassed that goal in a single day! It was the first of many outcomes that exceeded our expectations in this pilot year. Success breeds success, and this debut collaboration with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library boosted Emily in her efforts to fundraise an additional $20,000 in grant money to continue the program.
As the old saying goes: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Georgette Schumacher is that busy person for the Friends of the Wabasha Public Library. Although she works a full-time job, she has made time for The Friends in a number of ways. She holds distinction as both a past co-president and founding board member of our group.
Georgette is also the most computer savvy of the local Friends, and can be relied on whenever there is a graphic design need or other techy task that requires attention. Her creations range from eye-popping event flyers and ticket designs, to more prosaic but no less important things – like spreadsheet templates and online sign-up sheets. Georgette’s ability to juggle her many obligations, and willingness to share her gifts, make her a Standout Friend.
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.
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.
On a normal day, the Barnes & Noble at the Edina Galleria does brisk business. Twice a year, however, the gangbusters used book sales put on across town by the Friends of the Edina Community Library gives B&N a run for its money! It’s a team effort, to be sure. More than anyone else, however, The Friends in Edina feel they owe their book sales’ strong reputation and continued success to ‘Standout Friend’ Sheila Zimmerman.
Zimmerman wore many hats during her time with The Friends. She presided over the group during a two-year term as president, and another as vice president.
She also co-chaired The Friends' vital Hospitality Committee. “With her abundant people skills, Sheila was the personification of hospitality,” explained past president Les Kraus. "She enthusiastically promoted the programs put on by the library, and attended practically every one. She welcomed each and every visiting speaker and author, and ensured their needs were met.”
And when it comes to those book sales, Zimmerman streamlined, professionalized and promoted these important fundraisers in almost too many ways to list. She passed away on May 16, 2020 – but her legacy lives on through the continuing and diverse work of The Friends.
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!”
No Feature Available
Kasson – population 6,300 – might seem like an unlikely candidate to boast one of Minnesota’s more state-of-the-art public facilities. However, the new Kasson Public Library is exactly that. Opened in summer 2016, the 10,672-square-foot building is built around a so-called monolithic dome.
According to the architects, it’s the first of its kind in Minnesota. Inexpensive to build and cost efficient to maintain, this Library offers a blueprint for other communities to consider.
This ambitious project could not have gotten off the ground, literally or figuratively, without the leadership of director Art Tiff.
A veteran of both K-12 and college library settings, Art assumed the top post at Kasson Public Library in late 2012.
“These experiences taught him how to develop and execute a team approach to challenges that small libraries face,” explained Friend of the Library Tarik Kamel. Examples are myriad, with the funding and construction of the new library naturally towards the top of that list.
Throughout this process, Art liaised with architects, contractors, and public officials; navigated a complex funding situation (which included a blend of grants, donations, and reserve funds set aside by the City of Kasson); and took a hands-on role with the configuration and furnishing of the new interiors. And all of this came on top of a library director’s many demanding day-to-day responsibilities!
In recognition of his service, and in sync with Art’s retirement, Friends of the Kasson Public Library named the outgoing director their 2019 Friend of the Year and 2020 Stand Up for Standout Friends recipient.
OneBook OneLakeville is among the longest running and best loved community reads initiatives in the Twin Cities. The Friends of the (Lakeville) Heritage Library are instrumental to its success – and have been since the program’s inception in 2009. While it’s an all hands on deck affair, the Friends in turn credit much of OneBook OneLakeville’s success to “hospitality specialist” Ruth Weber.
"Ruth is such a vital and energetic member… Whatever is asked of her, her usual response is 'Count me in!'" explained Loretta Ellsworth, a fellow Friend and one of OneBook OneLakeville’s founders.
Weber’s energetic contributions extend beyond The Friends’ tentpole event each spring. Her hospitality skills also come in handy when the group throws so-called Silver Teas. Geared towards Lakeville residents aged 55+, these soirees boast both lively conversation and live entertainment. Over recent teas, the audience has been regaled with everything from Italian mandolin, to African banjo, to ukulele.
Ruth can also be counted on to pitch in headlong with the (often thankless) tasks associated with used book sale fundraisers.
“And on top of all that, we all agree that Ruth is the sharpest dresser of us all," concluded Ellsworth.
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."
Seasonal used book sales are a Friends of the Library staple. However, only a comparative handful of Friends organizations have the wherewithal to maintain a permanent bookstore. Friends of Ramsey County Libraries boasts not just one year-round store, but three – in Maplewood, Roseville and Shoreview. Maintaining inventory and staffing these outlets takes time and commitment.
Fortunately for The Friends, bookstore manager Dianne Marti has proven more than up to that task over the past decade. Mostly recently, Dianne has headed the Maplewood operation. In a normal year, this location alone takes a rotation of 15+ volunteers to staff and raises $16,000-$20,000.
Dianne – who also served on Friends of Ramsey County Libraries’ board of directors from 2010-2019 – remains a visible leader in other areas, as well. In a year defined by COVID, the Friends’ brick-and-mortar stores are shuttered. Already by August, however, “Dianne had secured more than $1,800 through online sales,” explained Friends president Cyndi Cook. “She is also mentoring other bookstore managers to take up a similar role – a much needed boost given our revenue losses due to COVID-19 bookstore closures."
In its first ten years of existence, the Red Door Bookstore in Bemidji (est. 2003) cleared over $100,000. While that is a nice sum on the face of it, that threshold is made even more impressive by the fact that Red Door is not a for-profit, standalone bookstore. It is a fundraising arm of the Friends of the Bemidji Public Library, and staffed entirely by a small army of volunteers. And if the Friends is an army, Mary Lou Marchand is its staff sergeant.
Mary Lou has chaired the bookstore committee since 2005, when the enterprise was still just getting off its feet. In that capacity, she does far more than manage meetings. She can be found on site three or four days each week, sorting and appraising donated materials – with seemingly endless energy. She is also uniquely adept at matching prospective volunteers to store-related tasks that fit their interests and skills set.
“I can’t emphasize enough how vital Mary Lou is to both the Library and the Friends,” praised branch manager Sherilyn Brumback. “Without her, we would be drowning in donations… and yet, at the same time, the Red Door couldn’t keep such a great selection on its shelves at all times.”
Children are our future. This phrase is so overused – and in some ways, so patently obvious – that it means very little to most of us. Not so for Benson area kindergarten teacher Cory Braaten. Nearly everything she does, both on the job and in her free time, represents an intentional investment in Swift County’s youth.
Cory kickstarted a popular program at Northside Elementary School, somewhat akin to Dolly Parton’s famous Imagination Library program, that allows every student to receive a new book each month. She is also a constant booster of the local Benson Public Library’s resources and services. She sits on the board of the Friends of the Library, and is a vocal ambassador for the branch’s summer reading program (a perfect and intentional supplement to the school year curriculum). Cory handles many of that program’s finances, and boasts a deserved reputation for finding fun, in-demand prizes to reward children’s positive reading habits. Student participation has increased over each of the last several years.
Head Librarian Nicole Schmiesing finds her enthusiasm commendable – and infectious. “Despite a recent cancer diagnosis, Cory has barely slowed down. She is always willing to lend a hand, wherever it is needed.”
Over the years, LaVonne Danzl and her late husband Bob have donated generously to a number of Brainerd area causes. Central Lakes College, St. Francis Church, Future Farmers of America, and the Crow Wing County Historical Society have all benefited from their largesse. (They even once bankrolled a chicken coop for the Crow Wing County Fair!)
However, LaVonne’s philanthropic link to the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library is something special. She gives yearly to support the library’s summer reading program, including “big ticket” giveaways like bicycles and scooters. Moreover, she can usually be found in the thick of it. “LaVonne loves to come to the library to see and touch the books ordered with those funds,” said Board treasurer Sherri DeLaHunt. “Her eyes just twinkle with joy as she anticipates how much fun the children will have when choosing a title for their very own."
During the rest of the year, LaVonne can be found volunteering at Friends book sales, taking part in library-sponsored tours, and pitching in wherever else is needed. Says Sherri: “She lives by the enviable motto ‘Look for someone who needs help – Giving to others is a blessing!’”
Melissa Waltman is a charter member of the Friends of the Cook Public Library. Moreover, it is safe to say that without her, that group would simply not exist!
Her first toehold into the Library was a modest enough commitment: Volunteering to man the help desk for one shift every Tuesday. As is the case for so many Friends, this exposure to the library world caused her to “catch the bug.” With a small corps of other dedicated library lovers, Melissa committed to expanding on and formalizing existing volunteer efforts with a standalone 501c3 Friends of the Library entity.
Securing incorporation status for a newborn charity is easier said than done, but Melissa took it upon herself to learn the ins and outs of the processes and requirements prescribed by the IRS and Minnesota Secretary of State. With that formative hurdle in the rearview mirror, it was only natural that Melissa would then step in as the Friends of the Cook Public Library’s first treasurer. In the two years since organizing, Melissa has conceptualized or adopted a myriad of recordkeeping processes to ensure The Friends is on strong fiscal footing.
“Melissa is one of those valuable ‘behind the scenes’ people that every organization needs and should value,” explained president Kathy Sacchetti. “She can be counted on to do the research, make the tough phone calls, and do whatver else is needed to find answers to thorny situations when those arise.”
eorgia Wahlberg joined the Douglas County Library Friends in 2008. In most cases and places, a novice member will likely dedicate at least a year to learning the lay of the land before diving headlong into leadership responsibilities. Fortunately for the Friends, Georgia was more than willing to eschew this usual “grace period.” She picked up the mantle as organization treasurer almost immediately – a commitment for which her colleagues are still grateful.
However, Georgia is no one-trick pony, as evidenced by her more recent commitments to Friends operations. She now sits on the Membership and Public Relations Committee, the body charged with keeping existing members in the fold while also reaching out to new audiences.
Helpfully, Georgia is uniquely attuned to how the Friends should position themselves within the community. Prior to joining the organization, she taught primary school in the area for three full decades. She has broadened her personal network even further as treasurer of the local Master Gardeners chapter and president of the area AAUW (American Association of University Women). “I think that the Friends is understood to be a fun and meaningful place to volunteer,” explained director Dawn Dailey. “People like Georgia Wahlberg are a big part of the reason why.”
When Nancy Alfuth moved to Grand Rapids in 1990, it was a godsend for the local Friends of the Library. Nancy brought with her an innate love of reading and great familiarity with the workings of Twin Cities area libraries. She also brought a head for numbers, having served as an accountant for many years. She parlayed this set of experiences into an ideal role: treasurer of the Friends. While the mutual benefit in this match-up is plain for all to see, no one could have guessed back in 1990 that Nancy would serve in the post for nearly 22 uninterrupted years!
In this time, Nancy has seen the Friends grow and Library evolve to an impressive degree. When she first joined up, the Library still operated in its original Carnegie facility. The Friends’ permanent used bookstore was housed in an unprepossessing basement alcove. Organization revenue came almost solely from modest membership dues. Today, by contrast, the Library boasts a striking facility on the Mississippi River. The Friends’ bookstore is ensconced in a purpose-built room just off the lobby entrance. And thanks in part to robust book sales, The Friends enjoy a much more diversified income stream.
Nancy was no passive witness to these metamorphoses. She had a guiding hand in much of it. “Nancy is an inspiration to us all,” said current treasurer Susan Hayes. “So much of that success is owed to her personal tenacity and sense of responsibility.”
No volunteer-run nonprofit could ask for a more patient or dedicated worker than Kasson resident Clarice Peterson. John Talcott, who volunteers with her at the Friends of the Kasson Public Library, can think of several specific cases in point that showcase these enviable traits in Clarice. For one, she has been known to collect broken or discarded crayons for charitable causes like the American Cancer Society. In order to be of any resale value, Clarice must painstakingly peel all labels, organize the crayons by color, and box them appropriately.
The Friends are, of course, another beneficiary of Clarice’s drive. She is a member-at-large on the board of directors, and the official group historian. She curates a used magazine rack, which brings in a steady trickle of donations for the organization, and is also a tour de force during book sale season. Indeed, Clarice has even been known to loan tables and other equipment to the Friends to facilitate the big sales. It doesn’t get any more neighborly than that!
In recognition of these contributions, the Friends named Clarice as their Friend of the Year in 2018, and as Standout Friend in 2019. “Clarice is modest about her success and ability to achieve these two awards,” said John Talcott. “But she is truly needed and valued here.”
Milaca is home to one of the newest and nicest library facilities in the six-county East Central Regional Library system. The improved Milaca Community Library marked its grand reopening in March 2007, and has since assumed the position of a vital community hub. Milaca is a small community (pop. 3,000), and this ambitious project might never have come to fruition without private support from the local Friends of the Library. The Friends’ financial contribution is especially seen in the building’s aesthetics, including commissioned murals designed by a Milaca artist.
The Friends, in turn, credit much of the successful outcome to the ever-present Yvonne Sauer. She played a direct role through much of the ten-year fundraising process. Yvonne has been a boon to the Friends in a number of other ways, as well. As is true for so many Standout Friends in Minnesota, she hopped between secretary, treasurer and other leadership posts – serving ably in each. She is now reprising her role as group treasurer.
Last but never least, she is the maestro who makes Milaca’s quarterly (and lucrative) used book sales possible. Assessing incoming donations, organizing a volunteer workforce, and refreshing books withdrawn from library circulation are all processes that Yvonne has down to a science. “And on top of all that, Yvonne is an excellent cookie baker for library events!” praised president Ardy Becklin.
Nearly every public library offers at least a modest array of classes. Computer classes, language instruction, and literacy tutoring are all par for the course. Northfield Public Library offers a less expected, but extremely popular, class into this standard mix: yoga!
Yoga sessions are led by jack-of-all-trades and long-time Northfield booster Robert K. Bruce. Bob is no rank amateur. He is professionally trained in yoga instruction, and has taught meditative classes for years at St. Olaf College and Fifty North (the City’s senior center). However, in terms of Bob’s contributions to the Library, this is truly just the tip of the iceberg.
Bob is a retired librarian and academic library director. In retirement, he has redeployed those hard-earned skills as a volunteer member of the Northfield Public Library’s advisory board (and that body’s official liaison to the board of the local Friends). After rotating out, he sat as Northfield’s representative on the SELCO Board for a full six years. Moreover, until just recently, Bob was a crucial voice on the Northfield Public Library’s long-range planning committee. “Bob has proven to be an absolutely invaluable ‘sounding board’ for many, including myself!” praised Friends co-chair (and former Library Director) Lynne Young.
Friends book sales bring several benefits. Added revenue for Friends coffers and library operations is the obvious one. A responsible, reliable way for the Library to dispose of weeded books is another. But as many of us can personally attest, the book sale is also a tried-and-true way to recruit bibliophiles into the Friends of the Library fold! Standout Friend JoEllen (“Josi”) Ashmore came to the Park Rapids Area Library Friends of the Library in just this way.
That was back in March 2003, and she has never looked back. As she celebrates her "Sweet Sixteen" – 16 years with the Friends, that is – Josi can look back on any number of contributions. High on that list is six years as president, plus a stint as secretary and rotating commitment as book sale chair. She is equally proud of more mundane contributions, such as counting library patrons during Park Rapids Public Library's annual Stats Week, and washing the covers of children's books to ensure a long shelf life.
Group co-president and Stand Up nominator Darlene Polo-Kramer attributes Josi’s devotion and drive to a deep-seated belief in the value of libraries. “She believes everyone should have access to books and programs that expand their knowledge, provide entertainment, and help them become well-rounded and well-informed citizens.”
In the past decade, Friends groups across the country have taken an increasingly active role in preventing or restoring library budget cuts. For better or worse, it’s quickly becoming the “new normal.” Where funding advocacy is concerned, Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries boasts a far longer track record – and co-founder Metta Fridley is the principle reason why.
Metta and 50 other charter members founded the organization back in 1979. That timing was not coincidental. The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners had only just recently announced significant cuts to the library system’s base budget. Metta, as the group’s first president and de facto advocacy chair, spearheaded the charge to reverse that loss. She wrote letters, met with officials, and organized breakfast meetings for others to do the same. By the end of Year 1, the nascent Friends had succeeded in restoring $70,000 to the Ramsey County Library.
Metta’s presidency lasted to 1981. In her tenure – and since – she kickstarted a number of other Friends efforts. Many are now engrained in tradition. Examples include the Friends’ newsletter (begun with the August-September 1979 issue), and an archival scrapbook chronicling the history of the organization year over year.
“Metta’s support for the library via the Friends continued over the years… as a board member and officer, scheduler for library computer class volunteers, and as a significant financial backer,” recalled current executive director Cyndi Cook.
Strong board presidents do more than lead in the moment. They also sow seeds for the organization’s success long after his or her tenure has passed. The Friends of the Redwood Falls Library enjoy such a leader in Joyce Johnson. In her eight years with the nonprofit, Joyce has served as president several times… oftentimes, when no other Friend is able or willing to step into the role. In her time at the helm, however, Joyce successfully recruited her successor as president (more than once), plus a secretary, treasurer and vice president for the Friends. That in itself is a legacy to be proud of.
Joyce's roots with the Redwood Falls Library - if you'll pardon a rather belabored pun - run deep. She is herself a retired librarian, and therefore knows first-hand all that is required to make a library successful. Over the years, Mary Ann has also sat on the local Library Commission, and the governing board for the Plum Creek Regional Library System (PCLS).
"If there was ever a friend to libraries, that friend is Joyce Johnson," praised chair Gwen Bohlke. "Joyce is always one of the first to volunteer for new tasks or duties; and her expertise and insightfulness are assets to the Friends and to the library community as a whole."
Landing a large bequest is the dream of every small-town Friends of the Library organization. Paradoxically, however, relatively few Friends are eager to volunteer to oversee the proper management of such a nest egg. Fortunately for the Saint Peter Friends of the Library, they have an exception to that rule in Mary Ann Hanson.
As chair of the Finance Committee, Mary Ann stewards funds from a generous donation given to The Friends back in 2007. That initial gift has since done well, thanks to shrewd investment choices and the ethos of fiscal responsibility which Mary Ann has instilled in her colleagues.
As valuable as this service is, Mary Ann's contributions to the cause are not that easy to pigeonhole. In 2015, for instance, she also spearheaded the Friends' successful Books in a Bag (BiB) initiative on behalf of the Library. She is routinely found doing everything from making bag labels, soliciting donations, and liaising with counterparts in nearby communities to pick up new tips and tricks. The work is ongoing, but as of June 2018 more than 70 “BiB” titles are available to St. Peter area book clubs.
"Mary Ann really is the backbone of our Friends… and that’s been the case for 12 years now!" said nominator and group treasurer Margie Nelsen.
Since its inception in 2003, the Red Door Bookstore in Bemidji has cleared more than $113,000 to benefit the Bemidji Public Library. With each item priced modestly from 25 cents to $6.00, that sum represents a monumental amount of inventory. The Red Door Bookstore’s success to date is doubly impressive because it is manned by the all-volunteer Friends of the Bemidji Public Library. No one Friend has been more instrumental to the bookstore enterprise than Sharon Geisen. She has been a member of the group since 2004, and president for 11 of those years. At various times, Sharon has also served ably as secretary, treasurer, and newsletter editor. As if that weren’t enough, Sharon is a driving force behind the Friends of the Library’s annual Holiday Gift Tree. A Christmastime staple perfect for the haggard shopper, the Holiday Gift Tree allows patrons to donate to the Bemidji Public Library in honor of another person.
“Sharon is one of the most dedicated and hard-working volunteers I have collaborated with in over twenty years in the library field,” praised branch manager Sherilyn Brumback. “I can’t think of any other person more deserving of public recognition.”
Retirement proved something of a misnomer for hard-working Katie Reardon. After “retiring” from a long career in teaching (culminating in treasured years with fifth and sixth graders at Benson Public Elementary School), Katie immediately dove head-long into local library work. The Friends of the Benson Public Library play a leading role in the branch’s summer reading programming, and much of the attendant responsibility falls on Katie. She also spearheads other children’s events, including the Library’s involvement in Swift County’s annual Benson's Kid Day (now in its 88th year). Like so many Standout Friends, Katie is also something of a pinch hitter, pitching in wherever necessary: editing newsletters and meeting minutes, organizing silent auction fundraisers, and much more.
Since joining the ranks in 2011, “Kate has impressed us with her creativity, enthusiasm, and her unique ability to pull things together on a whim’s notice,” lauded former head librarian Dawn Dailey. “Over the past seven years, I can’t remember her saying ‘No’!”
Brainerd, Minnesota claims a population of less than 15,000, yet boasts an active and innovative Friends of the Library group that communities twice that size would be right to envy. Achievements to date include Wine & Words, a yearly and wildly successful dinner gala, and Books Burgers Brews, an innovative take on the traditional book club model. Most of the unheralded “back-end heavy lifting” associated with these special events falls to the Friends’ nine-member board of directors. Sherri DeLaHunt is prominent among them. While Sherri is currently serving a three-year term on that body, her time as a Friends leader stretches back to the 1970s.
Sherri is a special education teacher by training, and her life-long commitment to learning permeates everything she does – at the Brainerd Public Library and beyond. In addition to co-organizing the Library’s summer reading programming, she is also active with the Brainerd Public Schools Foundation and teachers’ fraternity Alpha Delta Kappa.
“Sherri is always working hard to connect the Library to our community. She sings our praises everywhere she goes!” noted Friends president Sheila DeChantal, who wholeheartedly returns that compliment.
Cook, Minnesota schoolchildren have an affectionate nickname for Kristi Sopoci: The Library Lady. It’s a simple moniker, but an apt one. Six years ago, Kristi noticed that the Cook Public Library did not have a summer reading program. She took it upon herself to construct and fund one from scratch. In addition to the “fun” work of building learning rubrics and interacting with participants, Kristi hustled tirelessly behind the scenes to secure financial backing and prizes from area businesses. Her commitment does not end with summer reading, either. Kristi also kickstarted creation of a winter storytime program for preschool children, and acts as the Cook Public Library’s ambassador to Cook area schools at the beginning of every academic year. (It is primarily for this ambassadorship that she is known as The Library Lady.) Furthermore, Kristi sits on the Library’s board, making her a de facto communications bridge between local trustees and Friends.
Fellow Friend Kathy Sacchetti credits Kristi and her enthusiasm as a main reason she herself is so active in the Friends – as a summer reading program liaison to elementary schoolers, as group secretary, and now as Friends president. “I can’t stress enough how Kristi’s love for this Library is absolutely contagious!” she exclaimed.
For nearly twenty years, Mike Schelmeske has been both the brains and the brawn behind the Library Friends of Cook County’s lucrative used books sales in Grand Marais. Hauling and sorting donated inventory is never glamorous, but Mike does much of that grueling work in unique and unprepossessing surroundings: old jail cells repurposed for the task! It also falls to him to dispose of unsold materials after each annual sale – a tricky task, as the local recycling center no longer takes in books, forcing Mike to explore less obvious alternatives. However, he never complains, and is quick to point out the perks of such work. For instance, while foreign language titles are often left behind after Friends book sales, Mike keeps an eye out for out-of-print Scandinavian language materials. He works with local Norwegian and Swedish translators to translate choice books, saving them from the recycle bin.
“Mike’s love of all books has been obvious to me from my first days of knowing him,” praised Friends treasurer Lorrie Oswald. “His tireless management of books has garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars that go back into the Library in that very same spirit of love for books and knowledge.”
Friends of the Library in Douglas County proudly wear buttons printed with their unofficial motto: "Join the Friends, Join the Fun!" It may sound tongue in cheek, but according to Library Director Dawn Dailey, there's plenty of truth to it. Standout Friend Priscilla Reineke is a big part of the reason why. "Priscilla has been part of the Friends for an unprecedented 24 years, and has chosen to dedicate her knowledge, time, and effort towards making the group a fun and excited place to be."
Naturally, with nearly a quarter century under her belt, Priscilla’s contributions have been many and varied. On the leadership front, she has been a prominent member of the board of directors for exactly half that time, and served a productive term as president to boot. Over that period, the Friends grew to 250+ members and counting. "Priscilla will not take much credit for the Friends' success, instead stressing that it is a team effort,” explained Dawn. “As we know, however, every great team includes a few great leaders – as Priscilla has demonstrated time and again through her positive and energetic leadership style."
Flakey volunteers are a perennial frustration for Friends of the Library – and every other type of nonprofit that needs to staff events or otherwise fill shifts. Knowing this, the Friends of the Edina Community Library are eternally grateful to Carol Goode, a model, stalwart volunteer they can count on to pitch in wherever help is needed. “When she says she’ll do something, it always gets done,” lauded fellow Friends leader Les Kraus.
First and foremost, however, Carol is the Friends’ treasurer. Indeed, her time at that post can be measured in decades. “Treasurer is a job that not many people volunteer for,” Les explained. Fewer still can match Carol’s grasp of accounting fundamentals, eye for detail, and understanding of the (sometimes complex) guidelines around 501c3 operations. In addition to being brilliant at the basics, Carol is also willing and able to expand her area of expertise when the need arises. Newer developments, such as mobile banking and the online- mediated Give to the Max Day, do not phase her in the least. “[The Friends of the Edina Community Library] would not be the successful Friends group we are, without her,” concluded Les.
As things stand now, few library facilities in Minnesota blend original, turn-of-the-century charm with state-of-the-art spaces and amenities as well as Northfield Public Library. One-time children’s librarian and long-time library advocate Margit Johnson deserves as much credit as anyone for the Library’s current footprint, as fellow Friends will attest. In the mid-1980s, Margit was a driving force behind the community’s push to remodel (and triple in size) the city’s original, 100-year-old Carnegie Library. A quarterly century later, she sat on the Capital Campaign Committee tasked with raising roughly a million dollars to accomplish a second, equally needed remodel.
As if those laurels were not enough, Margit also orchestrated (pun intended) a popular “Carnegie Concert” series to mark the Library’s centennial celebration, and has been a mainstay contributor to the Friends’ various outreach and advocacy efforts over the years.
“Although Margit has retired from her role as chair of the Friends, she remains one of Northfield’s staunchest supports of library programs and services,” praised current Friends co-chair Lynne Marie Young.
Arlene Novak is fond of Tony Award winning musical The Music Man. Courtesy of her, so is much of Park Rapids! Arlene is a two-decade veteran of the Park Rapids Area Friends of the Library. She’s also a regular marcher in the Library’s contingent of that community’s Independence Day Parade, where she’s been known to sing the 1957 musical’s catchy song “Marian, the Librarian.”
Naturally, most Friends of the Library work is a little less playful – though no less fun, to Arlene’s way of thinking. “Ask her, and she will stress the years of friendships and enjoyment she’s gotten from the Friends,” noted president Darlene Polo-Kramer. However, she’s no stranger to hard work or to leadership responsibilities, having served at various times between 1995 and the present as president, treasurer, publicity chair, and book sale chair. “In truth, I don’t think there’s anything that Arlene hasn’t done to keep our Friends group going all these years,” Polo-Kramer added.
Only a handful of Friends in Minnesota can claim to be as integral to the founding of their local chapter as Plymouth resident Cathy Fischer. As a branch librarian for the Hennepin County Library (HCLIB), she created the Friends of the Plymouth Library – from the inside out, so to speak. According to current president Charlie Knuth, Cathy collaborated with staffers at other suburban branches to gather a list of Plymouth residents who frequented Hennepin County libraries and would be likely prospects for a new Friends venture closer to home. This strategy had the desired effect, and many of those charter Friends are still involved with Plymouth Public Library.
As the staff liaison, Cathy regularly went out of her way to ensure that the Friends were equipped for success. After retiring, Cathy became even more involved with the nonprofit – joining the board of directors, spearheading a bylaws committee, and documenting all activities for posterity as the organization's de facto historian. She also served ably in that all-important Friends leadership role: book sale chair. This is no small responsibility anywhere, but doubly so with the Friends of Plymouth Public Library, who conduct six sales every year.
Over the past decade, Phyllis Hambright has logged more than 5,000 volunteer hours for the Friend of Rochester Public Library. That's the equivalent of 125 work weeks, or nearly two and a half years of "full time" work to better the Rochester Public Library. As is so often the case, Phyllis’s time commitment grew, and her responsibilities evolved, over time. She started as a book sorter in 2008, and formally joined the Book Sale Committee the following year. In 2010, she started work with the team’s Internet Sales Division. A few months later, Phyllis joined the Friends board – eventually assuming the roles of both vice president and president. Furthermore, whenever the Friends coordinate a special event, you can be sure that Phyllis is on site seeing personally to a successful outcome. Recent examples include History Day Hullabaloo, a research open house at the Rochester Public Library co-hosted with the Minnesota Historical Society.
"Phyllis has such excellent ideas, and follows through with all her projects and commitments. We are very fortunate to have her as a volunteer," praised Friends chair Kim Keilholtz.
In hockey and soccer, every team hopes for a player who can pull off a hat trick – three scores in one game. At the Saint Cloud Friends of the Library, long-time member Dottie Martini has pulled off a hat trick of a different sort: three consecutive two-year terms as secretary. In addition to her many secretarial duties (scheduling meetings, recording minutes, and the like), Dottie is a staple on the group's Bookstore Committee, as well. In this capacity, Dottie volunteers as shift leader in the Library’s aptly named Sorting Room at least three days a week. Peers note that Dottie has a special knack for determining the salability of materials: what to stock in the book store, and what to leave aside for the Friends' periodic Bag Sales or other promotions.
"Dottie is always cheerful, and just a joy to work with," explained Friends president Susan Pogatschnik. "She's been with the Saint Cloud Friends of the Library for more than ten years, and I can't imagine it without her."
Zilla Way has been a stalwart supporter of Anoka County’s libraries, in a range of capacities. She served on the Anoka City Council during the formative period when the Anoka Public Library transitioned to the multi-branch Anoka County Public Library system. Zilla also spoke highly of the library while a leader within the League of Women Voters (Anoka, Blaine, Coon Rapids Area). Finally, she furthered the library’s cause for many years inside the Friends of the Anoka County Library – including time as president and in most every other executive leadership post. “Zilla’s fantastic background… lends her valuable expertise, which she is always happy to share it with other Friends. She does so without intimidation; all our Friends hold her in high esteem,” said secretary Janet Eaton.
Zilla recently retired from the Friends board, but her impact is still felt. “Her wisdom and ability to identify ‘core concerns’ has proven helpful during critical decision-making times, and the next [generation of] leaders hopes to continue in that mold,” Janet added.
Rosy Petersen is a paraprofessional instructor at Benson Public Elementary School. This affiliation makes her an invaluable asset to the Benson Public Library, as both institutions have allied interests. Each summer, Rosy and her Friends colleagues co-host or support programming aimed at encouraging area schoolchildren to read and hone their early literacy skills outside the classroom. (Creative giveaways – including two bikes, six drones, and iTunes gift cards – added pizzazz to 2017’s summer reading activities.) “Libraries today have limited resources. This requires mentors and leaders throughout the community to collaborate on this kind of endeavor, but without dominating the undertaking… Rosy and the Friends are great at this,” praised head librarian Dawn Dailey.
“Benson Public Library truly appreciates the magnitude of [Rosy's] contributions, and is very grateful for her dedication to the Friends of the Library over the past eight years," she continued.
While many Friends groups are experiencing stagnant or even dwindling book sale returns, the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library routinely report revenue figures that break their previous records. Group president Sheila DeChantal attributes much of this success to the stalwart efforts of Ruth Gogolin. A contributor for over 20 years – and book sales co-chair for more than a decade – Ruth rarely goes a week without sorting books. As many a Friend can attest, sorting, pricing, and staging inventory for sale represents a near-Herculean task (albeit one which is all too easy for patron-shoppers to take for granted). During the sales themselves, Ruth is ever-present, and ensures that the operation (one of the largest of its kind in north central Minnesota) runs smoothly.
“Ruth is a tireless worker, dependable at every turn,” Sheila praised. “She is committed to making our community a better place – always giving of her time and efforts.
Few residents of Isanti County have bettered their community in as tangible a way as Karen Lee. In 2012, the Cambridge Public Library (the county’s only) faced a sobering budget reality: looming cuts would require a weekly reduction from 57 to 43 operating hours, and removing six part-time staff positions. Karen spearheaded a grassroots advocacy campaign, and personally attended almost every public hearing. These sustained efforts convinced the county’s commissioners to reconsider and reverse the troubling library cuts. Among other achievements, Karen is also responsible for preparing the Friends’ 501c3 documentation – an important responsibility, and no small feat, as many Friends can attest. As if that weren’t enough, Karen has contributed substantially as a member of both the East Central Regional Library board and Cambridge Library Task Force.
“When she moved back to Cambridge, no one knew what a difference Karen would make to her hometown and its library,” nominator Lori Fetzik said. “She has been involved in almost every one of our Friends’ events in the past few years.”
In small, rural communities, it is not unusual for dedicated volunteers to take on some of the routine library responsibilities which, in a larger town, would typically fall to staff paraprofessionals. Cook, Minnesota – population 574 – is lucky to have such an asset in the form of Mo Fontana. Locals regularly see her behind the circulation desk or helping fellow patrons with their questions. Mo is also the charter leader of the Friends of the Cook Public Library. She entered into this endeavor with two goals: recruit a robust board and shape the Friends into a sustainable organization; and fundraise for a permanent, part-time library assistant position. Mo accomplished both, said her successor Meagan Esterby. Moreover, “the Friends have since expanded to support programming for all ages, advocacy efforts, and fundraisers to make improvements to the physical space of the library.” It all traces back to Mo.
Library director Crystall Phillips agrees wholeheartedly. “She brings level-headed guidance… When I began here, Mo was the Friends. Now, the Friends of the Cook Public Library is a dynamic 501c3 with a growing, active membership.”
Dan Smith is a true jack-of-all-trades, and the Delano Public Library is better for it. Several recent contributions are particularly telling. Dan recently took it upon himself to liaise with the City and find a way to have the library retrofitted with energy efficient LED fixtures and bulbs. Dan found a local installer willing to donate the labor, and presented to a convincing report on the possible energy and cost savings to city officials. Dan is also leading a charge to beautify a wall on one end of the library’s property which distinctly lacks curb appeal. Inspired by the famous parking ramp of the Kansas City Public Library (which is decorated with murals of classic books), he is in talks with stakeholders and muralists about how best to scale this idea for Delano. Last but not least, Dan has served as treasurer of the local Friends group for the past three years. In that time, he has reevaluated and streamlined the organization’s reporting processes.
“While the books mural has not yet come to fruition, we know it will, thanks largely to Dan’s ‘can do’ attitude and persistence,” said Friends secretary Mary Ann Bernat.
When the Edina Community Library reopens its doors this summer after a four-month renovation, patrons will find new collaborative spaces, an enclosed reading room, and a larger children’s area with new interactive elements. One thing that will remain unchanged is the strong behind-the-scene support of the Friends of the Edina Community Library. Few have had as great an impact to date as Louise Price, the group’s choice for 2017 Standout Friend. “Louise has been a hardworking role model for us all for decades. The success of our organization can be directly attributed to her efforts and thoughtfulness,” noted one peer.
“Her love for the library is contagious,” voiced another. “She is a thoughtful listener, a force of positive energy, a natural diplomat – and a curator of local history, too.”
Mille Lacs Lake Community Library in Isle serves a rural and spread out population base, and marshalling enough volunteers to conduct core Friends of the Library activities is a perennial challenge. In recent years, Keith Severson has assumed many leadership responsibilities, helping the Friends not only to continue, but to make contributions to the library well out of proportion to the Friends organization’s relatively small size. Over the past quarter century, Keith has served as president and in nearly every other leadership post. For the past eight years, and up through the present, he has done an able job as treasurer. Keith intends to scale back his involvement in the coming years, but will remain an active member and a regular at meetings.
“Contributions like Keith’s are critically important to keeping this group going… We thank him for serving with honor, dignity – and always with a warm smile,” praised Mille Lacs Lake Friends of the Library president Joe Fleischman.
Pam Gibb is the longest serving member of the board of the Friends of the Moorhead Public Library. She is also one of the most versatile. Pam has held the post of secretary since the group returned to active status after a long period of dormancy. In addition to meeting minutes and other conventional duties, she has grown that role to encompass a host of membership responsibilities – renewal mailings, member card distribution, and even designing the Friends’ members-only t-shirt! At the same time, Pam is a key mover and shaker behind Moorhead’s book sale, and the driving force behind the event’s advertising campaign. Friends president Delia Landstrom also credits Pam with shepherding the organization through the 501c3 incorporation process. “I firmly believe she is related to the Energizer Bunny… She keeps going and going and never seems to run out of enthusiasm!” she said.
“I do not believe that the Friends of the Moorhead Library would have continued without the devotion that Pam Gibb has shown,” she continued.
Standout Friends are all ‘busy as bees,’ but Northfield’s multi-talented Bill North embodies the phrase in a more literal sense. He is best known to many in the community as the bumble bee mascot who co-hosts and cheers on competitors at the Friends’ annual spelling and trivia bees. It is only the most visible facet of his involvement in the competitions; he also played a key behind-the-scenes role organizing these new, important fundraisers. Proceeds recently allowed the Northfield Public Library to purchase a much-needed bookmobile. Since assuming the presidency in 2005, Bill has done much else besides. Highlights include overseeing the legal transition of the Friends to the joint “Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library,” organizing successful Give to the Max Day campaigns, coordinating the Friends’ presence in the city’s yearly ‘Defeat of Jesse James Day’ parade, and spearheading a Friends drive to beautify the library ground with sculpture works.
“Bill is essentially the face of the Friends, and has contributed in so many varied ways that he is our incomparable choice for ‘Standout Friends,’” lauded board co-chair Lynne Young.
Sandy Drury received her first library card in Iowa at age three. Although she has since lived and secured library cards in four different states, she treasures that first – and still uses it, whenever she visits her hometown! That anecdote hints at Sandy’s dual passions: libraries, and history. She joined the Park Rapids Area Friends of the Library as a charter member in 1974. For over a quarter century, she served as the group’s historian – and, by extension, something of a Park Rapids historian as well. Moreover, each Monday, staff and patrons can count on seeing Sandy doing ‘odd jobs’ around the facility. One such duty that she particularly enjoys is curating the Park Rapids Library’s impressive sheet music collection, a resource which is used regularly by many area choirs.
When necessary, librarians can also count on Sandy to assist with book recommendations and other such patron requests. “Sandry says that holding a book in her hand, and thinking about the author and how it all came together, is part of reading’s [perennial] appeal,” said co-president Darlene Polo-Kramer.
It is rare that a Friend can boast a leadership role with their local Friends of the Library group predating the existence of any public library in their area. LuAnn Svendsen holds this unusual distinction. She joined the Friends of the Plymouth Public Library in 1995, and played a key role in the push to bring a new branch to the growing suburb. In the years since, LuAnn has served in a host of roles, including terms as president, vice president, treasurer, and nominating committee chair. She also curated the small, permanent book sale shelf inside the Plymouth Library for many years. At present, she chairs the Plymouth Arts Council committee responsible for coordinating “Plymouth READS,” a community read program that makes waves each April – due in large part to the support and sponsorship of The Friends.
On top of it all, “LuAnn works with the library each year to plan a social event recognizing volunteer and staff contributions,” said Board member Cathy Fischer. “Her passion, commitment and leadership truly epitomize a ‘Standout Friend!’”
Ramsey County extends 170 square miles, and intrepid Friend of the Library Donna Andreas knows all the highways, byways, and shortcuts. Since joining Friends of Ramsey County Libraries in 2002, Donna has served as both used book sale manager and bookstore treasurer. In the latter role, she has oversight of the three year-round bookstores in the Roseville, Maplewood and Shoreview libraries – as well as the popular book carts at the Mounds View and White Bear Lake branches. She has visited each store weekly for nearly fifteen years. In recent years, she has also worked diligently with an internal audit team to optimize their revenue bookkeeping. As if that alone weren’t enough, Donna is also a tireless contributor to the Friends’ three- and four- day seasonal sales.
“After working her shift, she also takes the extra step of tallying and posting the daily sales results, giving us all that added boost of encouragement,” noted board member Nancy Guerino. “Donna has served so well for so long – and she does everything in a manner that is so congenial. She’s just a joy to work with!”
Libraries strive to serve all subsets within their community – and Friends can too. When the Goodhue County Detention Center approached the Friends of the Red Wing Public Library in 2000 about establishing a prison library collection, long-time member Joyce Harlow rose to the new challenge. Thanks to those initial efforts (and weekly maintenance visits by Joyce and others), the collection remains an active, highly valued resource today. Joyce’s other contributions to the Friends are many and varied, as a record number of ‘Standout’ support letters can attest. She proved particularly adept at adult programming; and for many years, Red Wing remained the only SELCO library where volunteers coordinated all such events. The Friends still organize the popular Hot Reads for Cold Nights reading program. Last but not least, Joyce established a popular Poetry Celebration in 2005 – a community happening that is more popular now than ever.
“No library ever had a more faithful, harder-working Friend than Joyce Harlow,” said member Barbara Betcher. “Her tireless efforts have done much to make our library truly relevant for all of the citizens in our community.”
Nan Frie has been membership coordinator for the Friends of the Rochester Public Library for fifteen years. While that is an achievement in and of itself, Nan does more than keep comprehensive records and send renewal prompts at the appointed time. She also has the uncanny ability to remember names and recognize faces on sight. That’s no small thing, particularly with a membership roster as large as Rochester’s. Understandably, then, a personal greeting from Nan can do much to encourage other Friends. Nan deploys her people skills in other ways, as well. For instance, she trains volunteers on the cash register in the bookstore, and oversees crews sorting donations in advance of book sales. “No matter how busy she is, Nan takes the time to support anyone who needs her help,” said Friends co-president Karen Nath.
“She really is a ‘standout’ Friend, whose unique style and eagerness make every job enjoyable and engaging,” Karen concluded.
Used book sales, tough a staple in Friends fundraising, have long since lost their novelty. Rose Ford, of the Saint Cloud Friends of the Library, is trying to chance that. Rose has tweaked her Friends’ sales model in a number of successful ways, including the introduction of “feature” sale days highlighting travel, gardening, cooking, and other such special interests. Shoppers are also delighted by a new, specific “coffee table” book section. Rose has also upped the organization’s marketing game. The Friends now create and distribute posters, flyers and bookmarks in the run-upto each sale. Susan Pogatschnik, president of the Friends, attributes Rose’s sales savvy to a long career as a Barnes and Noble customer rep and a former bookstore owner in her own right.
“Her business acumen, people skills, and organizational know-how have helped our bookstore grow and become one of the best sources for bargain-priced books in the Saint Cloud area,” Susan said.
Saint Peter Public Library is at the forefront of the growing “books in a bag movement.” The concept is simple: check out a tote with eight to ten paperback copies of a favorite title, perfect for book clubs or classes. But where do the special funds come from, and who selects the titles? In Saint Peter’s case, it falls to a Friends of the Library ‘Books in a Bag Committee’ chaired by Jill Potts. A member of the Friends board since January 2011, Jill created a team charged with funding and creating ten Books in a Bag as part of a pilot phase. The offering proved popular, and the Friends expect to fund 63 different selections by Fall 2017. Titles are chosen in committee, according to a ranking system which Jill herself devised. In addition to this pet project, Jill served the Friends ably as membership chair. Under her direction, the Friends have grown their ranks over the past two years. Not one to rest on her laurels, Jill just began a first term as the group’s vice president.
“She has proven an indispensable member of our organization,” praised treasurer Margie Nelsen. “In addition to her assigned duties, she is constantly available for other Friends events, as well as activities sponsored by the Saint Peter Library.”
Dean and Linda Squires make an efficient husband and wife team, and their teamwork and largesse have made a positive, lasting impact on the Friends of the Virginia Public Library. Both play leadership roles in the library’s book sale, and are able to pick up where the other one left off when necessary. “If Linda is out of state as a sale looms – as she often is to babysit grandchildren – Dean follows her kind directives on volunteer scheduling and publicity efforts,” quipped Friends president Carol Gunderson. Dean also happily serves in a handyman role when required. Staff and patrons have him to thank for the recently repainted window boxes, for instance.
“Along with their strong work ethic, what truly marks Linda and Dean as ‘Standout Friends’ are their humble smiles and positive attitudes,” Carol said.
Over the past year, membership in the Wabasha Friends of the Library has doubled. Long-time members attribute much of this renewed interest to the able leadership of Jackie Kreye, who has done much in recent years to extend the organization’s reach and visibility. She joined the organization in 2010, and served as treasurer before assuming her current post. Among other talents, Jackie has a flair for creative fundraising. In May 2017, she organized a Friends ‘garage sale’ as part Wabasha's involvement in the Mississippi Valley's annual "100 Miles of Garage Sales" weekend. In addition to books, the Friends sold lightly used prom dresses (timing is everything!), and ultimately netted $1400 after a generous match donation. Jackie is also currently spearheading a new, ticketed author luncheon fundraiser, featuring Minnesota historian Renee Wendinger.
“Jackie is really our glue… her to-do list for next year includes fundraisers aimed at helping raise the $25,000 required for a needed children’s room expansion,” said member Peg Bauernfeind.
The Friends of the Heritage Library in Lakeville are one of only a handful of Friends groups in Minnesota who coordinate an annual, community-wide “Big Read” initiative. Called “OneBook, OneLakeville,” this multifaceted program promotes community togetherness and stokes meaningful discussions on important societal issues. Past author guests have included Sonia Nazario, New York Times bestselling author behind the immigration story Enrique’s Journey, and Minnesota’s own Jon Odell. Loretta Ellsworth is the driving force behind this ambitious programming series. As chairperson, she oversees every aspect of OneBook, OneLakeville. Furthermore, as a former teacher, she finds inventive ways of bringing area students into the fold.
“Loretta has also done an exceptional job advancing the Friends’ mission in other ways,” added president Debbie Holzgraefe. She is skilled at grant writing, and cheerfully represents the Friends at the meetings of various community organizations in order to promote synergy and publicize upcoming library events.
Benson, Minnesota – population 3,000 – boasts an active, impressive Friends of the Library group out of proportion to that community’s relatively small size. Donna Enderson, president of the group, is a principal reason this is so. “Donna’s contributions have given life, breadth and depth to the message and vision of the Friends of the Library organization,” noted Head Librarian Dawn Dailey. She has devoted countless hours to fundraising – via book sales, silent auctions, and a number of other successful events. Under her leadership, the Friends also play an active role in the library’s Summer Reading Program, by buying prizes and hosting a fun ice cream social for all participants.
Donna’s devotion to the cause is perhaps best illustrated by a favorite anecdote of Dawn’s. When the Friends purchased new furniture for the library’s sitting and reading area, Donna went the extra mile – adding flare by crafting pillows for the chairs and refurbishing a bench. Above the wall, she added the words: “Libraries Change Lives… For the Better.”
Joan Frick is fast approaching a major milestone: twenty-five years as a member of the Elk River Friends of the Library. Since 1993, she’s also held the post of treasurer – a position she is eminently qualified for, given that her professional background is in city government finance. Joan does much more than just keep the books in Elk River, however. She is the primary coordinator for the Friends’ semiannual book sales, and she facilitates a popular monthly book club. In addition, she is active in Friends-supported library programs, including summer and winter reading programs and “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten.” She keeps record of participant “incentive points” attached to these programs (a tall order, given strong participation figures).
“Joan’s deep level of commitment is evident in everything that she does at the library – and clearly, that list is a long one!” said branch librarian Pamela Wagman.
Nancy Guerino joined the Board of the Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries in 2003, and contributed seven years as president beginning in 2007. Choosing just one highlight from her long and highly productive tenure would be an impossible task. During her time as a Friends leader, Nancy spearheaded a $71,000 capital campaign to purchase amenities for the North Saint Paul Library, and chaired a committee tasked with raising another $63,000 for the Maplewood Public Library. Moreover, under Nancy’s able leadership, Friends membership grew from 217 to almost 1,000 households!
“No matter what our libraries and Friends organizations have needed, Nancy has volunteered her hard work, enthusiasm and skills to help make it happen,” said current president Frank Harris. “From donning the Booker Reading Dog costume, to organizing units in local parades, to staffing booths for us at probate and trust attorney conferences [to promote legacy giving to libraries], count on Nancy to step up to the plate.”
Occasionally a Friend of the Library comes along with the rare, uncanny ability to quickly yet accurately price used books: a skill that comes in handy when you regularly coordinate large book sales. Friends of the Edina Community Library have such a volunteer in Margaret Kersteder. That’s fortunate, as Edina moves an impressive volume of books – nearly 10,000 books at each semiannual sale. Every Wednesday morning, Margaret can be found diligently descending to the storeroom to sort inventory. In addition, she provided outstanding services as the organization’s secretary, and serves unofficially as a mentor to new Board members.
“Margaret brings great heart, endless energy, and determination,” praised fellow Friend leader Les Kraus. “For decades, she has provided us with leadership by example, and has made the Friends of the Edina Library a force – not just in Edina, but throughout Hennepin County.”
Mary Kvitek is a true tour de force within the Friends of the Chaska Public Library. She has been a member of that organization for a dozen years and counting, including the last six as treasurer. In addition, for the past eight years, Mary has doubled as chairperson for the Friends’ semi-annual book sales, held every February and July. Those events, which generate revenue between $6,000 and $7,000 annually, are the major source of revenue for the Friends in Chaska. Mary is fond of adding her own special touches to these sales. Volunteers are easily recognized by book-themed aprons sewn by her, and she is known to bring in a variety of baked goods for her volunteers.
Janet Karius, branch manager for Carver County Library – Chaska Library, praises: “We have consistently benefitted from [Mary’s] detail-oriented and efficient approach to her responsibilities. She is generous with her time and is a thoughtful solution finder. She also applies a wealth of kindheartedness, encouragement, and consideration to that work.”
It has only been a year and a half since Skip Levesque took on leadership of the Friends organization in St. Michael. In that short time, however, Skip has done much to propel the organization into the twenty-first century. Under his guidance, the group has hosted dynamic TEDx events and drastically increased its presence on social media. At the same time, Skip ensures that the Friends remain ‘brilliant at the basics.’ Recent book sales have been among their most profitable ever. Marla Scherber, a librarian in St. Michael, attributes this to the fun, bookstore-like atmosphere that the assiduous work put in by Skip’s crew makes possible. Moreover, when there are books left over, “Skip himself volunteers to deliver them to other non-profits to use. He really pays it forward,” Marla said.
By all accounts, Skip is also an active, forward-thinking library advocate who does everything in his power to champion library funding. He has represented the state at National Library Legislative Day in Washington, D.C. and represents Great River Regional Library locally whenever an opportunity presents itself.
Marilyn served on the Board of the Friends of the Austin Public Library Board from January 2006 through May 2016, including a two-year term as president. During her tenure, Marilyn played an instrumental role in the production and publication of “Austin Remembers,” a Friends-sponsored stories collection about Austin residents. She also played an active role in the launch of her community’s Christmas New Book Fair. (Both those successful initiatives put the Friends in contention for the Evy Nordley Award.) In her spare time, such as it is, Marilyn has represented the Friends at the Austin Artworks Festival, on a city-wide read committee, and on a Friends team that coordinates the annual Eberhart Poetry Contest in conjunction with Austin Public Schools.
“In short,” explained current president Sue Grove, “Marilyn has been a major contributor to the growth and success of the Friends of the Austin Public Library – and richly deserves to be a Standout Library Friend!”
Every successful Friends group needs a volunteer or two who is willing to roll up their sleeves and do the less-than-glamorous, often unappreciated work that makes our sort of nonprofit organization run smoothly. Park Rapid Area Friends of the Library have such a helper in Dolores Olson. A member of the group since 1989, Dolores has served in a wide range of capacities over the years. In addition to terms as both president and secretary, she for many years wrote and published a well-received Friends newsletter. She also played a leading role in the establishment of a Friends scholarship program.
Unafraid of dirty work and heavy lifting, Dolores also coordinates rummage sales, assisted staff in the relocation of library collections from an old to a new facility, and added a much needed file structure to the Friends’ voluminous, disorganized paper records.
In 2014, the small Northwoods town of Ely made state news when it unveiled its new, $1.3 million, 6,500-square-foot library facility. Downtown’s new gem could not have come to fruition without Ely’s dedicated Friends of the Library support organization. Foremost among their number, according to president Gail Sheddy, is the inimitable Joe Owens. “We contributed $30,000 – and that simply could not have been accomplished without Joe overseeing our fundraising efforts.” Outside embellishments such as landscaping and benches, and indoor improvements like chairs, tables and computers, all came from the supplemental funds raised under Joe’s direction.
Joe’s time with the Friends predates this project by many years. He’s served on the Board for a dozen years – including six as president. Gail praises his conscientious stewardship of estate gifts and leadership on hugely successful membership drives. (At present, Ely boasts the largest membership of any community its size in Minnesota.)
Pastor Clint Patterson is a jack-of-all trades within the Friends of the Kasson Public Library. Depending on the season, he can be found coordinating author visits, assisting with Summer Reading Program, and pitching in during book sale preparations. In addition, Clint ably represents library patrons in Kasson and Dodge County on a larger stage. He’s served on the SELCO / SELS Board of Directors, an appointment bestowed by the county board of commissioners. During this period, he served first as a member and later as president of that board’s Finance Committee. Moreover, in 2015, Clint mediated a controversy regarding library assessments, and later chaired SELCO’s Technology Fee Study Committee.
“Clint personifies the attributes of a Standout Library Friend,” said SELCO Executive Director Ann Hutton. “He has dedicated hours of service and has eloquently helped the regional organization overcome challenges.”
Few if any Friends of the Library can boast a national reputation on par with that achieved by Peter Pearson. As the first (and thus far only) executive director of the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, Peter has grown the organization from a staff of two and budget of $200,000 to a staff of nearly 20 and a budget of $3 million. Under his able leadership, the Friends assumed stewardship of the prestigious Minnesota Book Awards program and inaugurated their nationally known “Opus & Olives” author dinner fundraiser. Among other highlights, the Friends under Peter also launched a profitable consulting arm called Library Strategies – the only such organization in the country based within a library support organization.
“Over this same time, Peter also spearheaded two capital campaigns on behalf of the library and built up a powerhouse Board of committed community leaders,” added Jane Eastwood, director of the Saint Paul Public Library. “He will certainly be missed when he retires in 2016, after 25 years with the Friends.”
The Grand Rapids Public Library recently celebrated its “sweet sixteen.” A busy public facility like this one can’t go that long without touch ups and improvements, and the Friends are the major reason the building remains in tip-top shape. The Friends, in turn, attribute their ability to be so generous to the stalwart leadership of Carol Steele.
“’C’ is for Carol,” explained member Juliet Jones. “Carol is challenging, contributing, caring, composed, collaborative, cost conscious, considerate, centered, candid, creative, cooperative –and concerned.” Her special drive is best illustrated by one of Grand Rapids’ more recent and innovative fundraisers. In order to pay for the refurbishment of the library’s community room, Carol and the Friends solicited signatures from twenty Minnesota authors for integration into a one-of-a-kind quilt. A special $5 raffle, dubbed “Minnesota Authors on Our Shelves,” raised the needed funds while simultaneously generating excitement about the library and awareness of the Friends.
For the past twenty years, Faribault resident and attorney Greg Thibodeau has been an integral part of the Friends of the Buckham Memorial. Greg currently serves as both treasurer and secretary for the group. In the former capacity, given his legal background, he is perfectly suited to advise the Friends on a host of questions and to ensure that bylaws and 501(c)3 paperwork remain up to date. Friends also count on Greg to draft their agendas and capture meeting minutes. Last but not least, Greg is a driving force behind the group’s January pancake breakfast, a popular annual fundraiser.
“Greg is a modest man,” said president Joyce Buresh. “He never dominates the conversation at the meetings but gives us the advice we need. We as Friends of the Library are so very blessed to have Greg on our board. We see him as our ‘irreplaceable’ Friend.”
Bibliophiles in Stearns County will tell you that one of the best places to go in their area for affordable books is the permanent Friends bookstore housed at the Saint Cloud Public Library. Mary Ann Tourres, a five-year veteran of the bookstore committee, is a chief reason the bookstore is open year round and is one of the library’s hidden gems. Any Friend can tell you that organizing incoming inventory can be a little chaotic, but Mary Ann has introduced method to that madness. She developed an efficient system to use Amazon, Abe Books, and other websites to research and accurately price first editions, signed novels, and other rare books. Recently, when the Friends decided to renovate the space, Mary Ann proved instrumental: contacting movers, painters, and interior designers to assist in the bookstore improvements.
“This is really only a general overview of the many activities that Mary Ann is involved in to raise funds for the Great River Regional Library system and to benefit our hundreds of bookstore customers,” explained Dottie Martini, a fellow Friend.
Setting up shop for their quarterly used book sales is something that the Friends of the Rochester Public Library find surprisingly easy – thanks to Bruce Witts. Bruce is a driving force behind the extensive organization work that goes on beforehand and behind the scenes. He organizes and boxes the books into fifteen categories, to simplify set up. (An easy enough thing in principle, this is a fall order when the Friends move between 10,000 and 15,000 books every sale!) Bruce also took the extra and innovative step of assembling special book shelves to set on the tables to allow more books to be displayed. As chair of the book sales committee, he also inaugurated a Friends-only “preview sale” the evening before the official start. This move has greatly increased Friends membership in Rochester.
“In 2012, sales totaled $14,100… By 2015, sales totaled $20,000,” explained co-president Phyllis Hambright. “This is real money for the library, and so much of it is owed to Bruce.”