Editor's note: Typically, GoodBiz113 profiles socially responsible small businesses that partner with nonprofit groups and public agencies in innovative ways to serve the greater good. Occasionally, though, other win-win-win alliances deserve so much attention, that we break from format.
Such is the case of Fairview Southdale Hospital Health Sciences Library, a nonprofit entity that showcases Minnesota fiction writers during its quarterly "Meet the Authors" book events. These lunchtime book discussions invite hospital employees, patients, caregivers and community members to engage with independent working artists, and embark on a one-hour adventure that offers a healing escape -- mostly, into the realm of thrillers.
Fairview Southdale Hospital Health Sciences Library
[Lower Level, near Caffé Amoré]
6401 France Avenue South
Edina, MN 55435
Phone:  924-5005
Fax:  924-5933
Employees: 3 part-time [1.1 FTE total] + 1 volunteer
Hours: 7:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Monday-Friday
Contact: Mary B. Carlson, Knowledge Manager <email@example.com>
Fairview Southdale Hospital [FSH] Library Services -- AKA the Mary Ann McIntyre King Health Sciences Library -- is one of three Fairview Health Services Libraries operated by the award-winning Fairview Health Services system of community hospitals and clinics. [Fairview Southdale Hospital was recently named a Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospital for 2009, marking the fourth year that FSH ranked among leading U.S. hospitals setting the nation's cardiovascular benchmarks for inpatient care.]
Open to the public, FSH Library's sister libraries include the University of Minnesota Medical Center -- Fairview Library Services, located in Minneapolis, and Fairview Ridges Hospital Library Services, in Burnsville.
Each weekday, FSH medical librarians fulfill dozens of literature and information search requests submitted by physicians, nurses, administrators, etc.; respond to myriad reference questions from hospital personnel, patients, caregivers, visitors and others; and arrange interlibrary loans with other local libraries -- as well as state, regional and national networks -- to fill special requests for materials.
In addition, FSH Library staff help customers search the library's online databases and print collection of medical reference sources -- including texts, directories and handbooks -- plus consumer health books to find the latest and most credible health information about diverse topics [e.g., alternative medicine, brain health, cancer, diabetes management, drug interactions, heart disease, nutrition, orthopedics, weight loss surgery].
Periodically, on an as-requested basis, FSH Library staff also conduct individual and group training sessions to teach hospital employees how to fully utilize the library's comprehensive technologies, print and online health information resources, and services.
Since FSH Library launched its "Meet the Authors" series about five years ago, several award-winning writers have shared their literary talents and insights. Among the featured scribes [in alphabetical order]:
* Charles Baxter ["The Soul Thief," "Burning Down the House"]
* Carl Brookins ["A Superior Mystery," "The Case of the Greedy Lawyers"]
* Brian Freeman ["In the Dark," "Stalked"]
* Ellen Hart ["The Mirror and the Mask," "Sweet Poison"]
* David Housewright ["Jelly's Gold," "Dead Boyfriends"]
* Julie Kramer ["Missing Mark," "Stalking Susan"]
* William Kent Krueger ["Heaven's Keep," "Iron Lake"]
* Alison McGhee ["Shadow Baby," "Always"]
* Scott Muskin ["The Annunciations of Hank Meyerson"]
* Faith Sullivan ["Gardenias," "What a Woman Must Do"]
* Mary Winstead ["Back to Mississippi: A Personal Journey Through the Events that Changed America in 1964"]
During the past 50 years, FSH Library has had three managers and operated in about a half-dozen locations. Two years ago, it moved to its current high-traffic spot -- i.e., near the base of the stairs leading to the main-floor patient check-in desk and parking ramp, down the hall from the cafeteria, and right next to Caffé Amoré [for more upscale offerings, including real espresso drinks]. Replete with helpful and friendly staff, seven Internet-access computers, guest wireless network, conference table, daily Star Tribune, plus six sections of floor-to-ceiling print resources, it's a very popular and well-used space by hospital employees and visitors alike.
On a daily basis, FSH Library also offers a welcome respite. During a recent Friday afternoon, for example, a patient's mother phoned to inquire about the library's weekend hours. The next day, she was taking her son off life support, and was hoping that Internet access would be available so she could inform family members and friends via e-mail. Mary Carlson, 25-year FSH Library manager, told the woman that, even though the library was officially closed on Saturdays, FSH security officers would be alerted to grant her admission.
Kari Larson, GoodBiz113: Businesses gauge success in terms of annual sales, revenues, etc. How do you quantify your success?
Mary Carlson, FSH Library: For us, it's all about tracking daily traffic and use. For instance, since relocating here, we've seen a 190 percent increase in walk-ins -- for computer use, reference questions, collection-browsing, you name it. The consumer piece of that growth is huge. We went from responding to an average of one consumer-related question per day, to researching seven questions per day. Of course, that's in addition to the growing number of requests we receive from hospital staff.
GoodBiz113: Who, exactly, are your customers?
Mary Carlson: We're here to serve physicians, nurses, consumers -- basically, anyone who has medical information or consumer health information needs.
GoodBiz113: How is FSH Library funded?
Mary Carlson: We're funded as part of Fairview Southdale Hospital's budget. Recently, we also received our first-ever endowment, which came from a library volunteer whose late husband had been a patient here. She and I became friends, and celebrated her husband's birthday every year. Before her death last year, she arranged for a very generous gift to the library.
GoodBiz113: Fairview's stated vision is "To be the best health care delivery system for America, in partnership with the University of Minnesota." Its goals are: 1] exceptional clinical care; 2] exceptional patient and family experience; 3] effective and efficient use of resources; and 4] strategic growth. On a day-to-day basis, how does FSH Library serve Fairview's vision and help meet those goals?
Mary Carlson: We sit right behind education in order to support the research needs of physicians, staff and consumers. The bottom line is delivering optimal patient care, and we do everything possible to make that happen.
GoodBiz113: When did FSH Library launch its "Meet the Authors" series? What was the catalyst for doing so?
Mary Carlson: We started showcasing area authors five years ago. Mary Winstead, Fairview Southdale Hospital's former P.R. director, wrote a book -- "Back to Mississippi" [Hyperion] -- about the civil-rights movement in the 1960s South, and we thought people should know about it. Since then, we've had some great feedback. On one occasion, for instance, a woman from the public told me, "I hadn't read a book in three years. Your event really inspired me to start reading again." It's a risk in a hospital setting to host these writers, because we never know if we're going to attract five people or 25 people. As long as the interest is there, though, we'll keep doing them.
GoodBiz113: How many authors have you hosted since then?
Mary Carlson: We've featured at least a dozen writers -- including author-comedian Lorna Landvik, who, due to bad weather, did the entire event via speakerphone. At first, I initiated the contacts with authors. Now, I receive e-mail queries all the time from writers who want to be part of our series.
GoodBiz113: Typically, your "Meet the Authors" events are held during the lunch hour. What do you want to have happen during that hour?
Mary Carlson: My mother always said, "It doesn't matter what you read, if you pick up just one insight or bit of information you didn't have before, it's worth it." These events are designed to give people insights into writers' vivid imaginations, and to provide a break from the day-to-day... We read nonfiction all day, and tend to reach for the same genres of books over and over again. Our "Meet the Authors" sessions simply invite people to de-stress, relax, get lost in a thrilling adventure, and rediscover the joy of reading fiction.
GoodBiz113: Heretofore, what is your most successful and/or memorable "Meet the Authors" event? Why?
Mary Carlson: One time, we hosted an author from Brainerd. Someone from her childhood -- who had grown up right next door to her -- found out she was speaking here, and came to surprise her. That was a delightful and heartwarming reunion to witness.
GoodBiz113: GoodBiz113 is all about win-win-win partnerships. Who are the winners in this series that you've created?
Mary Carlson: First, the author wins as a result of reaching more people with his or her work. Second, our customers win by discovering, or rediscovering, a genre they probably don't experience that often, as well as the chance to connect with regional storytellers. Finally, Fairview benefits by giving a positive experience -- a mini-vacation, of sorts -- to our multifaceted base of internal and external customers.
On Jan. 22, 2010, internationally acclaimed suspense novelist Brian Freeman [pictured] is making his second "Meet the Authors" appearance at FSH. His latest book, "The Burying Place" [Minotaur Books], is set in Grand Rapids, Minn., and will be released on April 13, 2010. Last week, GoodBiz113 cornered the best-selling author for an interview via e-mail.
GoodBiz113: During the course of a year, how many book-related events do you do? Types of events? Geographic range of those events? Most interesting/off-the-beaten-path [read: non-bookstore] venue?
Brian Freeman: I usually do 30 or more events in an average year -- mostly, book-club discussion groups, library visits, and bookstore signings. Most of my events are in the Upper Midwest, because I can get to the locations by driving. But, over the last few years, I’ve also done book events in 20 states and four foreign countries. Sometimes, I’m in small towns in the middle of nowhere; sometimes, I’m in big cities. You never know what you’re going to get with book events. I remember once, I did an event at a bookstore in St. Louis -- only to discover that the event happened to coincide with the first home game of the World Series...in St. Louis! Not great timing. You’ll usually find me in libraries or bookstores, but not always. We had a lot of fun this past summer, when I was “Brian on a stick” at the Minnesota State Fair.
GoodBiz113: Why take time away from your writing to do a one-hour event with Fairview's health-care professionals, administrators, etc.?
Brian Freeman: I don’t write just for myself -- I write for readers! One of the great joys of my career is the opportunity to discuss my books with people who enjoy reading. My novels are dark and suspenseful, but my events are always fun -- with lots of stories and laughter. I’m really not as scary as you might think from reading my books. Really.
GoodBiz113: You've done a previous "Meet the Authors" event. How would you characterize the FSH audience?
Brian Freeman: FSH delivers a great crowd, with plenty of enthusiasm and questions. Great questions make an event work. Speakers will tell you they get energized by the electricity of the crowd, and that’s absolutely true. If the audience is engaged, everyone has more fun. I was delighted to schedule a return visit to FSH because the first visit was so entertaining.
GoodBiz113: GoodBiz113 is, in great part, about win-win-win alliances formed between small businesses and nonprofits and/or public agencies. Who wins when FSH Library hosts a world-class author like yourself for one of its "Meet the Authors" events?
Brian Freeman: It’s certainly a winning formula for me, because I get to meet my readers face-to-face and talk about my books to new readers who may be curious about what I do. I also think that more and more businesses and nonprofits are looking to add value for their employees by giving them cultural opportunities at work. It’s not always easy for people to get away to bookstore and library events in the evenings, or on the weekends when they’re busy with their families. So, events like the FSH book club give them the chance to explore the world of publishing during the day.
GoodBiz113: Any additional comments?
Brian Freeman: I’ve done great events and not-so-great events, and the difference is always the enthusiasm of the person putting the event together. Mary’s energy for the FSH book club is infectious, and that’s why the events work so well. She came and sought me out at the St. Paul Library specifically to invite me to participate at FSH. That level of outreach makes a huge difference.
"Meet the Authors" guest Brian Freeman will be speaking from 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010, in the Au Fait Room, located on the lower level of Fairview Southdale Hospital. Beverages and cookies will be served. The book discussion and Q&A event is free, and everyone is welcome to attend.
To learn more about Brian, go to http://www.bfreemanbooks.com/. Or, check out his Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/bfreemanbooks.
Click Here to Browse the U.S. Hardcover and Paperback Editions of Brian Freeman's Best-Selling Suspense Novels.