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Offering stylish comfort for teens with autism

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenter Molly Fuller. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on May 19, 2018.

 

According to the Autism Society, more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder and the prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 to 2010. It is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the country.

A person with autism typically has sensory disorders, meaning their senses can be intensified or be diminished. Deep pressure therapy, such as hugging, squeezing, or swaddling, has been shown to be beneficial, providing a sense of calm and relaxation. While there are some products providing deep pressure therapy, many are expensive, low quality, or lack style.

Molly Fuller is out to change that. She is tired of medical products drawing more attention to the medical condition than the actual person and believes just because someone has a medical condition doesn’t mean they don’t deserve or care about style and quality.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Molly Fuller
City you live in: Hopkins
Age: 29
City of Birth: Cincinnati
High School Attended: Princeton High School
College attended: University of Cincinnati (undergrad), University of Minnesota (grad school)

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of Company: Molly Fuller Design
Website: mollyfullerdesign.com; Facebook & Instagram: facebook.com/mollyfullerdesign; instagram.com/mollyfuller.design
Business Start Date: September, 2016
Number of Employees: 1
Number of Customers: 31

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I have a background in fashion design and human factors. I always wanted to design better-looking products that served a medical purpose. In undergrad, I partnered with biomedical engineering students to redesign diabetic footwear and compression garments. I’ve worked in the health care industry, such as the Mayo Clinic, my entire career designing better patient experiences for various conditions.

Q. What is your business?
A. My business is an online clothing store that specializes in creating stylish clothing that is designed for specific medical conditions. I’m focusing first on clothing for teens with autism.

My first product is called the Charlie shirt, a stylish therapeutic compression shirt for teens with autism. The compression provides deep pressure therapy that is calming and relaxing to many people with diminished senses due to their autism. The Charlie shirt uses a high-quality power stretch super soft material that adds substantial compression while not irritating the skin. The seams and stitching are designed to feel invisible to the wearer. The stylistic detailing on the sleeves double as a fidget for tactile stimulation.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. My senior year of undergrad I decided to do a second thesis focused on medical clothing. I reached out to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and they let me observe in different units to see where there might be an opportunity to design better products. I observed with two occupational therapists in the autism unit and that’s where I saw the biggest need for better clothing options for teens.

I then connected with special education teachers to understand another perspective and saw that teachers were DIY-ing clothes for their students because the current products made the kids stand out more and be bullied. An autism distribution company happened to launch around the same time, so I reached out to the CEO and she was generous with her time and allowed me to tag-along to the AutismOne Conference with her.

There I talked with parents and professionals to gain a better understanding of their needs. I had three designs prototyped and started testing. I put the business on hold while I worked at the Mayo Clinic. By 2016, I hadn’t seen enough things change in the market and I wanted to provide a solution to these teens and families. I started designing and testing out samples again with teens across the U.S.

Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. A person with autism typically has sensory disorders, meaning their senses can be intensified or be diminished. People with a diminished sense of touch may exhibit arm flapping, excessive hugging or crawling under heavy objects such as mattresses or couch cushions in order to feel pressure.

Deep pressure therapy, such as hugging, squeezing, or swaddling, has been shown to be beneficial for people with sensory disorders, providing a sense of calm and relaxation. One way to provide deep pressure therapy is through compression clothing that provides a consistent firm sensory input….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org

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A Seller’s Daily Amazon Life

Check back each month for the Original Thinker Series as we explore local innovation in entrepreneurship, the arts, and our community one pioneering mind at a time.

“The future of retail is no longer ‘where did you get that product’ but ‘what did you search,’” says Darrin Levine, CEO and Founder of ASDAL Inc. And he should know, it’s what he does.

Darrin’s company, ASDAL – an acronym that stands for A Seller’s Daily Amazon Life – is unique for a number of reasons. For starters, they offer comprehensive Amazon store management. To explain this, Darrin uses the following comparison: When you go to the mall, each store has a marketing manager, a display manager, an inventory manager, and lots of software keeping things straight on the back end.

“[It’s] the same concept on Amazon,” Darrin says. “We have a store manager who oversees everything, we have an account support specialist who can fix the files and templates, and content creators who do design, writing, product copy and EBC (enhanced brand content).” ASDAL can take responsibility for the whole package (literally and figuratively) including inventory storage, repackaging, and forwarding.

The second thing that makes ASDAL unique is their single-minded focus on brands. They will only take on clients who own a trademark but – once they do – will help them navigate the strict rules for registering and launching trademarked products on Amazon. Part of this launch process is removing unauthorized resellers of a product. Darrin and his team have made themselves experts in this process – they know exactly how to submit cases to Amazon to remove 90-100% of third-party sellers.

Finally, ASDAL is paving the way for others in the online retail industry by developing a proprietary software called GRIT. “There is yet to be an enterprise level software for brands to understand where their products are at,” says Darrin. Most of the current software is made for third-party sellers. Because their focus is on trademarked products and they are in the trenches every day managing branded accounts, the ASDAL team is creating an all-in-one tool that combines inventory management, PPC (pay-per-click advertising), keyword tracking, inventory forecasting, sales and reporting.

Despite the hype, only 8% of retail sales happen online. However, according to reports by eMarketer and One Click Retail, in 2017 Amazon was responsible for 44% of all ecommerce sales – roughly $196.75 billion. Darrin spends a lot of time analyzing this tech giant and he has notice Amazon moving from a third-party seller’s platform towards a brand-driven platform. “When online retail sales start reaching the 12-15% range more brands are going to have to step on Amazon,” says Darrin. His prediction is that by 2020 companies with trademarked products will need to hire their own Amazon specialists and teams – or hire ASDAL.

There are many things that set Darrin apart as an original thinker but arguably most admirable is that he recognizes, respects, and defends original thinking in others. Many of the clients he works with will discover that others have been reselling their trademarked products at wholesale levels without their knowledge. “I do see us as champions to retain smaller companies’ revenue,” says Darrin. He has a special contract for small, local companies who need an ally in their corner – someone to clear the field of unauthorized sellers and set their brand up online. After that, he’s only a click away. “This is kind of a Minnesota nice thing [we do],” says Darrin. “If you need help just call me.”

To learn more about ASDAL Inc. visit their website or reach out to the team at friends@asdalamz.com.

 


Written by Christopher Christenson, Program & Event Coordinator, at the James J. Hill Center. Have an idea of a person or organization to feature in this series? Send your recommendations to 
christopher@jjhill.org.

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No time for family dinner? She thought: ‘What if I cook it for you?’

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenter Libby Mehaffey. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on May 6, 2018.

In 2018, families are constantly on the go, and it seems eating together as a family is on the decline. According to Statista, only half of American families eat dinner with their family at home six to seven nights a week.

Studies have shown eating together is beneficial not only for children but also for the parents. According to National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University, teaching healthful eating habits make you less likely to develop substance dependencies, and more likely to perform better academically.  One Minnesota startup has taken this idea to heart and is looking to bring families together through healthy prepared dinners for all.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Weeknight Kitchen
Website: WeeknightKitchen.com
Business Start Date: Officially since August 2017
Number of Employees: 3 plus independent contractors
Number of Customers: 500, 75 to 100 orders on a weekly basis

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Libby Mehaffey
Age: 38
City you live in: Inver Grove Heights
College attended: University of Wisconsin, Madison
High school attended: Hastings Senior High School
College attended: University of Wisconsin, Madison

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?

A. I grew up in Hastings with a wonderful, hard-working family. My career started in Washington, D.C., working in politics where I met my now husband, Matthew, on a blind date. We moved to Minnesota in 2005. Since then I’ve done lots of interesting work including launching a local golf newspaper, working with the Secret Service at the 2008 GOP Convention and doing marketing and sales for the PGA Tour. So, when I sat down to think about what it was going to be like to go back to work — I thought — given my zest for work, my husband’s odd hours and travel schedule and my gaggle of kids, I needed to build a business that works for my family. So that’s what I did. Enter, Weeknight Kitchen.

Q. What is your business?

A. Weeknight Kitchen prepares hot, homemade, family-style meals to be shared at home. Our hope is that by preparing a hot, homemade meal we can give our clients 30 minutes of time to sit down and share dinner with their family. Our menu changes weekly and is designed to appeal to parents and kids alike — no foraged ingredients or spices you can’t pronounce — just simple, classic recipes like meatloaf and baby red potatoes or chicken chow mein.  Everyone gets the same thing — no substitutions or special orders as we stick to the mantra of “you get what you get and you don’t cause a fit.” All of our meals feed 4-6 people and cost $35 no matter what we’re serving. Clients pick up meals at corporate and residential locations between the hours of 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Some people confuse Weeknight Kitchen with a meal kit — which we are not. All of our meals are fully prepared and delivered hot — so there is absolutely no prep work involved. All meals are delivered in commercial catering boxes or bags that are designed to keep food safe for up to four hours.

Q. What is the origin of the business?

A. Growing up, my family ate dinner together at 5:30 almost every day. I think for many folks in my generation this was the norm. Weeknight dinner was when our family caught up about school, work, friends, and family. Dinner was never fancy – just simple meals my mom would “whip up.” Looking back, weeknight dinners were our family constant.

Unfortunately, people don’t sit down for dinner as a family anymore. Between work responsibilities, kid stuff and household chores – finding the time and energy to make dinner — and actually sit down together — well, it just doesn’t happen…..READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org

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A Classical Temple of Learning

The James J. Hill Center has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975 when a joint application was sent, along with the St. Paul Public Library who shares our building, to the National Parks Service who manages the program. The National Register program’s mission is to “coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.” To protect America’s historic resources, one must preserve them; an essential step in remembering history as to not forget it. Stating our building’s significance in the 1975 application:

The St. Paul Public Library and the James J. Hill Reference Library is a significant building in St. Paul both architecturally and historically. Architecturally it is an excellent example of the Northern Italian Renaissance architecture which flourished in the United States from the 1850s to the early 1900s. The James J. Hill Library, which retains its original design and furnishings, is an excellent example of a turn of the century library — a ‘classical temple of learning.’ The location of the libraries is also architecturally significant in St. Paul. Situated across from Old Federal Courts Building and separated from it by Rice Park, this area forms an important visual element in downtown St. Paul.

A “classical temple of learning,” the Hill Center’s history comes alive during our public tours. I often describe the Hill Center as a “time capsule” of history – almost everything in the building is original. Visitors will peek at long-forgotten graffiti where “Wally + Sally 1945” and “Billy Mitchell 1955” can be seen written in pencil in the book dumbwaiter shaft well off the beaten path. Almost all of our tables, chairs, lamps and fixtures are original to our 1921 opening and our formative years of the Great Depression and WWII. While not always an ergonomic choice by today’s standards, I believe researching while sitting on our historic furniture brings an added camaraderie and inspiration from the past; who sat in this chair before me? A historic site offers the opportunity for visitors to fully embrace “history where it happened” – a 360 experience that cannot be replicated.

During National Historic Preservation Month this May, we remember both the small and large steps that are the cost of preservation. The large steps take the form of leadership from the community, both private and public parties, who step forward to champion the preservation of our invaluable historic sites. The small steps are easy and accessible: take care when handling historic texts or artifacts, volunteer your time and expertise to support the projects and spaces that you believe in, and finally, be an advocate for the preservation of historic places by visiting them!

 


Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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It All Adds Up: Steps Along the Way

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. She shares her thoughts and experiences with us in her monthly blog series “It All Adds Up.”

In my mind, the business journey is much like being a parent. It’s common, the stages of development are clearly defined and you invest loads of time and energy in preparation, yet you find yourself on a wild and crazy adventure asking, “what have I gotten myself into?!”

I’ve known since I was a tween that I would someday become an entrepreneur. While I didn’t understand the full scope of what it meant to be an entrepreneur, I was always intrigued with the idea that if something didn’t exist, an entrepreneur would just create it.

Looking back over the years, I chuckle at the way in which entrepreneurship as a career choice was presented to the young dreamers such as myself. The thought of pursuing entrepreneurship was much like pursuing a career in professional sports…we were told to get a good education first and foremost because the likelihood of achieving success by pursuing our dreams was very small.

Today, colleges and universities across the country are offering degree programs in entrepreneurship, community development agencies exist to support business success, and business ownership is presented as a viable and rewarding “plan A” career choice.

Currently, as I stand at the threshold of a new chapter in my business and reflect upon the last twelve years of my “on again/ off again” entrepreneurial journey, I am overcome with gratitude. This very common, but uniquely personalized practice of starting and growing a business, defines who I am and mirrors every aspect of my lived experiences. In my life, entrepreneurship has evolved into a calling which is less about the products I sell and everything about the purpose my life represents.

I started on this journey, creating a cookie company offering convenience, quality and taste. I’ve arrived at this point with the same yummy family recipes, but now mixing in all of the ingredients and baking up hope. The business I lead and the life I live represent HOPE!

They represent the expectation of being something good and the action of doing something good.

While profitability is a foundational principle to business growth, and one of the leading determining factors for keeping your doors open, my journey to achieving business success can be summarized by three important concepts…trust the process, believe in the possibilities and be the change.

  • In order to trust the process, I had to educate myself and prepare for the journey ahead while letting go of the expectations of how it will all unfold.
  • I had to believe in the value of hardship just as much as I cherished the experience of achievement. I had to believe in the possibilities even when I was experiencing a deficit.
  • Just as I imagined as a tween, entrepreneurs create products that don’t exist, I later learned as an adult that I must accept the responsibility to be the good that I want to see. I must first accept and then lead.

The business journey I imagined and the business journey I’ve experienced look nothing alike, but everything I imagined and everything I’ve experienced represent me and my personalized steps along the way.

As always, I love hearing from you. Are you thinking about starting a business? Are you currently traveling your business journey? Do you find any commonalities from my business journey? Send me an email or connect with me on social media. Here’s to a journey of adventure and prosperity.


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Librarian vs. Research Consultant: Is there a difference?

If you’re familiar with the fast-paced world of start-ups, the last word that may spring to mind is “librarian.” After all, what do dusty, silent spaces have to do with the high-intensity, data-focused mindset of your business. You thrive on intel and need constant updates on the latest and greatest news within your field. But what if I told you that there’s a new disruptive force in the information game? Able to pivot with each new technological advancement, analyze new industries and companies daily, and mine the Web for the best business intelligence to be found? Amazing, right? Now what if I told you all that could be yours at the library?

The James J. Hill Center combines widely available online resources with industry-standard subscription databases to provide high-level intelligence for start-ups. Ready to starting pitching venture capitalists and unsure where to start? Curious what your competitors’ funding rounds look like compared to yours. Your first stop may be Crunchbase.com, like any good Internet sleuth. What happens, though, when you want to go more in-depth with a private company’s financial history? What about searching for funders geographically? Enter PrivCo.

PrivCo offers a behind-the-scenes look at private companies valued at $10 million and above, funding rounds for equity and venture capital investors, and a detailed history of mergers and acquisitions for profiled firms. Stop in to take advantage of this fantastic resources anytime the Hill is open, Monday to Thursday, 8AM to 4PM.

Disrupt your research routine. Visit out the library. Check out the Hill.

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Helping Higher Education Improve Its Business Model

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenter Vikas Mehrotra. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on April 21, 2017.

Each year, $30 billion are spent on incoming freshmen scholarships in our country. However, research indicates that several educational institutions are struggling financially and student success is questionable. Student loans continue to increase, and degree attainment rates for 4-year college are around 34 percent.

Far too many educational institutions are on probation or at risk of losing their accreditation. The loss of accreditation is a serious issue for students, institutions and the community. Senior leaders and their respective board members are under tremendous pressure because of an enrollment crisis in higher education. The business case for a quick turnaround is clear. There is a need for comprehensive end-to-end enrollment strategy and data-driven decision making to improve the business health of our universities and institutions.

MANBOAT enhances student success and increases net tuition revenue for institutions. It is an essential tool to close the college attainment rates as the demand and need for skilled talent grows higher than ever before.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Virtue Analytics LLC
Website: www.virtueanalytics.com | www.manboat.com
Business Start Date: 2013
Number of Employees: Our team size varies from project to project and consists of full-time and part-time consultants.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Vikas Mehrotra
Age: 43
City you live in: Woodbury
College attended: Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I have two decades of field experience in business, consulting, analytics with an engineering background. My love for math, consulting and entrepreneurship led me to start Virtue Analytics back in 2013. I have a Master’s of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a second Master’s degree in Engineering Logistics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before starting Virtue Analytics, I worked in strategy & operations at Deloitte Consulting and in category management at Supervalu.

Q. What is your business?
A. Virtue Analytics solves critical business problems using advanced analytical techniques and predictive modeling. We are an emerging Midwest EdTech startup headquartered in Woodbury. We are the world’s first applied intelligent and AI enabled, end-to-end platform that allows educational institutions to increase net tuition revenue and improve student success by optimizing scholarship and admission processes and decisions.

We use advanced machine learning techniques and models to solve critical business problems. Our product platform is called MANBOAT. MANBOAT is an acronym for Merit and Need Based Optimization and Allocation Tool. MANBOAT helps optimize enrollment decisions and improves student outcome. Using our product institutions are able to minimize cost over-runs and reduce student withdrawals.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We rely heavily on our network in the Twin Cities. We recently graduated from the gBeta program and Eric Martell and Adam Choe from Gener8tor were phenomenal. Both 1MC and Gener8tor teams have helped us strengthen our local network immensely. We are also fortunate to have a strong team of advisers who believed in us right from the beginning and have continued to support us through our journey.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. A few years ago, I obtained an opportunity to work with an education institution. We were contracted to build predictive models to help their business. While working on the problem, I realized that the enrollment challenge is much bigger and decided to pivot the company from consulting to developing software to solve this challenging problem. We developed a prototype product and shared it with several industry leaders, receiving excellent feedback that gave us enormous confidence. We realized there is a marketplace for our product MANBOAT and went on to build the platform.

Q. What problems does your business solve?

A. The more substantial macro issues in higher education give rise to additional micro problems, which significantly impact a college or a university meeting its strategic goals; issues which we help institutions address strategically and mathematically. Each year post-secondary institutions increase tuition fees by 3 to 5 percent but are still struggling as businesses….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org

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Libraries Helping Libraries: Curating Our First Collection

In 1915, the James J. Hill Reference Library’s first head librarian Joseph Pyle began the task of selecting and collecting the books that would one day grace the library’s shelves, working in consultation with James J. Hill. When Hill passed away in 1916, this job was wholly incomplete, and Pyle now faced this duty with little more than very preliminary lists and Hill’s vision: to be a specialized reference library. Not only that, but Pyle wasn’t even a librarian! He was a trusted friend and colleague of Hill’s, his speechwriter and first biographer.  

How did Pyle approach this immense task? With strategy, dedication, networking, and lots of hard work. He relied heavily on other libraries and the experts who worked there.  

Before he could buy books, Pyle had to buy (and read!) books about books: bibliographies. He scoured bibliographic works such as “Standard Books,” “The English Catalogue of Books for Great Britain and Ireland,” and “United States Catalogue and Cumulative Book Index,” many of which were updated and re-published regularly, and publishers’ catalogs. He traveled across the country, from Chicago to New York to Boston and beyond, to visit with reference librarians, scholars, and other experts, all of whom were happy to collaborate and help.   

He looked closely at other libraries’ catalogues and bibliographies, including the St. Paul and Minneapolis Public Libraries, Library of Congress, the libraries at Harvard and Princeton universities, the Peabody Institute Library, the John W. Crerar Library, and the Newberry Library, among many, many more. He even went to very specialized libraries, such as those operated by The Societies of Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Electric Engineering, in New York City. He received a list of nearly 700 titles on architecture from Electus Litchfield, the building’s architect. 

Pyle was particularly infatuated with the British Museum. He quotes heavily from the “List of Books Forming the Reference Library in the Reading Room of the British Museum” in letters to the Hill Reference Library’s board of directors. “There cannot be any library in any English-speaking country that could more closely approximate to the dream and the hope of Mr. James J. Hill,” Pyle writes in 1917. “[Our] collection will, therefore, be rather closely modeled on the British Museum Reference Library, which is undoubtedly the choicest selective reference library in the world.” (It is, unfortunately, not noted to what extend this dream was realized.) 

To narrow down his lists, Pyle meticulously went through and made decisions on what to purchase and what to cut based on the contents of the book, budget, and what the St. Paul Library next door already had in their collection—minimizing duplication was important to him. 

We still collaborate today with the public, private, and specialized libraries in our community. By working with community partners, we’re able to recognize and fill in gaps in the entrepreneurial and business research community—whether through our database subscriptions or class offerings—and, on the flip side, know where and to whom to refer patrons who need a service we don’t offer.

 


Written by Ann Mayhew, Reference & Support Specialist, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Libraries Lead: Dru Frykberg

In celebration of National Library Week the James J. Hill Center has reached out to individuals who are involved with the transformation of libraries to celebrate their story and hear their perspective on the future.

Dru Frykberg is Librarian at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), is the state’s principal economic development agency. DEED programs promote business recruitment, expansion, and retention; international trade; workforce development; and community development.

Tell me a little bit about you and how libraries are integrated into your life?
As a librarian, libraries are obviously a big part of my professional life. But they’re also part of my personal life. During the last year, I’ve turned to libraries to get my toaster fixed at a Fix-It Clinic, attend a meditation class, learn about First Avenue’s history from local music writers, see my teenage crush actor-turned-travel-writer Andrew McCarthy read from his latest book, and of course, borrow all the fiction and nonfiction titles I want.

Where did libraries lead you?
Libraries led me to my academic degrees and to my careers in journalism and librarianship.

Tell me a about your library and its defining function?
The Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED) Library is an internal, staff library where I anticipate and respond to the information needs of my 1,500 colleagues. That means I’m performing research and managing resources for economic developers, labor market analysts, vocational rehabilitation counselors, regional trade managers, employment counselors and more. They keep me busy and on my toes!

Where do you see the future of libraries?
I see libraries continuing to respond to the needs of their communities. I’m not sure anyone knows what that will be. But if I had to guess I see libraries promoting the skills and literacy needed to live in a democracy, preparing people for jobs, providing space and resources for entrepreneurs and gig economy workers, and playing a role in the sharing economy. Maybe they’ll be circulating drones and driverless vehicles along with everything else they make available.

What is a way that communities can take action for libraries and be involved with their transformation?
Don’t take libraries for granted. Use them. Promote them through word of mouth. Let them know how they can better serve you. And support them financially.

 

The James J. Hill Center, founded as the James J. Hill Reference Library is 1921, is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated visit www.jjhill.org

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Libraries Lead: Ann Walker Smalley

In celebration of National Library Week the James J. Hill Center has reached out to individuals who are involved with the transformation of libraries to celebrate their story and hear their perspective on the future.

Ann Walker Smalley is the Director of Metronet, a multitype multi-county library system in the Twin Cities offering continuing education, network, and other services to school, public, academic, and special libraries. The Hill believes in her leadership and the steps she is taking to help transform libraries.

Tell me a little bit about you and how libraries are integrated into your life?
I am an information junkie and one of the better-informed librarians around (thanks to editing MetroBriefs). I can’t pass a bulletin board or newsstand without being drawn to what’s on offer. The fascination with information creation, organization, & application is now an integral part of me and being a librarian makes it easier to understand it. Answering reference questions in public & special libraries opened my interest in the subcultures of information. I love knowing where the info is and connecting it to those who need it.

Where did libraries lead you?
Once a librarian, always a librarian. My library experience in special libraries and as a consultant to libraries allowed a 12-year “sabbatical” away from libraries after moving to Minnesota from Washington, DC.  I was able to develop a consulting practice with non-profits on grant writing & curriculum development using my library training. I think an MLS/MLIS can give an imaginative person great skills to use in many professions. I have had so many wonderful experiences and met many interesting people because I am a librarian.

Tell me about Gratia Countryman and how you have chosen to continue the legacy?
I only knew a little bit about Gratia before my colleagues (Sara Ring & Olivia Moris) & I created our presentation “Radical All Along” for MLA. That research made me realize what a visionary Gratia was, especially in her outreach efforts to working people, families, immigrants, and others. She had a national influence on library service to children, too. Because we had learned too much to share in our presentation, we decided Gratia should use Twitter to share more. So now #gratiatweets at @MnLibHistory.

The goal of the “Radical All Along” presentation was to point out that while many think that we are inventing new services to various populations, we are really carrying on the legacy of our predecessors who also recognized social issues & addressed them through library service. I recommend that library people read Gratia’s 1916 address to the MLA conference “Whence and Wither: An Appraisal”. It is as applicable now as it was then.

Where do you see the future of libraries?
I think libraries will always exist both physically and virtually in a community. However, to continue to be trusted institutions, we need to look at what we do, and understand the best ways to offer those services, and evolve our structures & funding to meet those needs as effectively as possible. I think it is tempting to be all things to all people, but focusing on being all information things to all people with a community connection may be more in keeping with our mission—using a broad definition of information.

What is a way that communities can take action for libraries and be involved with their transformation?
To be involved in transformation, one must be involved in the organization and the structures that support it. The most important thing people can do is to use their library. Then they will know its wonders, how important it is to all kinds of users, and be able to be ambassadors in the community if library service is threatened. Their advocacy will be authentic because it is based on experience and knowledge.

 

The James J. Hill Center, founded as the James J. Hill Reference Library is 1921, is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated visit www.jjhill.org

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.

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