Stand Up for Standout Friends


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2021: Last year brought a daunting array of challenges for libraries and their support organizations. However, there was also something of a silver lining to a year defined by COVID-19 and its fallout. It gave staff and volunteers new opportunities to showcase their ingenuity, dedication, and service ethos.

MALF is eager to recognize individual Friends of the Library who went “above and beyond” in service to their group and its library in 2020. As means to that end, we are pleased to bring back our popular Stand Up for Standout Friends program for its 6th consecutive year.

What Are ‘Standout’ Qualities?
In short, it is up to you! Some may wish to acknowledge a current or former board member or other executive for their contributions in a leadership role. Others may choose to honor a Friend who has been with their organization since the beginning. You are also welcome to bestow the honorific based on number of hours volunteered, amount of money raised, or any mix of these and other factors.

Note: You do NOT need to focus your nomination around 2020 and COVID-19. It’s just one new avenue to consider.

Program Benefits
Perks include a matted certificate from MALF, commendation letter to the mayor and county commissioner in each recipient’s hometown, inclusion in a special video tribute [example], and a written featurette in an upcoming MALF e-newsletter. 

Eligibility + Next Steps
Each member organization may only submit one name per year for the Standout Friends honor. Any Friend is eligible, provided he or she is part of a Friends of the Library group current in its MALF membership and is willing to have his or her name shared publicly on award materials distributed across the state. 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 August 6, 2021. Please do so via email (to:

Sign up for MALF's free e-newsletter to be among the first to receive featurettes profiling members of the 2020 class of Stand Up for Standout Friends. Our permanent Gallery of Honorees (below) will be updated once all 2020 recipients have been so profiled. 


2019 Gallery of Honorees

MALF announced the 2018 "class" of 'Stand Up for Standout Friends' on October 11, 2018, as part of the annual Minnesota Library Association (MLA) conference in St. Cloud. Scroll down to read about each of the 2018 honorees, and their myriad contributions to Friends work across Minnesota.

Mary Lou Marchand (Bemidji) | Cory Braaten (Benson)
Brainerd (LaVonne Danzl) | Cook (Melissa Waltman)
Douglas Co. (Gorgia Wahlberg) | Grand Rapids (Nancy Alfuth)
Kasson (Clarice Peterson) | Milaca (Yvonne Sauer) | Northfield (Robert Bruce)
Park Rapids (Josi Ashmore) | Ramsey Co. (Metta Fridley)
Redwood Falls (Joyce Johnson) | Saint Peter (Mary Ann Hanson)

Friends of the Bemidji Public Library
Mary Lou Marchand

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.”

Friends of the Benson Public Library
Cory Braaten

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.”

Friends of the Brainerd Public Library
LaVonne Danzl

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!’

Friends of the Cook Public Library
Melissa Waltman

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.”

Douglas County Library Friends
Georgia Wahlberg

Georgia 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.”

Friends of the Grand Rapids Area Library
Nancy Alfuth

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.” 

Friends of the Kasson Public Library
Clarice Peterson

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 Friends of the Library
Yvonne Sauer

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.

Friends of the Northfield Public Library
Robert Bruce

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.

Park Rapids Area Friends of the Library
Josi Ashmore

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.”

Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries
Metta Fridley

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.

Friends of the Redwood Falls Library
Joyce Johnson

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."

Saint Peter Friends of the Library
Mary Ann Hanson

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.


2018 Gallery of Honorees

MALF announced the 2018 "class" of 'Stand Up for Standout Friends' on October 11, 2018, as part of the annual Minnesota Library Association (MLA) conference in St. Cloud. Scroll down to read about each of the 2018 honorees, and their myriad contributions to Friends work across Minnesota.

Sharon Geisen (Bemidji) | Katie Reardon (Benson)
Sherri DeLaHunt (Brainerd) | Cook (Kristi Sopoci) | Cook Co. (Mike Schelmeske)
Douglas Co. (Priscilla Reineke) | Carol Goode (Edina) | Margit Johnson (Northfield)
Arlene Novak (Park Rapids) | Plymouth (Cathy Fischer)
Phyllis Hambright (Rochester) | Dottie Martini (Saint Cloud)

Friends of the Bemidji Public Library
Sharon Geisen

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.”

Friends of the Benson Public Library
Katie Reardon

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’!

Friends of the Brainerd Public Library
Sherri DeLaHunt

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.

Friends of the Cook Public Library
Kristi Sopoci

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.

Library Friends of Cook County
Mike Schelmeske

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 and Foundation at Douglas County Library
Priscilla Reineke

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."

Friends of the Edina Community Library
Carol Goode

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.

Friends of the Northfield Public Library
Margit Johnson

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.

Park Rapids Area Friends of the Library
Arlene Novak

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. 

Friends of the Plymouth Library
Cathy Fischer

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.

Friends of the Rochester Public Library
Phyllis Hambright

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.

Saint Cloud Friends of the Library
Dottie Martini

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."


2017 Gallery of Honorees

In summer 2017, for the second year in a row, MALF invited each and every member organization to put forward the name of one individual for this special annual honor - in thanks for standout efforts in furtherance of Friends of the Library work. Read more about the 2017 class below!


Zilla Way (Anoka) | Rosy Petersen (Benson)
Corinne Lenort (Blooming Prairie) | Ruth Gogolin (Brainerd)
Karen Lee (Cambridge) | Mo Fontana (Cook) | Dan Smith (Delano)
Louise Price (Edina) | Kieth Severson (Mille Lacs) | Pam Gibb (Moorhead)
Bill North (Northfield) | Sandy Drury (Park Rapids)
LuAnn Svendsen (Plymouth) | Donna Andreas (Ramsey) 
Joyce Harlow (Red Wing) | Nan Frie (Rochester) | Rose Ford (St. Cloud)
Jill Potts (St. Peter) | Dean & Virginia Squires (Virginia) | Jackie Kreye (Wabasha)


Friends of the Anoka County Library
Zilla Way

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.

Friends of the Benson Public Library
Rosy Petersen

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.

Friends of the Brainerd Public Library 
Sheila DeChantal

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.

Friends of the Cambridge Public Library
Karen Lee

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.”

Friends of the Cook Public Library
Mo Fontana

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.”

Friends of the Delano Public Library
Dan Smith

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.

Friends of the Edina Community Library
Louise Price

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 
Kieth Severson

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.

Friends of the Moorhead Public Library 
Pam Gibb

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.

Friends and Foundation at Northfield Public Library
Bill North

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.

Park Rapids Area Friends of the Library 
Sandy Drury

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.

Friends of the Plymouth Public Library 
LuAnn Svendsen

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!’”

Friends of Ramsey County Libraries
Donna Andreas

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!”

Friends of the Red Wing Public Library
Joyce Harlow

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.”

Friends of the Rochester Public Library
Nan Frie

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.

Saint Cloud Friends of the Library
Rose Ford

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.

Friends of the Saint Peter Public Library
Jill Potts

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.” 

Friends of the Virginia Public Library
Dean and Linda Squires

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.

Friends of the Wabasha Public Library
Jackie Kreye

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.


2016 Gallery of Honorees

In summer 2016, MALF invited each and every member organization to put forward the name of one individual for this special annual honor - in thanks for standout efforts in furtherance of Friends of the Library work. Read more about the inaugural class below.


Loretta Ellsworth (Lakeville Heritage) | Donna Enderson (Benson) |
Joan Frick (Elk River) | Nancy Guerino (Ramsey County) |
Margaret Kersteter (Edina) | Mary Kvitek (Chaska) | Skip Levesque (St. Michael) |
Marilyn Muchow (Austin) | Dolores Olson (Park Rapids) | Joe Owens (Ely) |
Clint Patterson (Kasson) | Peter Pearson (St. Paul) | Carol Steele (Grand Rapids) |
Greg Thibodeau (Buckham Faribault) | Mary Ann Tourres (St. Cloud) |
Bruce Witts (Rochester)


Loretta Ellsworth
Friends of the Lakeville Heritage Library

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.

Donna Enderson
Friends of the Benson Public Library

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
Elk River Friends of the Library

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
Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries

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.”

Margaret Kersteter
Friends of the Edina Community Library

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
Friends of the Chaska Public Library

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.”

Skip Levesque
St. Michael – Albertville – Hanover Friends of the Library

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 Muchow
Friends of the Austin Public Library

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!”

Dolores Olson
Park Rapid Area Friends of the Library

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.

Joe Owens
Friends of the Ely Public Library

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.)

Clint Patterson
Friends of the Kasson Public Library

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.”

Peter Pearson
Friends of the St. Paul Public Library

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.”

Carol Steele
Friends of the Grand Rapids Area Library

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.

Greg Thibodeau
Friends of the Buckham Memorial Library

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.”

Mary Ann Tourres
Friends of the Saint Cloud Library

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. 

Bruce Witts
Friends of the Rochester Public Library

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.”  



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