Library Capital Campaign
Libraries have undergone quite a few changes in the past 30 years. The days where Libraries were seen as large book depositories, where talking was frowned upon, and the Dewey decimal system was the preferred language to communicate, are long gone. Today’s Libraries serve as technological hubs where students and community members come together for studying, research, and community meeting place. Leech Lake Tribal College's library for the past 10 years has been a tiny space of about 900 square feet. A large portion of the college’s library collection sits in storage due to lack of shelf space, and only a handful of students can fit in the Library at one time to study or do research. To address the situation and allow Leech Lake Tribal College to continue its growth and to improve the service provided to our student’s, plans to build a beautiful new building, which will house the LLTC Learning Center, a cultural archive space to house documents and artifacts important to the history of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the greater Leech Lake area, and a 15-seat “smart” classroom in addition to the Library. “LLTC’s new Library is an extension of the college’s mission to serve our students and the people who resident in our communities.” said LLTC President Dr. Donald Day. “The Library is open to the public as well as our students. It is a state of the art facility which will allow users to more freely explore the world around them.” LLTC selected Deer River-based Frontier Construction, ran by a Leech Lake Band Member, as the general contractor for the project, and construction began on September 30th, 2013. Having a local general contractor means that this project will have the greatest possible impact on the local and regional economy - a true win-win situation.
A project of this size could not be accomplished without the help of supporters like Ed Robinson, a Nebraska-based businessman and philanthropist with a special love for libraries, who is the largest individual contributor to the project. He also happens to have a relationship with Leech Lake spanning nearly nine decades. “I’ve been coming to Leech Lake since I was just one year old, and I’ll turn 90 soon,” Robinson recalls. “I love this area, I want to see it do well, and there is no better way to ensure that happens than to support education for those who need it most.” Robinson, the honorary chairman of the Library Capital Campaign, has given $150,000 to the project via three challenge gifts which required a dollar-for-dollar match from other sources in order to “unlock” his gift. “The generosity and support from individual donors like Ed and many others really made this project a reality.” said Director of Advancement Bill Blackwell Jr. “Without Ed’s challenges gifts, this project simply does not get done. “In addition to individual donors, partners at The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, George W. Neilson Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, The Mardag Foundation, The Blandin Foundation and the Department of Education among many others gave support to the Library Campaign. Blackwell added “The support from everyone who helped in this project shows the confidence in the vision of LLTC and where we are headed as an institution.”
The college held a “soft opening” in the beginning of February, for faculty, staff and students and the students have been using it ever since. According to Blackwell, the feedback from the students so far has been very positive with the students enjoying having a place to study and relax while in between class or doing research on assignments. The building features a lot of natural light, a timeline of the history of the college on the walls of the library entrance, and the Ojibwe Language is present through-out “the building and its architecture really has a modern feel to it,” Blackwell said. Several rooms are also named after the contributors including one room named after Betty Lou Olson. “This wonderful lady contributes without fail - $40 per month every month along with a hand-written letter. While this project couldn’t have been completed without the larger contributions from Ed Robinson, the Teal Family, The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and our long-time partner The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and many others – the small donations, like those Betty Lou, also make a significant impact on the project,” said Blackwell.
The completion of the project under budget and with no debt is quite a remarkable achievement. Blackwell explained that the new building is also a recruiting and retention tool to show to students. “We can now show students a state of the art facility where they can come and study, take advantage of the resources we have for them, and have a great college experience.” Blackwell also gave credit to Project Manager Bill Sargent and the Operations and IT staffs for all the hard work they did getting the library ready to be open. “We really have some remarkable and talented staff. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into getting a building like this ready to be opened. Everything from getting PC’s ready, moving furniture, I just can’t say enough about how hard they worked.”
The facility isn’t just a college library, he emphasized, “We are here to serve our community and the facility is open free of charge to everyone 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday- Thursday and 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Fridays. “We want everyone to able to use this facility and it’s safe to say there is nothing like this in the community.”