Leadership Transition


The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library Welcomes Beth Burns as New President

Burns will officially begin leadership of the organization January 1, 2017.

Beth Burns

SAINT PAUL,MN, November 10, 2016 —The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library announced that, after a national search, its board has selected Beth Burns as the organization’s new president. Beth, who most recently served as Vice Pesident for External Relations at the Minnesota Zoo, will
join the staff in early December and officially assume the role on January 1, 2017.

Beth comes to The Friends with a deep understanding of nonprofits and public engagement. In her role at the Zoo, she oversaw a division that included the zoo’s marketing, sales, public relations, membership, guest relations, government affairs, and education programs. As part of that role Beth was responsible for engaging 1.3 million annual visitors, 43,000 member households, and more than 500,000 education program participants.

Beth brings not only a proven track record of effective leadership, but also extensive knowledge of fundraising and advocacy. Prior to joining the zoo, she served as the Executive Director for Lutheran Music Program, where she was the lead fundraiser and led the planning and implementation of the annual fund.  She also facilitated the repayment of more than $600,000 in debt while simultaneously growing the annual fund by 28% during the depths of the recession.

She has also held various leadership roles in touring, public affairs and education at the Guthrie Theater and has worked for MacPhail Center for Music, the University of St. Thomas, and the Children’s Theatre Company.

Beth’s commitment to the good of the community goes beyond her professional career to her volunteer engagement.  She is a founding board member and officer for the St. Paul-based Minnesota Music Coalition; she served for 17 years on the board of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, and is also a former trustee of 15 Head Theatre Lab and the Minnesota Association for Arts Educators.

Beth received her undergraduate degree in creative writing and theater communications from St. Olaf College and attended graduate school at the University of St. Thomas. She has lived in St. Paul with her husband, Bob, for more than 22 years.

“I know the role that libraries have played in my own life. Reading has provided me with profound moments of education and inspiration throughout my life,” says Beth. “I am excited to share my passion for the written word and serve an organization that is so deeply and organically embedded in every corner of the city I love.”

“We were impressed by Beth’s leadership record and her extensive experience with fundraising and advocacy. She has the combination of skills the board was looking for, and we are confident that she is the right person to guide The Friends into the future,” says Board Chair Joe Bagnoli.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to get to know Beth.



Peter-Portrait LDear Friends,

At the end of 2016 I will have been at The Friends for 25 years. I have enjoyed this job immensely and feel like this great organization’s staff and Board and volunteers have helped the Saint Paul Public Library meet much more of our community’s needs than it could without The Friends’ private funding and advocacy. The organization has grown from a staff of two, a budget of $200,000 a year and a Board of seven individuals to the organization it is today with a staff of 19, an annual budget of over $3 million and a dynamic Board of 50 individuals. During this time The Friends has conducted three successful capital campaigns, taken on the Minnesota Book Awards, created the country’s premier book and author event, Opus & Olives, and created a nationally recognized library consulting company, Library Strategies. We can all be proud of the work that we have done together.

But a new era is about to begin at The Friends.  I have made the decision to retire on December 31, 2016. The timing is right. Our most recent capital campaign has been successfully completed. We have moved into new office space which better meets the staff’s needs for collaborative work space and saves the organization about $75,000 annually. New staff members have also been added in the last year to strengthen The Friends’ fundraising capabilities and financial and administrative oversight.

I have enjoyed every one of my 25 years at The Friends. I feel blessed to have had a career that is personally fulfilling and also of service to this great city and library that we all love. The relationships I have developed at The Friends will stay with me forever.

Peter D. Pearson
Outgoing President

P.S. In the months ahead, the staff of The Friends and I will continue to serve the Saint Paul Public Library and our partner organizations just as we have since 1945. Thank you for being a Friend of the Library and supporting our mission.

P.P.S. If you have questions at any time about the transition process the Friends Board of Trustees is following, please get in touch with me at peterp@thefriends.org or 651-366-6482.

Retirement Announcement

The Peter Pearson Endowment Fund

The Friends is conducting a national search to identify the next president. The Board of Trustees has contracted with Ballinger|Leafblad to facilitate the process. Inquiries about the position can be sent to lars@ballingerleafblad.com.

 Read more about Peter Pearson’s legacy:


St. Paul Friends of Public Library Head Peter Pearson To Step Down, by Claire Kirch | July 1, 2016
St. Paul Library’s Got Friends, by Claire Kirch | November 30, 2009



For St. Paul Libraries, a Friend Indeed, by Pioneer Press Editorial Board | November 9, 2016
New Chapter for Friends of the St. Paul Public Library Presidentby Molly Guthrey | November 4, 2016
Friends President Stepping Down,
by Jaime DeLage | June 28, 2016
St. Paul’s Libraries Have Long Benefited from Their Friends, by Maja Beckstrom | January 29, 2016