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Legacy funds: Libraries seeking extension of funding

The Golden Age of Radio and Bemidji Book Festival were two local library events among dozens funded in the last two years through Legacy dollars, allocated when voters on Nov. 4, 2008, approved the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund amendment.

The Legacy amendment stipulated two-year funding for regional library systems. That funding is set to expire at the end of June.

Marian Ridge, the director of the Kitchigami Regional Library System, said the library community throughout Minnesota is requesting that the Legislature continue Legacy library funding for another two years.

Ridge and Rita Albrecht, Bemidji city councilor, were among library supporters who appeared at the State Capitol Tuesday to support that request during the Library Legislative Day.

"I believe we received a warm reception," Ridge said. "I believe they were impressed at the activities that we have been involved with."

According to Minnesota Library Systems, more than 280,000 Minnesotans have attended more than 4,000 library programs in the first 18 months of the Legacy-funded biennium.

Since the first event in November 2009, the Bemidji Public Library has hosted 41 events that were funded by the Legacy Amendment.

"The attendance has grown and become an increasingly popular experience," said Paul Ericsson, the branch manager of Bemidji Public Library of Legacy-funded events.

Legacy funds were allocated to regional library systems, from where they were dispersed to sponsor local events at local library branches.

Events and programs have been planned and held at all nine KRLS branches.

Some events are held at all nine locations. Others are larger, such as the Golden Age of Radio, and are held at fewer locations and draw more regional attendance. The Golden Age of Radio, for instance, was held at four KRLS locations.

Each branch also has been able to request funding for its own events.

Bemidji has benefited from this in two ways, Ericsson said.

First, the inaugural Bemidji Book Festival was completely funded through Legacy funds. The Bemidji Book Festival celebrated authors and books for one week in August, sponsoring about 14 events in six days.

"That was only in Bemidji," Ericsson said of the festival.

The Bemidji Book Festival returns this year, but will be held in June, due to Legacy funding timelines.

The other way that Bemidji benefited from individual branch events was that Ericsson asked to be kept informed of events planned for other libraries, just in case they could be replicated without spending a lot more money.

So when the Park Rapids library announced its plans for a program on history for children, Ericsson asked if it could be expanded into Bemidji as well.

The four-week, after-school program, Time Travel Minnesota Style program, has been offered for students in grades 1-3. It wraps up this afternoon. The weekly themes of this history program series focused on logging, voyageurs, pioneers and wild-ricing.

The presenter of the program appears in Park Rapids on Wednesdays and then comes to Bemidji on Thursdays.

"There is very little administrative overhead involved," Ericsson said.

Most of the local Legacy-funded events and programs have been held inside the Bemidji Public Library itself. But since the events are special and larger than those typically offered at the library, attendance has been impressive.

The library in January hosted more than 130 people when Bemidji State University Professor Anton Treuer spoke about his new book, "The Assassination of Hole in the Day."

More recently, more than 150 people showed up Feb. 19 to hear Northwind Crossing, a quintet that performed traditional and folk Celtic music.

"We really had to stretch the building in terms of seating and such to the max," Ericsson said of both events.

Occasionally, a library-sponsored event is expected to draw more people than the building is capable of holding. Such was the case with the Golden Age of Radio, which was held at Calvary Lutheran Church.

"Just given the scale of what the event was, that made sense," Ericsson said.

The library expects a similar, larger turnout for the upcoming concert by Todd Green, a multi-instrumentalist who blends classical, jazz, new age and world music.

Ericsson said he has appreciated the breadth of talent sponsored by the Legacy dollars.

"Every single one of them has been very, very good," he said.

Musicians, for instance, have not only shared their musical talents but have also talked about the history of their musical influences and offered information on the instruments they play.

"It's not just entertainment," Ericsson said. "It's history, music, literary (references) and music all woven together."