Library fund-raising arm seeks to raise $1 million for new books

The Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library is aiming to raise $1 million for new library books in the next eight months.

The launch of the effort comes just weeks after the Library Board voted Oct. 25 to close three community libraries in an attempt to salvage the future of the financially struggling library system. A last-minute offer of $1.1 million in one-time funds by Mayor R.T. Rybak opened the possibility that the three libraries scheduled for closure - Roosevelt, Southeast and Webber Park - could be shutdown but not sold while the Library Board waits to see if it will receive additional permanent funding. The Library Board will know more about its financial future and be in the position to make more concrete decisions when the City Council finishes working on the city budget, which will not be finalized until mid-December.

Even with funding to keep libraries open, however, officials with the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library note that chronic underfunding has left the city's material collection in need with no relief for the near future.

&#8220Keeping libraries open will require a renewed commitment of public funding from our elected officials. The collections, on the other hand, can be strengthened by individual gifts of virtually any size,” Friends Executive Director Colin Hamilton said in a news release.

Each $25 donation the Friends receive will purchase one book, which can be book-plated in honor or memory of a friend or relative. Books may be earmarked for a specific library. Contributors to the Friends also receive a one-year membership to the group, which includes a 10 percent discount at 10 area bookstores.

In 2003 the library spent $2.4 million on new collections, according to the Friends. For 2007, the collections budget has been cut to $1.46 million. By 2011, the Friends estimates health-care costs will exceed new collections by a 2:1 ratio.

Anyone interested in contributing to the Friends can do so through the group's website, www.friendsofmpl.org, or by picking up a gift form at any Minneapolis Public Library.