The Fourth Annual Minnesota Crossword Tournament Held June 14 at Landmark Center

Amateur, expert and team puzzlers from around the region competed for prizes and honors in a tournament modeled after the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Puzzlers of all skill levels competed in The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library’s Fourth Annual Minnesota Crossword Tournament held on Sunday, June 14 at Saint Paul’s Landmark Center. Cruciverbalists from throughout Minnesota, and from such far-flung locales as Indiana, Iowa and California competed for bragging rights, trophies and prizes.

Solvers in each of three brackets – Amateur, Expert and Teams (of up to four players) – tackled three original crossword puzzles created and edited specially for this tournament by professional constructors with a local connection, all of whose work has appeared in the New York Times. Like the New York Times crossword editor, Will Shortz’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT) after which Minnesota’s was modeled, scoring was based on accuracy and speed. The three solvers or teams with the highest combined scores from the first three rounds moved on to the finals in each category, with championship puzzles solved head-to-head-to-head in front of the crowd.

Professional Crossword Constructors

Professional crossword constructors C.C. Burnikel, Tom Pepper, George Barany, Victor Barocas, Michael David, and David Liben-Nowell were among the contributors to the locally-flavored contest.

In addition to trophies from A.J. Schaake, winners were awarded prizes of gift cards, redeemable at local bookstores and eateries. There were also prizes for special categories including the best finishers under age 25 and age 65 or older; rookie competitor; Friends member; competitor from Saint Paul; competitor from out of state; team from a college; team from a library; and best team name. Mintahoe Catering donated an extravagant gift basket of wine, sweet and savory treats, and Minnesota gift items to be given as a door prize, which was open to all in attendance.

Solvers and spectators alike enjoyed an entertaining day of suspense, surprises and fun. Spectators at the tournament were provided copies of the puzzles to play along. Following the tournament, the organizers, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library are making the 10-puzzle play-at-home packs available to purchase online for just $5 at Proceeds support the mission of The Friends.

Learn more about the annual tournament here. >>

Teens Get High-Tech Toys for the Summer

Arlington Hills Community Center to Offer Area Teens Free Access to a Laser Engraver and 3D Printer this Summer

Teens will have access to a laser engraver and 3D printer at Arlington Hills Community Center this summer. The equipment is on loan from Johnson High School’s Fab Lab, thanks to funding from a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

3D printingThe equipment will be housed in the Arlington Hills Community Center’s Createch Studio, where it will be available for use Mondays through Thursdays from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m., and Fridays from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., beginning June 11. The Createch Studio is a creative tinkering space for youth ages 13-18. Youth are encouraged to stop by and check out, learn about, and experiment with the equipment. There is no charge for use of the studio or equipment. Createch Studio is in the lower level of the Arlington Hills Community Center, 1200 Payne Ave, Saint Paul MN 55130, 651-632-3870.

Saint Paul Public Library and Parks and Recreation staff were trained at Johnson High School on proper use of the equipment. This summer, they will be joined by eight Johnson High School students who will be paid to help the Createch Studio manage, maintain, and operate the equipment.

This project is intended to offer work experience to the Johnson High School students, and increase STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) knowledge for youth visiting the studio.

The project was made possible, in part, by funding from the Minnesota Department of Education through a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Podcast: Home by Starlight: Writers-in-Conversation

Paula Meehan, the 2015 recipient of the O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry, and Joyce Sutphen, Minnesota’s Poet Laureate, discuss their body of work and poetry generally at Merriam Park Library. Presented by The Friends and the Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas. 


Podcast: Minnesota’s Métis and French Canadians (Untold Stories 2015)

Virgil Benoit, Professor of French at the University of North Dakota, will introduce the audience to Métis and French-Canadian presence in Minnesota from 1800 on based on historical dates and the events that surrounded them, illustrating the process of how history and memory work to construct identity within social frameworks. His talk will include events such as the fur trade, examples of how the Métis came to be, the creation of Minnesota’s iconic Etoile du Nord, and the subsequent watershed and spattering of French, French-Canadian, and Métis identity from Saint Paul to the Red River Valley and beyond.

Saint Paul Public Library’s Bookmobile Debuts New Artwork

Public is encouraged to share pictures on social media to raise funds for the library

Bookmobile-The Saint Paul Public Library’s iconic Bookmobile will debut a new wrap in the Grand Old Day Parade on Sunday, June 7. The full vehicle wrap features original artwork by Twin Cities illustrator Julie Boehmer. The design showcases the people and places of Saint Paul, reflecting a community that values lifelong learning, healthy living, and engagement with our vibrant city resources.

A new sponsorship by HealthPartners, facilitated by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, supports the Bookmobile’s new look and its services to the community. The design presents the sponsorship as an essential partnership between two important institutions working to strengthen and improve the future of the communities they serve. 

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library hopes to increase awareness of the new design and the sponsorship by HealthPartners with a special offer for everyone in the city to make a difference for their beloved library: For each picture taken of the new Bookmobile and posted to the social media channels Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #stpBookmobile, The Friends will donate $5 to the library, up to a total of $1,000. The campaign runs through Labor Day.

Bradley Cooper stpbookmobile selfie

With apologies to this time-traveling actor: Sorry Bradley, the #selfie must be taken with the *NEW* #StPBookmobile!

Saint Paul Public Library’s Bookmobile travels throughout the city to deliver library services and collections to communities that may otherwise be unable to access the library. The Bookmobile provides loans of all types of materials, reference assistance, library card registration, and Internet access. The Bookmobile serves about 80 community partners, including housing communities for older and/or disabled adults, after-school partners, and organizations serving children and families. In 2014, the Bookmobile had over 142,000 visits and circulated more than 120,000 items.



Podcast: 2015 Inaugural Richard P. McDermott Fitzgerald Lecture

Welcome to the podcast of a recent talk on “Romantic Relationships” given by leading F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar, Dr. Scott Donaldson.  The talk was the inaugural presentation of the annual Richard P. McDermott Fitzgerald Lecture, presented by the non-profit organization, Fitzgerald in Saint Paul.  The talk was presented on May 8, 2015 at the University Club in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and was co-sponsored by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library and Common Good Books. 

One of the nation’s leading literary biographers, Scott Donaldson has written eight books about 20th century American authors, including Fool for Love, F. Scott Fitzgerald; and Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald: The Rise and Fall of a Literary Friendship; as well as the recently published book, The Impossible Craft: Literary Biography. A Minnesota native, Donaldson began his writing career as a newspaper reporter and editor in Minneapolis, but later received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and is now professor emeritus at the College of William and Mary.

Fitzgerald in Saint Paul is a recently established nonprofit organization, created thanks to a bequest by Richard P. McDermott.  The organization is dedicated to celebrating the life and literature of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the revered American author and cultural icon, especially in his hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota. For more information visit

LibraryAware™ award recognizes community engagement in Saint Paul

Saint Paul is one of three communities in the United States to receive the 2015 LibraryAware Community Award given by Library Journal. The award recognizes model communities that engage with their libraries to improve the lives of their citizens and create lifelong learners.

The LibraryAware Community Award is underwritten by LibraryAware™ – a product of EBSCO Information Services. Representatives from Library Journal and EBSCO presented the award to the City of Saint Paul on May 6, 2015 during a meeting of the Library Board.

LibraryAware Award presented to City of Saint PaulMayor Chris Coleman, Library Board Chair Chris Tolbert, and Library Director Kit Hadley accepted the award and made brief comments to the Council and gallery. “The partnership that we have with The Friends of the Library, and the love the community has for the library, have increased demand for library services,” the Mayor said in accepting the award. He added, “This recognition of the work that we do is really recognition of a community that values libraries, and in spite of the fact that we have had budget challenges year after year, we have been able to prioritize the needs of the community and respond to those demands.”

Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL), with The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, was recognized for its work in raising the profile of the Library and the outreach and programming it does to support community priorities, including education equity, digital literacy and workforce development.

SPPL serves a large community of new Americans, including a growing number of Hmong, Somali, and Karen immigrants, and inclusivity is a major part of its mission. The library is continuously expanding its goal of being “connected, mobile, multilingual, and responsive to community learning opportunities.” Along with some 6,500 programs a year, storytime and computer training are offered in English, Spanish, Chinese, Karen, Somali, Hmong, Amharic and Oromo.

SPPL’s Mobile Workplace, a traveling computer lab, brings digital literacy instruction and early literacy classes in several languages to communities that may not otherwise be able to access a bricks-and-mortar library. It also offers programs at correctional facilities, shelters, and assisted living residences.

SPPL is currently piloting a project to circulate Wi-Fi hot spots with free 4G Internet service. Twenty-two percent of Saint Paul households have no Internet service at home. By borrowing the Internet, residents can enjoy three weeks of access to e-books and other digital library resources and take the time to complete online job applications and other web-based processes. In addition to the new hotspot circulation program, the library has also launched a Borrow the Internet program with the Saint Paul Public Schools. To support students using iPads, the library is lending hotspots to 100 Saint Paul Public Schools students for use this school year.

The outreach is giving back. A recent public awareness campaign, supported by The Friends, enlisted the social media hashtag #BecauseOfTheLibrary, asking residents for stories of how the library has touched their lives. The results, shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, reflected the campaign themes of the library’s transformational impact on Saint Paul residents and the entire community. The goals of the campaign – increased new library card registrations and program attendance, membership in The Friends and capital campaign donations – were met and exceeded.

The city has also demonstrated its commitment: the 2015 Saint Paul budget added $300,000 for library materials and $400,000 to increase hours, helping the library grow along with its ever-expanding community. As Rebecca Ryan, manager of the Sun Ray Library, said in a recent video for SPPL, “We’re not in the book business. We are in the Saint Paul business.” SPPL, the 2015 LibraryAware Community Award second place winner, received $7,500 and a handsome bronze plaque touting the award.

The LibraryAware Community Award is given annually to a community of any size and its library. The award emphasizes the library’s engagement with the community, its ability to make its community aware of what the library can do for it, and how it has delivered on that promise. The Dothan Houston County Library System in Alabama was the first place recipient, and third place went to Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, Kansas. All three of the LibraryAware Community Award winners were featured in an article in the April 2015 Library Journal.

The Friends announce the appointment of Greg Giles as Director of Development

Giles will complete the current capital campaign, and design and launch a planned giving strategy, as he takes over efforts to increase individual giving to support the library

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, April 29, 2015 — One of the oldest and strongest library support organizations in the country, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library announce the recent hiring of Greg Giles as Director of Development. Giles comes to The Friends after spending the last five years at the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM). As the Senior Development Officer at SMM, he was responsible for leading and sustaining an annual giving program resulting in $1.5 million in capital, program and annual gifts. His first charge as he transitions to The Friends will be to assist in closing out the final (public) phase of the current $7.8 million capital campaign. The campaign, which supports the complete renovation of Sun Ray and Highland Park Libraries and modest but important improvements to George Latimer Central Library, has already raised $6.8 million toward its goal. Total project cost was $14.8 million, with the City of Saint Paul contributing the other $7 million. The Sun Ray and Highland Park Libraries reopened late in 2014 but the capital campaign is not yet completed.

Greg GilesGrowing up in the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove, Greg Giles dreamed of becoming many things as an adult: architect, actor, star point guard. But a fundraiser? Not on the list. “Yeah, no kid ever said ‘I want to be a fundraiser when I grow up,’” laughs Greg. “You don’t play ‘Philanthropy’ with the neighbor kids, arguing whose turn it is to give money away this time!”

By chance, a temporary assignment at the Minneapolis Children’s Medical Center Foundation turned into a lifelong career, and one that Giles is passionate about. “I get to work every day with people who care about making the world a better place, and are willing to do something about it. What could be better?” Twenty-four years after that fateful placement, he has raised millions of dollars for organizations as diverse as The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, the Guthrie Theater and, most recently, The Science Museum of Minnesota.

A St. Paul resident since 1986, when he came to Hamline University (pursuing that childhood dream of being an actor), Greg says he is thrilled to bring his talents to the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. “It’s such a foundational organization for my favorite city. I can’t imagine a world without libraries, and I’m looking forward to working with other people who feel the same way.”

Greg and his wife Teresa live in Irvine Park with their 13-year-old miniature dachshund. “I love that neighborhood. It’s a beautiful historic district right by the Mississippi River and a quick walk to downtown.” That walk also includes his home library, George Latimer Central. When he’s not connecting donors with their passions, Greg is a playwright, a landscape photographer, and volunteers with The Playwrights’ Center and the First Unitarian Society.

The Friends’ Board recently completed a three-year strategic plan, which outlined specific objectives in its ongoing and future fundraising efforts. Identified as priorities were increasing both the number of members and the number of sustaining (monthly giving) members. The Friends has provided cash, grant and advocacy support to the Saint Paul Public Library totaling more than $1 million per year for each of the last 19 years. The new strategic plan has the ambitious goal of more than doubling the amount of unrestricted annual support by 2017.

About The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library: Currently celebrating its 70th year, The Friends is a nonprofit membership organization whose mission is stronger libraries for stronger communities. The Friends has a nonprofit consulting group, Library Strategies, that provides services to libraries and library organizations across the country and internationally. As an influential voice for libraries, we will ensure the Saint Paul Public Library and our partner libraries are vital centers of engaged, educated and diverse communities. The Friends also leads the Minnesota Book Awards and serves as the Minnesota Center for the Book – the state affiliate of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. For more information, contact The Friends at 651-222-3242.


27th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Presented

Minnesota Book AwardsThe Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is pleased to announce the winners of the 27th annual Minnesota Book Awards, presented by 3M Library Systems. In addition to winners in eight categories, The Friends presented the Kay Sexton and Book Artist Awards to previously announced honorees, respectively Mary François Rockcastle and Harriet Bart, with Philip Gallo and Jill Jevne. The annual Minnesota Book Awards program is a project of The Friends, in consortium with the Saint Paul Public Library and the City of Saint Paul.

More than 800 people attended a gala award ceremony at Saint Paul’s Union Depot on Saturday, April 18, emceed by Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio arts reporter and one of the Cube Critics on All Things Considered. Announced at the gala, the winners of the 2015 Minnesota Book Awards are:

Award for Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books for Africa:
Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen – Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold – published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Discover winter’s safe places for the hardy animals of the north—how they snuggle warmly and survive until spring’s warmth returns. Sidman is the Newbery Honor-winning author of children’s books, including Red Sings from the Treetops, winner of the 2010 Minnesota Book Award for Children’s Literature. Allen produces illustrations and printed work at The Kenspeckle Letterpress in Duluth.

Award for General Nonfiction, sponsored by Minnesota AFL-CIO:
Nancy Koester – Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life – published by William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
In this biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Koester traces her faith pilgrimage from evangelical Calvinism through spiritualism to Anglican spirituality in a compelling narrative. In addition to her writing, Koester is an ordained Lutheran minister and spiritual director.

Award for Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College:
Julie Klassen – The Secret of Pembrooke Park – published by Bethany House Publishers
Facing financial ruin and suffering a romantic disappointment, Abigail Foster is astounded when she and her father receive a strange and mysterious offer – the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. Klassen is the author of eight novels, including three winners of the Christy Award for Historical Romance.

Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Northwestern Mutual:
Kaethe Schwehn – Tailings: A Memoir – published by Cascade Books/Wipf and Stock Publishers
In August of 2001, in search of her own personal Eden, Schwehn came to Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center nestled in the Cascade Mountains. What seemed at first like a utopian ideal faded over the months and she was left with 354 inches of snow, a prowling cougar, sixty-five disgruntled villagers, and a pile of copper mine tailings 150 feet high. Schwehn is the co-editor of Claiming Our Callings: Toward a New Understanding of Vocation in the Liberal Arts. She teaches at St. Olaf College.

Award for Minnesota, sponsored by St. Mary’s University of Minnesota:
Lori Sturdevant – Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement– published by Minnesota Historical Society Press*
At thirty-eight years of age, Rosalie Wahl, a married mother of four, began classes at the William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul. Sturdevant describes how, despite personal struggle, Wahl completed law school and in 1977, became Minnesota’s first female Supreme Court Justice. Sturdevant is a columnist for the Star Tribune and has written a number of books on Minnesota history.

Award for Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Education Minnesota:
Marlon James – A Brief History of Seven Killings – published by Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House
Described by The New York Times as “sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex,” James’ novel uses the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley as a springboard to explore Jamaican society and culture. James is the author of John Crow’s Devil and The Book of Night Women, winner of a previous Minnesota Book Award.

Award for Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
Sean Hill – Dangerous Goods – published by Milkweed Editions*
From the Bahamas, London, and Cairo, to Bemidji, Minnesota, and Milledgeville, Georgia, Hill explores the relationship between travel, migration, alienation and home in this poignant and elegant collection. Sean Hill, who was born and raised in Milledgeville, Georgia, is also the author of Blood Ties & Brown Liquor.

Award for Young People’s Literature, sponsored by The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University:
Margi Preus – West of the Moon– published by Amulet Books/Abrams
Astri makes a daring escape from a mean goat farmer, retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, the two set off for America. Preus is the Newbery Honor Award-winning author of five books for young readers.

At the Book Awards gala on April 18, Mary François Rockcastle received the previously announced Kay Sexton Award, for her longstanding contributions to Minnesota’s literary community. Through her unique and unparalleled activities as Director of The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University, Mary François Rockcastle has devoted herself to the education of writers in Minnesota for more than 20 years. She and her colleagues worked together to develop and launch the MFA in Creative Writing program at Hamline in 1994—the first of its kind in Minnesota—and Rockcastle has gone on to expand and continuously improve the university’s creative writing offerings which now include the acclaimed low-residency MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, as well as the BFA in Creative Writing. The Award is sponsored by Common Good Books.

Also presented was the eighth annual Book Artist Award to Harriet Bart and her longtime collaborative partners, Philip Gallo and Jill Jevne, for a new piece entitled Ghost Maps. The award, sponsored by Lerner Publishing Group and presented with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), recognizes book artists for excellence of a new artistic work and demonstrated proficiency and quality in the book arts, as well as an ongoing commitment and significant contributions to Minnesota’s book arts community. Part of a longstanding collaborative relationship between artist, printer and binder, Ghost Maps was printed by Philip Gallo at The Hermetic Press in Minneapolis and binding was designed and executed by Jill Jevne of Jacobson, Minnesota. Since 2000, Bart, Gallo and Jevne have collaborated to produce ten artist books, two of which have been honored with Minnesota Book Awards in the Fine Press category.

Books written by a Minnesotan and first published in 2014 were eligible for the 27th annual Minnesota Book Awards. 250 books were nominated for awards this year, and 32 books were selected as finalists. The winners were chosen by panels of judges from around the state. Nominations for next year’s Awards will open in August, 2015. For more information on the Book Awards process, and a complete list of finalists and winners since 1988, visit

The Book Awards gala will be broadcast in the weeks to come on Saint Paul Neighborhood Network and TPT-MN Channel. Watch the website for updates on air dates.

The 27th annual Minnesota Book Awards is a project of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, with the Saint Paul Public Library and the City of Saint Paul. Major funding for the Book Awards was provided by 3M Library Systems; the Harlan Boss Foundation for the Arts; the Huss Foundation; the Katherine B. Andersen Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation; the McKnight Foundation; Saint Paul’s Cultural STAR;  Books for Africa; Alerus Financial; Common Good Books; The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University; Education Minnesota; Lerner Publishing Group; Macalester College; Minnesota AFL-CIO; Northwestern Mutual; Overdrive; St. Mary’s University of Minnesota; and Wellington Management, Inc.

Statewide outreach partners include: the Council of Regional Public Library System Administrators (CRPLSA); the Loft Literary Center; Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA); Media sponsors include: Minnesota Public Radio, Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN), the Star Tribune, and TPT-Minnesota Channel.

*indicates a Minnesota-based publisher

Day 1: “The Witch’s Boy” by Kelly Barnhill

32-Books-IconEach day counting down to the announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists.  Today we feature 2015 Young People’s Literature  finalist Kelly Barnhill.

A Story of Magic, Prophecies, and Warring Kingdoms


The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill
Published by:  Algonquin Young Readers/Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Category sponsored by The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University

Ned and his identical twin brother, Tam, go on a raft ride that turns tragic when Tam dies in an accident. The villagers who witnessed the accident believe that it should have been Ned that died. Nearby, Áine, the daughter of the Bandit King, is contemplating what her mother told her just before she died: “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his.” In a story full of magic, prophecies, and warring kingdoms, Ned and Áine struggle through grief and loss, learning to trust each other in order to save their communities.

About the Author:

Kelly Barnhill is the author of The Mostly True Story of Jack and Iron Hearted Violet, which won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She has received grants and awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, Intermedia Arts, and the Loft and is a teaching artist with COMPAS.

The reviews are in:

“The classic fantasy elements are all there, richly reimagined, with a vivid setting, a page-turning adventure of a plot, and compelling, timeless themes.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A classic origin-quest tale…brimming with a well-drawn, colorful supporting cast, a strong sense of place, and an enchanted forest with a personality to rival some of the best depictions of magical woods.” – School Library Journal

“[The Witch’s Boy] should open young readers’ eyes to something that is all around them in the very world we live in: the magic of words.” – The New York Times Book Review


Hear Kelly Barnhill talk about The Witch’s Boy with MPR’s Euan Kerr

Essay by Kelly Barnhill on writing The Witch’s Boy

Read the Prequel to The Witch’s Boy

Join us at the Awards Gala!

Get Tickets NowAward winners will be announced at the 27th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 18 at the historic St. Paul Union Depot. The opening reception begins at 7 p.m., followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50 and are available by visiting

Have you read The Witch’s Boy? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!