29th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Finalists Announced

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, January 28, 2017The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is pleased to announce finalists in all nine categories for the 29th Annual Minnesota Book Awards, presented this year by sponsor Education Minnesota. Chosen on Saturday, January 28, by 27 judges from around the state – writers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and others from the literary community – the finalists for each category are:

Children’s Literature, sponsored by Books For Africa:
- Tell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (Chronicle Books)

- This Is Not a Cat! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (Sterling Children’s Books/Sterling Publishing)

- Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Publishers)

- Yellow Time by Lauren Stringer (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster)

General Nonfiction:

- Canoes: A Natural History in North America by Mark Neuzil and Norman Sims (University of Minnesota Press)*

- Designing Our Way to a Better World by Thomas Fisher (University of Minnesota Press)*

-Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf Press)*

- The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It by Shawn Otto (Milkweed Editions)*

Genre Fiction, sponsored by Macalester College: 

- The Born and the Made by Robert Spande (self-published)

- The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens (Seventh Street Books/Prometheus Books)

- Rise of the Spring Tide by James Stitt (self-published)

- Stealing the Countess by David Housewright (Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s Press)

Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, sponsored by Faegre Baker Daniels:

- I Live Inside: Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland by Michelle Leon (Minnesota Historical Society Press) *

- The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company)

-This Is Where I Am: A Memoir by Zeke Caligiuri (University of Minnesota Press)*

- The Thunder Before the Storm: The Autobiography of Clyde Bellecourt by Clyde Bellecourt, as told to Jon Lurie (Minnesota Historical Society Press)*

Middle Grade Literature, sponsored by Education Minnesota:

- Little Cat’s Luck by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)

- Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson (Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group)*

-The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey (Algonquin Young Readers/Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

-Sticks & Stones by Abby Cooper (Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan)

Minnesota Nonfiction, sponsored by Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota:

- The Big Marsh: The Story of a Lost Landscape by Cheri Register (Minnesota Historical Society Press)*

-The Ford Century in Minnesota by Brian McMahon (University of Minnesota Press)*

-Richard F. Lack: Catalogue Raisonné 1943-1998 by Gary B. Christensen, biography by Stephen A. Gjertson (Afton Historical Society Press)*

- Women of Mayo Clinic: The Founding Generation by Virginia M. Wright-Peterson (Minnesota Historical Society Press)*

Novel & Short Story, sponsored by Fitzgerald in Saint Paul:

-The Annie Year by Stephanie Wilbur Ash (Unnamed Press)

- Do Not Find Me by Kathleen Novak (The Permanent Press)

- LaRose by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins Publishers)

- Wintering by Peter Geye (Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House)

Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.:
- May Day by Gretchen Marquette (Graywolf Press)*

- Tula by Chris Santiago (Milkweed Editions)*

- Unbearable Splendor by Sun Yung Shin (Coffee House Press)*

- Yes Thorn by Amy Munson (Tupelo Press) 

Young Adult Literature, sponsored by Brainfuse:

- Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers (HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers)

- LGBTQ+ Athletes Claim the Field: Striving for Equality by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (Twenty-First Century Books/Lerner Publishing Group)*

- The Memory Book by Lara Avery (Poppy/Little, Brown and Company)

-Original Fake by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, art by E. Eero Johnson (G. P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House)

*Indicates a Minnesota-based publisher.

Award winners will be announced at the 29th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony on Saturday, April 8, at InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront. The Preface Reception begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Awards Ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are from $40 – $55 and are available by visiting www.thefriends.org or calling 651-222-3242. The official hashtag for social media is #mnbookawards. All are encouraged to use it when posting comments, status updates, or sharing information about any of the authors or their books.

Originally created in 1988, the Minnesota Book Awards is now a year-long program that fosters the literary arts community in our state with the ultimate goal of creating stronger communities. The process begins in the fall with book submissions and continues through winter and into spring with two rounds of judging. Also woven throughout the season are various engagement activities and events that promote the authors and connect the entire world of Minnesota books – writers, artists, illustrators, publishers, editors, and more – to readers throughout the state. Hosting the Book Awards program led to The Friends’ designation as the Minnesota Center for the Book, which is the state affiliate of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

For additional information on the 29th Annual Minnesota Book Awards, the Awards Ceremony, or the Minnesota Center for the Book, please visit www.thefriends.org or call 651-222-3242. The Minnesota Book Awards is a program of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. Generous support for the Book Awards has been provided by the Harlan Boss Foundation for the Arts; The Katherine B. Andersen Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation; and The McKnight Foundation. Media sponsors include Minnesota Public Radio; the Star Tribune; and Twin Cities Public Television. Outreach partners and supporting organizations include: Augsburg College; The Loft Literary Center; Minnesota Center for Book Arts; and the Minnesota State Arts Board.

About The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library:
The Friends, with a staff of 18 and an operating budget of $3 million, produces 70 events per year and provides over $1.5 million in support annually to the library, resulting in the Saint Paul Public Library being recognized as a national leader in serving its community. With a mission of stronger libraries for stronger communities, The Friends supports not only the Saint Paul system, but also libraries and library organizations across the country and internationally through its consulting services, Library Strategies. For more information, contact The Friends at 651-222-3242 or visit thefriends.org.

A Q&A with The Friends’ new president, Beth Burns

Tell us about your cBeth Burnsareer path prior to coming to The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library.

I majored in creative writing and theater (or, as my friends say, writing and talking) at St. Olaf College. While in school, I was thrilled to learn that ‘cultural administration’ was a job and I’ve stayed in that field pretty much my entire career. My past employers include the Minnesota Zoo, Guthrie Theater, Children’s Theatre, MacPhail Center for Music, University of St. Thomas and the National Endowment for the Arts.

What interested you about The Friends?

I love the arts, and my first love is literature. I am always reading a book, and I believe so strongly in the power of literature to cultivate empathy, inspire creativity, and promote learning. Libraries help level the playing field by opening the door to language and literacy for everyone. The Friends is such an important organization because it serves as the voice and advocate for all the great work being undertaken by the Saint Paul Public Library.

What are you most excited for in this new chapter?

I am a lifelong learner, and I am excited to dive into the evolving role of libraries amidst a world of digitization and technology, increasing cultural diversity, economic disparity, aging infrastructures, and many more factors. I am also looking forward to meeting all of the individuals who have been such generous and loyal supporters of The Friends.  I love hearing peoples’ stories about the role that libraries have had in their own lives, and what compels them personally to support this important mission and work.

How do you see your role at The Friends?

I see my role in a couple ways: first, as an advocate and ambassador for the needs of Saint Paul’s libraries. Second, it’s very clear that The Friends is a healthy organization with a talented staff, committed board, and loyal group of supporters. In that respect, my role will be to steward and support all of these individuals in their own work to ensure that libraries have the resources necessary to thrive in Saint Paul.

How do you see the role of the library in the next 20 years?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer that question so early in my tenure, as I have yet to meet many of the creative and enormously talented leaders in this field. That said, I do believe that libraries can, should and will be at the heart of their communities in 20 years.  We will continue to need places to gather, to learn, and to be inspired – as individuals and as communities. Libraries are already so responsive to the needs of their constituents that I’m confident they will continue to evolve in a way that supports the changing needs and aspirations for our communities.

Name a book that changed your life.

Only one? “Little Women” was a powerful book in my childhood. I was inspired by Jo’s independence (and that she wanted to be a writer), but I also adored Beth, my namesake, who was so kind and loved music. I received a hardbound copy with illustrations for Christmas in third grade, and I read and reread that book throughout my childhood. I’m sure it influenced my attitudes about loyalty, charity, and every girl’s uniqueness and potential.

If you could be any literary character who would you be?

I’m not sure I would want to be any literary character, but I sure would like to meet a few of them! I love reading biographies for the same reason. I would love to work in Sylvia Beach’s Paris bookstore (Shakespeare & Co.), attend a meeting with Winston Churchill, or follow Katherine Graham around Washington D.C. for a few days.

Quick Facts about Beth:

Hometown: Austin, MN
Resides in: Mac-Groveland neighborhood, Saint Paul
Favorite season: Autumn
Favorite holiday: The whole month of December
Favorite performing artist: Too many to choose and it changes all the time! Musicians: Prince, Beck, Chrissie Hynde; Theater: Mark Rylance, Kevin Kling
Favorite food: My mom’s cardamom bread
Favorite book: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
Currently reading: Cherry by Mary Karr
Favorite place in St. Paul: My backyard

Special Feature: SPPL Live with author Brent Olson

We are excited to feature the first episode of the Saint Paul Public Library’s new podcast, SPPL Live. The first episode features Brent Olson, author of The Inadvertent Café and other books on life in southwestern Minnesota, serves up wit and wisdom from the prairie, and talks about his life as a writer, farmer, and owner of a small-town café.

Steven McCarthy Wins the 2017 Minnesota Book Artist Award

S.McCarthyGraphic design professor Steven McCarthy receives the 2017 Minnesota Book Artist Award for his Wee Go Library project – a mobile collection of 22 altered books found in Little Free Libraries throughout the Twin Cities.

December 9, 2016, SAINT PAUL, MN – The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is pleased to announce Steven McCarthy as the winner of the 2017 Minnesota Book Artist Award for his Wee Go Library project. Sponsored by Lerner Publishing Group, this annual award is presented by the Minnesota Book Awards and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), and recognizes a Minnesota book artist or book artist collaborative group for excellence of a new artistic work. Winners also show demonstrated proficiency and quality in the book arts through three pieces of supporting previous work, as well as an ongoing commitment and significant contributions to Minnesota’s book arts community.

McCarthy’s award-winning piece is a mobile display unit for 22 altered books selected from Little Free Libraries throughout the Twin Cities. Using various techniques – collage, rebinding, cutting, folding, tearing, gluing – the artist altered the books to create a collection in which used items are reborn as a part of the larger library narrative. Each book is sourced to its donor library with a small pamphlet that has a pin-pointed map and photos of the library structure and sponsoring house. The entire collection is beautifully housed in a custom-built oak and pine display case with felt-lined drawers to hold each of McCarthy’s whimsical creations.

Members of the award committee praised the project as “a play on books, narratives, and libraries,” saying that it “transforms existing text for an experience that is at once random and intentional.”

Another committee member said that McCarthy “creates a personal connection through carefully curated collections of texts; …the cabinetry, layout, and variation of the treatment all fit together to provide the viewer/reader with a unique journey that reveals the true potential of each book itself.”

McCarthy is a professor of graphic design at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. His long-standing interest in theories of design authorship – as both scholar and practitioner – has led to lectures, exhibits, publications and grant-funded research on six continents. His book on the topic, The Designer As… Author, Producer, Activist, Entrepreneur, Curator and Collaborator: New Models for Communicating was published in 2013 by BIS, Amsterdam. McCarthy has been in more than 125 juried and invitational exhibitions and his artist’s books are in prestigious collections. He serves on the board of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Visit his website: http://faculty.design.umn.edu/mccarthy.

A retrospective exhibition celebrating McCarthy’s work will be on display January 20 – March 26 in the Cowles Literary Commons on the second floor of the Open Book building (1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis). A reception and artist presentation will take place Friday, February 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. McCarthy will also receive special recognition and an award at the 29th annual Minnesota Book Awards Celebration on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Saint Paul.

About the Minnesota Book Awards:
The Minnesota Book Awards is a project of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, with the Saint Paul Public Library and City of Saint Paul. The program was created in 1988 by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library and other organizations as a part of the Festival of the Book. Awards are presented each year to books in nine categories by Minnesota writers or illustrators, as well as the Kay Sexton Award, Book Artist Award, and the biennial Hognander Minnesota History Award. Through its work with the Book Awards, The Friends was designated the Minnesota Center for the Book, a state affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. To find out more about the Minnesota Book Awards and the Center for the Book, please visit www.thefriends.org/mnbookawards.

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 Pic for PRSAINT 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.


The Friends Hires New Director of Marketing and Communications

SAINT PAUL, MN, October 11, 2016 – The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library welcomes a new Director of Marketing and Communications to the dynamic organization. Kim Horton will join The Friends’ team this October.

Kim has worked as a brand strategist and communications consultant for the past seven years, partnering with nonprofits like the Minnesota Literacy Council, the Ordway, and even The Friends’ own Library Strategies Consulting Group. She worked with the organizations to articulate their unique messages, create and execute marketing campaigns, and present workshops about effective marketing. Horton holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Advertising from the University of Illinois.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how a great story can capture an audience,” says Horton “and I’m thrilled to be able to help tell the powerful story of The Friends.”

Beyond crafting communications, Kim has a passion for literacy and education which she’s put to good use as a volunteer GED writing teacher. She knows The Friends’ mission directly aligns with this passion and, in her mind, makes the role a perfect fit.

Kim will take the reigns from current Director of Marketing and Communications Ann McKinnon, who is leaving the organization after 11 years and who helped build The Friends into the national model for library support it is today.

“Ann moved our marketing and communications from 0-60 in her tenure. She has firmly embedded marketing and communications into every aspect of The Friends work and we all do better as a result,” says Peter Pearson, president of The Friends.

Sue Hall, Director of Library Strategies Consulting Group, echoes Peter’s sentiments. “Ann changed the way The Friends did business when she joined our staff. The Friends became more visible and more effective in supporting the Library – and has had a greater impact on Saint Paul.”

The position change comes at a time that is already one of transition for The Friends. The organization’s 25-year president, Peter Pearson, is preparing to retire at the end of the year.

With a mission of stronger libraries for stronger communities, Peter’s leadership has made The Friends essential in ensuring that the Saint Paul Public Library and its partner and client libraries are vital centers of engaged, educated and diverse communities.

Horton and The Friends staff, under the direction of a new, yet-to-be-named leader, will be charged with ensuring this mission continues and growing awareness and support for The Friends and the Saint Paul Public Library.

Advocacy Committee Announces its 2017 Platform

Library Supporters Work to Expand Collections, Update Rondo Library, Continue Digitization, Support “ConnectED” Presidential Initiative

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library have called on elected officials to reinvest in the city’s busiest library and address a one-time need for planning and implementing a citywide, all-students library card initiative. The advocates also struck familiar notes on support for collections and digitization. Representatives acknowledged retiring Friends President, Peter Pearson.

Connect-ED studentThe Advocacy Committee of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library has outlined its position platform for the 2017 Saint Paul Public Library budget. Each year, The Friends calls on City of Saint Paul elected officials to address critical needs at the Library. This year the priorities are collections, e-learning platforms, and an integrated website and catalog; improvements to Rondo Library; continued support for digitization; and one-half of the cost of a project manager for ConnectED, a local and Presidential Initiative to ensure all students get electronic public library cards. The other half of the cost of that temporary position will be matched by Saint Paul Public Schools—a partner in implementing the initiative.

After close collaboration with library leadership and with input from supporters, staff and Board members, The Friends’ advocacy committee has developed an official platform and position paper on next year’s library budget. Constituents from neighborhoods across the city have been meeting throughout the summer with their City Council representatives to present their case. They have generally been met with warm receptions and genuine, earnest interest.

Strong public investment in the city’s beloved library system was confirmed, in part, when Mayor Chris Coleman recently included support for Rondo Library in his proposed budget. “Ten years ago we opened the new Rondo Library. At the time it was an innovative facility that combined housing, community meeting space and library services. It remains the most visited library in the city’s system.” Indeed, Rondo has the most visitors among all Saint Paul Public Library locations—twenty percent more than Highland Park, the next busiest. In fact, it boasts an astonishing 17% of total SPPL visits.

In order to keep up with current demand by library patrons, Coleman announced a $500,000 one-time investment in “the jewel of the Rondo Community” to redesign the space for improved flow, to better support the Homework Help Center and workforce programs, and to create a designated area for teens.

Both Library Board Chair Chris Tolbert and Mayor Coleman took some time before the mayor’s library budget address to publicly acknowledge retiring Friends President Peter Pearson for his 25 years of leadership and commitment to the library and the City of Saint Paul. Tolbert called Pearson’s legacy “invaluable,” and the mayor further elaborated: “This is an incredible community that is anchored by the love and passion that people have for their libraries,” telling Pearson directly, “Part of that passion has been fostered by your commitment to making this one of the best library systems in the country. It’s drawing out that community support to invest in the facilities, making sure we have spaces for all our kids to learn, to be a part of… I just want to thank you for that.”

Pearson has announced his retirement as president of The Friends, effective December 31, 2016. During his tenure, The Friends conducted three successful capital campaigns, took on leadership of the Minnesota Book Awards, created the country’s premier book and author event, and developed a nationally-recognized library consulting company, Library Strategies. A national search is currently underway, spearheaded by Ballinger|Leafblad.

In his annual budget address, the Mayor focused on job creation—particularly in areas of Saint Paul with low income residents and people of color, in an effort to close the racial unemployment gap. “According to a Pew Research study released earlier this year, between 2000 and 2014, our middle class actually shrank, with some in our community tumbling out of the middle class,” said Mayor Coleman. “When we layer this widening income gap over the racial disparities that plague the Twin Cities, we understand that the capital city’s response to strengthening the middle class must be to continue to put racial equity at the center of our work.”

At the library budget address, Coleman acknowledged the role libraries can play in this crucial effort. “Libraries can bring people together to have the important conversations we need to have about race, and really begin to understand each other,” he said. “We have more in common than we know, and we need to have dialogues with people in our own community about the toughest issues we face, our shared fears and hopes. The library is a welcoming space for all, if we’re willing to have those conversations.”

The advocates will continue to meet with elected officials throughout the fall to lobby on behalf of the library and the investment needed to meet the needs of learners of all ages while playing a successful role in the city’s racial equity and educational initiatives. The City Council typically finalizes the budget in December. For more information on The Friends’ advocacy platform, please contact Peter Pearson at 651-222-3242 or by email: peterp@thefriends.org.

Click here to see the 2017 Advocacy Platform explained.


The Minnesota Book Awards Celebrates 29 Years

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library kicks off the 29th season of the Minnesota Book Awards.

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is pleased to announce the launch of the 29th season of the Minnesota Book Awards with the opening of submissions for books published in 2016. The year-round Book Awards program celebrates the best in Minnesota literature with nine book categories, two special awards, statewide author programming, and a stunning annual Awards Ceremony which draws an average of 900 attendees to Saint Paul each April.

The Friends has been proud to lead the Book Awards during the last 10 years and, to celebrate a decade at the helm of the program, one long-awaited category change is being announced—the division of Young People’s Literature into Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature. Prior to this shift, books for all young readers—ranging in age from elementary students to high school seniors—were judged together as part of one single category. This new split reflects the vibrant community of youth authors and readers in the state and will bring more exceptional books for young audiences to the forefront in Minnesota and beyond.

The nine categories for the 29th annual Book Awards include: Children’s Literature, General Nonfiction, Genre Fiction, Memoir & Creative Nonfiction, Middle Grade Literature, Minnesota Nonfiction, Novel & Short Story, Poetry, and Young Adult Literature. To be eligible, all books must be the work of a Minnesota author or primary artistic creator and must have a 2016 copyright. Authors, publishers, and agents are eligible to submit a book by completing the online form, submitting five copies of the book, and paying a $45 entry fee. Eligibility and entry guidelines are available at thefriends.org/submit. Submissions close at 5 p.m. on Friday, November 18, 2016.

Finalists in all nine categories will be announced on January 28, 2017. Winners will be announced at the 29th annual Minnesota Books Awards ceremony on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Saint Paul.

Nominations are also being accepted for two special awards: the Minnesota Book Artist Award, recognizing an outstanding new work in the book arts created during the last year; and the Kay Sexton Award, presented annually to an individual or organization in recognition of longstanding dedication and outstanding work in fostering books, reading, and literary activity in Minnesota.

For additional information, contact Bailey Veesenmeyer, Program Coordinator, at 651-366-6497 or bailey@thefriends.org

Announcing Upcoming Retirement of Friends President Peter Pearson

Pearson is retiring at the end of 2016, leaving a strong and growing organization. A national search is underway for a new president. 

SAINT PAUL, MN, June 28, 2016 — After twenty-five years of service and growing the organization more than tenfold, Peter Pearson has announced his retirement as president of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, effective December 31, 2016. The Friends is one of the oldest and strongest library support organizations in the country, with a mission of stronger libraries for stronger communities.

Under Pearson’s leadership, the organization has grown from a staff of two, with an annual budget of $200,000 and a seven-member Board of Trustees, to the organization it is today—sophisticated and entrepreneurial, with a staff of 19, an annual budget of over $3 million, and a dynamic Board of 50 active and well-connected business, education and civic leaders.

During his tenure, The Friends conducted three successful capital campaigns, took on leadership of the Minnesota Book Awards, created the country’s premier book and author event, and developed a nationally-recognized library consulting company, Library Strategies.

Peter Pearson“The timing is right,” said Pearson. “Our most recent capital campaign has been successfully completed,” he said, noting that new leadership has been added in the last year to strengthen the organization’s fundraising capabilities and financial and administrative oversight into the future.

As an influential voice for libraries, The Friends ensures the Saint Paul Public Library and its partner and client libraries are vital centers of engaged, educated and diverse communities. Beyond retirement, Pearson plans to continue working with Library Strategies, in whatever consulting capacity he may be needed, but he also plans to spend more time with his family at his home in Florida.

“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 City of Saint Paul has come to depend on the organization’s tenacious and steadfast support of the library.

“The Friends of the Library is irreplaceable and a key partner in everything we do with our libraries,” said St. Paul City Council member and Library Board chair Chris Tolbert. “They are highly respected and their opinion really matters. There’s no other group that backs up their advocacy like they do, with their own dollars.”

Former Saint Paul Mayor George Latimer concurred, but notes that strong support of the library doesn’t happen in a vacuum. “The Friends have got it made,” said Latimer, with a laugh,” because there are so many people in St. Paul who love libraries.”

The Friends recently completed a four-year, $7.4 million capital campaign to support major renovations at the Sun Ray, Highland Park, and George Latimer Central Libraries.The City of Saint Paul contributed $7 million to the projects, for a total of $14.4 million. “Peter’s leadership within The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library will be deeply missed,” said Mayor Chris Coleman. “The support and partnership he fostered has allowed our libraries to become places of 21st century learning.”

The Friends will be conducting a national search to identify the next president. The Board of Trustees has contracted with Ballinger|Leafblad to facilitate the process. Details of the search process will be posted online at www.thefriends.org. Inquiries about the position can be sent to lars@ballingerleafblad.com.

Great Lakes Reads: A Center for the Book Collaboration

Get to know the Great Lakes states through a selected reading list.

Long Shining Waters – a Great Lakes ReadThe Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, as the Minnesota Center for the Book, is pleased to announce “Great Lakes Reads,” a collaborative project of the Great Lakes State Centers for the Book: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, with participation by the Ontario Book Publishers Organization. Created in 1977, the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress promotes books, reading, literacy, and libraries.

Books for the “Great Lakes Reads” list were selected by each state, and province, that borders a Great Lake. The chosen works, all by authors either from or residing in each location, highlight the state’s relationship with its lake and the communities surrounding it. Minnesota’s selected book is The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin, published by Milkweed Editions.

The Long-Shining Waters won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, and was chosen as the One Book South Dakota 2013. It was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, as well as The Midwest Independent Bookseller’s Choice Award. Sosin’s first book, Garden Primitives, a collection of short stories, was published by Coffee House Press in 2000. The author has been the recipient of many awards and fellowships including the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, and the Loft Literary Center. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota.

The books selected by each participating state (and province) for “Great Lakes Reads” are:

Illinois: Maritime Chicago by Theodore J. Karamanski and Deane Tank, Sr.
Maritime Chicago tells the story of this important transportation and trading hub situated on a great “inland sea” and the city’s maritime past bears witness to much triumph and tragedy, victory and defeat.

Indiana: Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist by Edwin Way Teale
This classic tale explores the childhood of a young boy growing up surrounded by Indiana’s scenic lakeshore dunes. It was distributed to over 100,000 soldiers during WWII.

Michigan: The Waters of Michigan by Dave Lubbers and Dave Dempsey
This collection presents a truly unique view and understanding of the waters of Michigan. Water as vast as the Great Lakes, as serene as the inland lakes, and as long and lazy or sleek and fast as the numerous byways that run between and among them.

Minnesota: The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin
Frigid, lethal, and wildly beautiful, Lake Superior is as alluring as it is dangerous. Featuring three women living on its shores in three different centuries, Danielle Sosin’s novel illuminates the mysterious powers of the greatest of the Great Lakes.

New York: City of Light by Lauren Belfer
The year is 1901. As headmistress of Buffalo, New York’s most prestigious school, Louisa Barrett is at ease in a world of men, protected by the titans of her city. But in this city of seething intrigue and dazzling progress, a battle rages among politicians, power brokers, and industrialists for control of Niagara.

Ohio: The Lake Effect by Les Roberts (#5 in the Milan Jacovich mystery series)
Every Clevelander understands the lake effect, a weather condition that brings plenty of snow, especially in November when election time rolls around. Milan Jacovich, the genial Cleveland private eye, has never been a political animal, but soon he’s in for a lot rougher time of it than simply poll-watching.

Pennsylvania: Reflections of Presque Isle: A Visual Journey by The Erie Times-News and Pennsylvania Sea Grant
Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200 acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie, offering a beautiful coastline and a variety of recreational activities. Filled with a number of unique habitats, it features many migrating birds and contains many of the state’s endangered, threatened, and rare species.

Wisconsin: Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories by Jennifer Morales
Set in one of the nation’s most highly segregated cities, Meet Me Halfway tells stories of a community with a tumultuous and divided past, and captures a Rust Belt city’s struggle to establish common ground and a collective vision of the future.

Ontario: The Greatest Lake: Stories from Lake Superior’s North Shore by Conor Mihell
By exploring the connection between people and place on the rugged coastline of Lake Superior, Mihell weaves first-hand experiences as an outdoor adventurer with compelling character studies of cottagers and entrepreneurs, personal essays, and environmental reporting.