Friends of the Saint Paul (Minn.) Public Library hosts ‘Book It: The Party,’ the first in a series of after-hour events in the Central Library

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Originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of The Voice for America’s Libraries, a publication of ALTAFF http://ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/altaff/index.cfm

The Friends of the Saint Paul (Minn.) Public Library collaborated with local businesses and professional organizations to present “Book It: The Party” — a social event connecting busy people through friendship, food, drinks, games, and service. The Friends invited adults of all ages (but particularly 20- to 40-somethings) to Central Library on Thurs., April 1, 7 p.m., for an evening of fun, games, and prizes.

Designed to bring young professionals into the library and cultivate future leaders, “Book It: The Party” provided guests with an opportunity to meet new people, explore the Italian Renaissance Revival-style library that is the heart of the system, and give something back to the library and the city in which they live and work. More than 150 people attended. The hope is that this will be the first in a series of events geared toward young professionals.

The price for admission was kept at an affordable level to make it a bargain for younger attendees. “We’re hoping to find a corporate sponsor eventually,” said Liz Boyd, of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, “but for this initial event, we’ve received funding from our Board of Directors and great discounts from our partners.”

The cost per ticket was $30, or $25 with any library card. Library staffers were on hand to help register anyone who wished to sign up that evening for a Saint Paul Public Library card.

“Book It: The Party” was developed by an ad hoc group of young professionals from throughout the Twin Cities metro area who are part of a demographic segment that is looking for new ways to volunteer and support their community.

Peter Pearson, president of The Friends, said of the new initiative, “The hope is that every special event will be a fundraiser, but with this event, we are equally concerned about reaching a new and younger audience to be part of a growing group of people in the Twin Cities who care about and support our public libraries.”

 “Book It: The Party” featured an adult spelling bee with teams of three competing for the coveted prizes. The colorful and irreverent John Cosgrove served as emcee. Contestants scribbled fast and furiously for fame and glory (and hammocks, LED booklights, gift certificates to local restaurants, and other prizes). No one imagined that “squeegee” would be the word that finally broke the bee open — especially after words such as “reconnaissance,” “jackknife,” “barbiturate,” “ukulele,” “fuchsia,” “diphtheria,” and “bouillon.”

In addition to the spelling bee, there was a cell phone scavenger hunt, with contestants searching the nooks and crannies of Central Library for 10 specific architectural details. Prizes were awarded to the first-place team.

Library program partner and next-door neighbor the James J. Hill Reference Library was open for the duration of the evening so guests could enjoy the large-format, black and white photography on display in both libraries in “America the Beautiful: The Monumental Landscape of Clyde Butcher.”

Food was provided by James Beard Award-winner Tim McKee of Barrio Tequila Bar, and there was a cash bar.  DJ Jake Rudh provided the music.

“What surprised all of us was that there was truly a mix of ages,” said Pearson. “While the vast majority of people in attendance were young, there was good representation from The Friends traditional members too. The important thing was that people of all ages had a lot of fun.”

For more information about the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, visit www.thefriends.org.


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