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'Friends' hold annual fundraiser to provide materials for Willmar Public Library

This hand-carved book rack depicting the features of Mark Twain is among the prizes in this year's fundraiser. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- A hand-carved book rack depicting the familiar features of American author Mark Twain is among the prizes up for grabs in the Willmar Friends of the Library annual fundraiser.

The money raised will be used by the Willmar Public Library to buy materials for its collection that the library might not otherwise be able to afford. This is the fourth annual fundraiser, said Mary Huesing of the Friends of the Library.

"We started out small. Each year it gets better and better," she said. "We're hoping this will be the best one yet."

Last year's raffle raised about $2,000. Library staff used the money to acquire more books for young adults, as well as English as a Second Language audio tapes. This year's fundraiser offers a chance at several prizes, including a number of local gift certificates, Huesing said.

"A lot of merchants in town have been very generous."

The piece de résistance, however, is the book rack carved by award-winning Willmar artist Fred Cogelow.

The Friends of the Library suggested Twain because he is among the most recognizable of American authors.

"He has a good face to sculpt," Cogelow said.

Fittingly, the base of the piece is a remnant of beechwood salvaged from an old card catalogue file from Rock Island, Ill. The book-shaped ends of the rack are butternut.

Twain himself is carved from silver maple. "I wanted something that would be a bit harder than basswood so I selected silver maple," Cogelow said.

The light-colored wood also echoes the white hair and white suit that typified Twain's appearance, he said.

The wood came from a silver maple that used to stand at Seventh Street and Ella Avenue on Willmar's north side. After the tree was cut down by a city crew, Cogelow acquired several logs to use for his carving.

The adjustable book rack is large enough to hold about half a dozen books. As a bonus, Cogelow will carve in the titles of some favorite books for whoever buys the winning raffle ticket.

Tickets are on sale at the library until the drawing on March 15. Tickets are $2 apiece or $10 for six tickets.