On a recent warm day, Kayla Gordon was busy replenishing Little Free Libraries with books throughout White Earth.
“Most of the Little Free Libraries always have books in them, but some little libraries are used so much, they’re almost always empty,"m she said.
The Little Free Libraries scattered throughout White Earth are located in Ogema, White Earth, Pine Point, and Rice Lake. This program began at White Earth when the community received a federal Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant for the little libraries and for one main community library, the Maamagin Achigaazo, which is in the center of White Earth.
As part of her duties managing the Maamagin Achigaazo community library, Kayla also visits the Little Free Libraries to make sure there are books in them. That’s a lot of books to look after.
With a perpetual need for books, Pam Werre, Curriculum Materials Center Librarian at Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM), and chair of the Wanda Gag Read Aloud Book Award for children’s literature, donated some of the books received from the award to White Earth.
Werre collects children’s books throughout the academic year, and after reading them aloud in their classrooms, children in schools in the region decide on the best read-aloud picture book of the year.
Werre decided some of the extra books could be put to good use at White Earth and contacted Kathy Enger, Executive Director of Northern Lights Library Network, asking to her funnel them to White Earth. Enger contacted Gordon, and together they spent a day distributing the books to Little Free Libraries throughout White Earth.
“There are many excellent public libraries in the region supported by city, county, and state dollars, but the region is vast, mostly rural, and there are simply not enough books to go around," says Kathy Enger. "Donations, such as those from Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Wanda Gag program, are always welcome. Partnerships such as those between MSUM, White Earth, and Northern Lights Library Network enhance services all around."
Northern Lights Library Network brings resources from the state and national levels to the local level, but also discovers resources within the region and shares them within the region. Early on, NLLN facilitated the IMLS grant that brought the Little Free Libraries to White Earth, bringing a national resource to the local level.
NLLN also facilitates the sharing resources within the region, such as the recent collaboration between MSUM, the Maamagin Achigaazo, and Little Free Libraries at White Earth. As resources are shared among libraries services are expanded, but most importantly, “people get books into their hands," says Enger.
Northern Lights Library Network covers a geographic region of 26,950 square miles (the State of Minnesota covers a total of 86,939 miles) that includes the following twenty-three counties: Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clay, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Douglas, Grant, Hubbard, Kittson, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Pope, Red Lake, Roseau, Stevens, Traverse, Wadena, and Wilkin.
The Northern Lights Library Network system consists of four regional public library systems; academic libraries on two campuses of the University of Minnesota at Crookston and Morris; Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System institutions including Minnesota State University Moorhead, Bemidji State University, Northland Community College, Minnesota State Community and Technical College on four campuses (Moorhead, Thief River Falls, Wadena, and Fergus Falls); three tribal colleges, including Leech Lake, Red Lake, and White Earth; numerous private colleges; one hundred eighty five school libraries (including public and charter schools, Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, and private schools) in seventy-nine school districts; and a rich variety of special libraries in museums, county law libraries, hospitals, and early childhood programs.
Northern Lights Library Network is funded by the Minnesota Legislature through the Department of Education.