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Kitchigami Regional Library System Director Marian Ridge speaks to a group of community members Tuesday during a meeting on the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage grant program for 2011-2012 at the Bemidji Public Library, a branch of the KRL system. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

KRLS director highlights legacy grant activities

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A sparse but interested audience listened to Marian Ridge as she outlined the pros and cons of the previous two-year legacy grant activities of the Kitchigami Regional Library System.

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Ridge, the regional library director, spoke with pride about the programs that were sponsored by the Kitchigami system during the first year of the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage grant programs.

In November 2008, the people of Minnesota voted to accept the Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution. The result was that for a period of the next 25 years, the Clear Water, Land and Legacy Act allowed 3/8 of 1 percent of the state's sales tax be dedicated as follows: 33 percent to a clean water fund, 33 percent to an outdoor heritage fund, 14.25 percent to a parks and trails fund and 19.75 percent to an arts and cultural heritage fund.

The allocations from the state Legislature are biennial and regional libraries receive a part of the pool of funding designated under the 19.75 percent. That pool of money is then equitably distributed to the regional library systems within the state.

Ridge was pleased to announce that more than 280 events were put on last year throughout the Kitchigami Regional System, which had four major event divisions. The Kitchi Reads/Kitchi Writes program with authors had eight authors and 91 events. Bemidji had the highest turnout in the region for last year's talk by Anton Treuer about his book "The Assassination of Hole in the Day."

The second division, History Alive, had John Beargrease as the most popular re-enactor, and he appeared at 15 different library locations. "Golden Age of the Pharaohs" drew 766 people to the Minnesota Science Museum.

The third division, Sing It/Say It, had five storytellers at 47 events. Anne Dunn told Ojibwe story tales to more than 400 children.

The fourth division, Making Music, brought Bemidji the Golden Age of Radio, and members of the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra toured the region and played for more than 1,000 people. On a smaller scale, the Minnesota Percussion Trio showed how to make music with unconventional instruments.

The Bemidji Book Festival has doubled its attendees since starting in 2009, with 1,166 attendees last summer. All events were presented free through legacy funding.

The attendees cited word of mouth and library notices as their information source for the first year and newspapers in the second year. Locally, people look to their newspaper for information on upcoming events.

The cons were few. Ridge cited burnout by the local staff, the short supply of local volunteers and inconsistent participation by library board members and volunteers. However, Ridge did comment that Bemidji does not seem to have these problems.

To that end, Ridge is asking all the branches to have a "Legacy Day" that is consistent. There should be some way for the community to know that library programs will be given the same time and day when a series or separate events occur, she said.

This year, funds have been cut to 75 percent of what was appropriated in 2009. That means $68,000 was lost, so Ridge told the audience the new coordinator, Barb Mann, will be looking at the best and most efficient use of the money for 2011-12 programs. The Bemidji Book Festival has already received word that its funding will continue for this year. The regional library coordinators met during the summer and submitted their wish lists. Some of the programs that go to four or more locations will be under the direction of the Kitchigami Regional Library System and smaller events will be left to the discretion of the local branch.

In addition, a new capital project, Art Award, will be instituted, and $30,000 will be set aside for a permanent art installation at three local branches, subject to the decision of the library board upon the recommendation of new committees being formed to oversee legacy activities.

For next year's legacy programs, local branches will need to submit applications to the committee for consideration for the Local Library Legacy Program or for the Community Collaboration, which calls for a partnership between the library and an outside person or group that has program ideas and wants to work with the local library. For details, visit krls.org.

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