If there is one thing Sheila DeChantal is convinced of — it’s that books change lives.
“Books aren’t dead yet,” DeChantal said. “I’m a huge reader — I’ve always been a reader.”
DeChantal’s love for reading has evolved into community action in support of the Brainerd Public Library.
In February, she took on the role of Friends of the Library president, after getting involved with the organization last summer. Through membership fees and twice-yearly book sales, Friends helps fund library projects that aren’t covered in the library budget.
“There’s such a need,” DeChantal said. “Libraries in other communities are closing.”
DeChantal’s most recent undertaking is a fundraising event called, Wine and Words.
DeChantal said the idea came from a similar event held in the Twin Cities called Opus and Wine.
“I hate fundraising, “DeChantal said. “But I couldn’t get this idea out of my head. I kept thinking, ‘Why couldn’t we do something like this in Brainerd?’”
The fundraising event, scheduled for Aug. 23 at Arrowwood Lodge in Baxter will feature an evening of free wine tasting, dinner and book presentations from authors William Kent Krueger, Wendy Webb, Sandra Brannan and Sarah Pekkanen.
Krueger, a Minnesota native has appeared on the New York Times best-selling list with his Cork O’Connor mystery series. Webb is a Minneapolis-based author known for her mystery fiction books. Sandra Brannan is known for her Liv Bergen mystery series and lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Sarah Pekkanen is a internationally best-selling fiction author.
“We’re really excited about these authors,” DeChantal said. “This is different than anything we’ve had in the area.” The authors will also host a book signing.
All proceeds from the event will go to benefit the Brainerd Public Library, as well as 20 percent of all book sales.
Library manager Jolene Bradley said the library is grateful for all of the support received from Friends of the Library and the enthusiasm in DeChantal’s efforts to better the library.
“This has really been her baby,” Bradley said of DeChantal’s involvement with Wine and Words.
DeChantal said her enthusiasm is driven in the library’s vision to draw the community. “They’ve really made it about more than books,” DeChantal said.
The library’s most recent project was updating the children’s area to promote early literacy. The update included a giant magnetic wall, a puppet theatre and a felt wall that wraps around the reading area seating. The library also has a summer reading program with more than 1,000 area children participating and logging 12,000 hours of reading. “Literacy is so important,” DeChantal said. “We really want to preserve that.”
DeChantal said the next goal for the library is updating the teen area. “I’ve met teenagers who don’t even know there is a teen area in the library,” she said. “That’s what we want to change.”
DeChantal said Friends of the Library hopes to make Wine and Words an annual event. “Our goal was to bring something different to Brainerd — and hopefully it grows,” she said, adding that the initial hope was generate enough interest to sell 100 tickets. So far, they’ve sold 135. “It’s already a win.”
Tickets for the Wine and Words event will be available until Monday and can be purchased from the Brainerd public library or at www.wineandwordsandfriends.com. For more information contact the Brainerd Library at 829-5574.
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5879.