The Friends of the Saint Paul (Minnesota) Public Library announced on Thursday that Peter Pearson, the nonprofit organization’s executive director for the past 25 years, will retire December 31. FSPPL, which bills itself as “one of the oldest and strongest library support organizations in the country” has grown since Pearson took the helm in 1990 from an organization with two employees, a seven-member Board, and a $200,000 budget, to one with 19 employees, a 50-member Board, and a $13 million budget.
In addition to raising funds for the 14-branch St. Paul Public Library system, under Pearson’s leadership FSPPL has also boosted the national profile of Minnesota’s vibrant literary scene. FSPPL serves as the Minnesota Center for the Book and has for more than a decade hosted the annual Minnesota Book Awards, which features a series of literary programs spotlighting regional authors, culminating in a gala awards ceremony which draws 1,000 literature lovers.
FSPPL also launched and has hosted since 2004 the annual Opus & Olives fundraiser for the St. Paul Public Library system, which features an evening of both bestselling authors and emerging voices speaking before an audience of 1,200. FSPPL raises approximately $300,000 for the libraries each year through Opus & Olives, and Common Good, the local indie bookstore selling books by the featured authors at the event reports that gross sales in recent years average about $30,000.
The FSPPL Board has contracted with Ballinger Leaflblad to lead a national search for a new director to replace Pearson.