Image of a crowd at a local rock music festival

Time to Catch that Festival Fever

It’s about to be that time of year again where you get together with all your buds, grab some grub, and apply not nearly enough sunscreen before getting away and enjoying some great music. Luckily, the Chippewa Valley is an amazing location that holds a ton of awesome festivals that include both great local and big name acts.

For decades now, the Chippewa Valley has been a great spot for country music fans to see some of the hottest artists and some good area bands. Country Fest is the first country music festival in the area with headliners Sugarland, Luke Bryan, and Little Big Town. The three day festival starts June 27 until June 29. If that’s not enough of a country fix, check out Country Jam a couple weeks later, July 18 through 20. Headlining Country Jam is Toby Keith, Jake Owen, and Keith Urban.

Close-up of someone playing the acoustic guitar.

The self-proclaimed best kept secret of the upper Midwest, the Blue Ox Music Festival, runs from June 13-15 in Eau Claire. It’s definitely the best place around to get your fix of some amazing bluegrass, roots, and Americana artists. Make it a family trip, as children thirteen and under get in for free! If you’re looking for something with a little more punch, you can check out Rock Fest, July 18-20, with headliners Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, Evanescence and a ton more. Closing out the music festivals in the area, OneFest is a Christian music event happening in Chippewa Falls at the end of July (26-28).

Beyond all the awesome music festivals, you can also get your music fix every week with two awesome free events in Eau Claire. Every Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. in Owen Park, Tuesday Night Blues has an amazing Blues performer! With no real genre focus, Sounds Like Summer Concert Series in Phoenix Park, starts at 6 p.m. and features awesome local artists from around the area. Definitely check them out!

Festival season is fast approaching and I cannot wait. Let me know in the comments which one you’re going to and/or what you’re most excited for!

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness month, an opportunity to discuss openly about taking care of our minds as well as our bodies. It is essential that we take care of ourselves as well as other’s mental health if we can. We all have emotions, so let’s talk about them!

We do not need to have a mental health diagnosis in order to care about our mental health. There are so many situations in life that we can struggle with and need support on. Our minds did not come with a support manual for managing the stress of exams, family gatherings, or relationship problems. Some individuals want to work on sobriety, grief and loss, or self-confidence and body image struggles. Maybe you need help with working on specific goals like getting your dream job or learning to be a better communicator. These are all a part of our mental health, and there are many ways to address this.

Talk. Talk to your friends and family members about what you are working on. By talking about it you are more likely to reach your goals because you now have accountability and support. If you would rather not talk to your friends and family about it yet you could try talking to a therapist or a support line. Therapists can be a vital support for helping us learn new tools, and get through tough life events.

Medication. Talk to your doctor to see if medication is right for you to help manage your symptoms. Medication can help balance out the chemicals in our brain to put us in a better mindset to manage life’s situations.

Research. There are so many great materials on display right now in the library as well as online. Take control of your struggle and learn more about it. After all, knowledge is power. Check out this reading list for novels in our collection covering various mental health topics. Contact Information & Reference or the Community Resources Specialist if you are looking for materials or help in a particular subject matter.

Reach out. Talk to someone you know that is struggling. See what you can do to help support them. Did you know that the estimated median delay from when someone starts experiencing symptoms to when they start to get help is 10 years?! If we speak up to our neighbors, coworkers, children, family, and friends about mental health we could prevent school dropout, incarceration, hospitalization, unemployment, and even death. The National Alliance on Mental Health estimates that one in five individuals will be affected by mental health in their lifetime. That’s 20% of the people around you every day. Don’t be silent, speak up and speak out.

The library now has a social worker to help aid individuals in finding the right community resources for them. Reach out by stopping in or sending an email to

If you have concerns about the mental health of yourself or someone you know please contact emergency services- 911, Northwest Connections for local crisis support at 888-552-6642, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, your primary healthcare provider, the NAMI helpline to find services or support 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or, NAMI’s crisis text line: Text NAMI to 741-741, or at your nearest emergency room. Learn the warning signs and take action. Everyone deserves a chance to be happy in their own mind.

It’s Gonna Be May!

Okay, it already is May. I was neither lucky enough nor had the forethought to try and get last week’s blog post. So what’s this about? May holidays! May celebrates so many days recognizing culturally significant popularities and ideas. Why? We can only speculate. Maybe it’s a way to fill a lull in holiday celebration or maybe we need to create days to reflect our enlightened moods with the onset of spring. It’s also possible that we just need to find the time to celebrate our favorite things. Whatever the reason, here’s a list of several great days that are sure to touch on some interest of yours.

It’s Gonna Be May (April 30th)
No, it isn’t actually in May, but April 30th celebrates the coming month with a play on the lyrics from N’Sync’s “It’s Gonna Be Me.” The day might be done and gone but you can still find this blast from the past and enjoy the popular tune from the 90s.

Space Day (First Friday, May 3rd) & Astronaut Day (May 5th)
Two separate days celebrate related endeavors. Space Day celebrates humanity’s past achievements and continued exploration of the cosmos. Astronaut Day, celebrated in honor of the first manned space flight by Astronaut Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. on May 5, 1961, recognizes the heroic achievements of some of our bravest heroes who have risked all to explore the unknown. For science!

May the 4th Be With You! (…May 4th)
When talking about May holidays, you can’t skip out on Star Wars Day! Star Wars Day, celebrated by fans and supported by Lucasfilm, is the day to don your favorite Star Wars themed outfit and attend a local Star Wars celebration. Keep your eye out for any scoundrel scuffles. #GreedoShotFirst

Free Comic Book Day (First Saturday, May 4th)
This year Free Comic Book Day shares its day with Star Wars. If you have never tried reading comics before and want to try without the investment or you just want some free comics, stop in at your local comic book store and pick up your free copies. This is largely considered the biggest day for comic books which means there are often exciting new launches and reveals at the same time.

National Teacher Appreciation Day (May 7th)
Some of the greatest influences in our society have a much deserved day of honor, our teachers. Honor your present or past teachers who have had a powerful impact on who you are as a person. You can give them a nice gift to show your appreciation, give them a shout out on social media, or even make a donation in their honor. Whatever you can do, teachers appreciate a little recognition for their impact.

Mother’s Day! (Second Sunday, May 12th)
Almost everyone recognizes this day in one way or another, but we can’t forget the other days for those who may not gain the same enjoyment from traditional Mother’s Day. Birth Mother’s Day (Saturday before Mother’s Day, May 11th) is a day for mothers who have given birth to support one another and still be acknowledged for those they brought into the world. It’s also Dog Mom’s Day (Second Saturday, also May 11th) for those whose babies contain a bit more fur, a tail, and a slightly wetter nose. We can’t forget the mother of all May holidays–I know I’m punny–Mother’s Day. Give your mother, biological or non-biological, a little recognition for all she has contributed.

Armed Forces Day (Third Saturday, May 18th)
Not to be confused with Memorial Day, a day of recognition for those who lost their lives in service for this country, or Veteran’s Day, a day of recognition for those who have served in the past, Armed Forces Day recognizes those who are currently serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. If you know anybody that serves, sending them a care package as a thank you is an outstanding way to give them thanks. I can attest to the rarity and the wonderful feeling of receiving care packages when serving away from home.

Memorial Day (Last Monday, May 27th)
Arguably second only to Mother’s Day, Memorial Day represents many things including a transition to summer and the biggest camping weekend of the year. It’s really supposed to be about honoring those who lost their lives in service to this country. It’s nice to think of those who passed later or even those who are still alive and served in the past, but it’s important to remember the real reason we have this nationally recognized holiday. Maybe try leaving the campsite a little earlier and taking a side trip to a local VA cemetery. Give a little recognition for what some of those soldiers had to do in defense of your privilege to have had that amazing camping experience.

Creativity Day (May 30th)
If it wasn’t made via a natural process, then it was created. And if it was created by you, then this day honors you! Whatever you might like to create, this is the day to celebrate it. Spend some time creating whatever you want and feel a sense of pride along with a world full of other creators who are hopefully doing the same. You can stop in the Dabble Box and create something there on May 30th between 3 pm and 5 pm.

Happy Earth Day, Everyone!

In the weeks leading up to Earth Day, I’ve been watching a lot of nature documentaries. In addition to conditioning myself to trust everything David Attenborough says, I’ve gained a renewed appreciation for all the wonderful and weird things that exist in nature. If you enjoy the Planet Earth series, keep an eye out for the BBC’s newest wildlife mini-series; Dynasties dedicates an entire episode each to five well-known endangered species. This focus goes nicely with the Earth Day Network’s 2019 theme: Protect Our Species.

Earth Day is 49 years old this year (expect a big 50th Anniversary event in 2020). The annual observance started in 1970 as a protest against pollution and environmental deterioration. There was massive participation in rallies all over the country, kick-starting some impressive political change. The following months saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and major amendments to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, all before the end of the year.

Since that first year, Earth Day has expanded into a global event, observed by more than 1 billion people in 192 countries. As the world and its environmental concerns change, so does the focus of the Earth Day Network. These days, their main concerns are dealing with the impacts of climate change, ending plastic pollution, and protecting endangered species.

People celebrate Earth Day in many ways. Some easy things you can do to be a bit greener today (or any day) include investing in a reusable water bottle or coffee mug, replacing old lightbulbs with energy efficient ones, using reusable grocery bags, planting a vegetable garden, and walking, biking, or using public transportation. Eau Claire Transit is providing free bus rides on all routes today, April 22.

Though Earth Day is a great day to reduce your impact on the planet, it also has the greater long-term goal of effecting lasting change. To learn about ways you can live greener all year or get involved in protecting our planet, go to or

Let’s talk about early literacy, specifically Books for Babies!

According to United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, “Early literacy (reading and writing) does not mean early reading instruction or teaching babies to read; it is the natural development of skills through the enjoyment of books, the importance of positive interactions between babies and parents, and the critical role of literacy-rich experiences. Literacy development begins at birth and is closely linked to a baby’s earliest experiences with books and stories. Babies learn language through social literacy experiences – parents interacting with them using books. These experiences also serve to associate books with parental affection, attention, and approval”.

Over the last 20 years, research has shown that early literacy is a proven indicator of child readiness to enter school. According to Literacy Volunteers, “Between 11-14% of the 2,000 residents of the Chippewa Valley function at the lowest level of literacy, Level 1. This inability to function in modern society is a significant cause of poverty for many Chippewa Valley families struggling to support themselves”.

As an avid reader myself, I still remember the joy of my mom reading one of my favorite books to me as a very young child. I was truly blessed to have parents that believed in the importance of introducing me to the joy of reading as early as possible. Disney and pop-up books were my favorites as a child, but my reading history spans many, many authors and all genres. I am happy to report that my love of the written word still continues today and I’m sure it was because I was introduced to books as a baby! I also believe that is why I am so passionate about the importance of early literacy.

Books for Babies kit

So it’s no surprise that one of my favorite programs the Friends of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library offer to the community is the Books for Babies program. The purpose of the program is to acquaint parents of newborns with the crucial role that books and reading play in their child’s cognitive and behavioral development. Since 2014, the Friends have been providing Baby Literacy Kits to area hospitals. Last year, a total of 1,775 Books for Babies kits were delivered to HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital, Mayo Clinic Health System and Marshfield Clinic. That number included 48 bilingual Spanish/English books. Each kit includes a high quality board book, information on why it is essential to read to a baby, a free one-year membership to the Friends of the Library, baby’s first library card application and a finger-play booklet.

We have had wonderful feedback from both the recipients and the hospital staff:

“I was so excited about receiving this book after I had my baby. There’s something about reading your new baby her first book. It not only creates a bond between parent and child, but starts a lifelong love of reading which is so important.”

Rachael and baby Evalyn (photo seen at top of post)
Books for Babies recipients

“I think this is a really great program and gets parents thinking about the library and reading right from the start. Thank you so much for including us in this program!”

Robin Miller, RNC-OB, BSN
Nurse Manager | Birthing Center
Marshfield Medical Center – Eau Claire

“We receive a lot of positive feedback regarding your program. We greatly appreciate all you do for our new families and hope that it can continue!”

Heather Hamilton, M.S.N., R.N.
Mayo Clinic Health System

There’s a lot of work involved to make the program successful. The Friends have a wonderful group of volunteers who donate their time to make Books for Babies thrive. With the help of the Books for Babies Chairperson, Linda Stelter, the volunteers meet once a month for approximately two hours to assemble kits. Prior to the volunteer session, supplies are inventoried, copies are made of any materials currently running low and orders are placed for materials and books that we do not reproduce in-house. Once the kits are ready to go, the library’s gracious employee, Duane Huffmier, loads the kits into the library van and delivers them to the hospitals. Of course, our work does not stop there. We are constantly looking for new, suitable baby books that are within our budget and volunteers as committed as we are to early literacy programs. Staff, board members, and our committed team of volunteers are continually brainstorming different fundraising opportunities to ensure that this amazing program continues for many years to come! Happy reading!

ArtsWest 40

On Thursday, April 11, local artists and art enthusiasts will gather for the artist reception of Wisconsin ArtsWest, the fortieth annual juried art exhibit sponsored by the library. 

The first ArtsWest show opened in September 1979.  With ArtsWest Two in April 1981, it became a spring show and has been held annually since then.  Since its inception, ArtsWest had provided a venue for thousands of artists to exhibit their talent and creativity, as well as the opportunity for everyone in the community to experience and support the arts in a uniquely personal way.

Image courtesy of Matthew Bailey

This year, 139 artists from 28 communities submitted 220 to be judged for entry into the show. The jurors for the exhibit are husband and wife team, Franklin and Lynn Zetzman.  The couple met while they were attending UW–Eau Claire.  Lynn Zetzman is the director of the Aylward Gallery, UW–Fox Valley, while Frank Zetzman currently teaches studio courses at the same university.

Cash awards for the artists were inaugurated in 1984.  Prizes for ArtsWest 40 will be selected in person by the jurors prior to the artist reception held on Thursday, April 11.

The exhibit may be seen in the gallery and throughout the library through April March 31 during the library’s regular hours:  10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Successful Learning

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” —Benjamin Franklin

For many people, the word “learning” suggests passively listening to lectures or reading textbooks. This is especially true for those of us who were mainly educated in traditional classrooms. As it turns out, participating in your own learning may be easier, more convenient, and more fun than you think. There are plenty of opportunities to gain a new skill or discover fresh ideas about the world around you through active learning—starting at your library.

Programs at the public library in Eau Claire are most often based on participation. Involvement can lead to a higher success rate in learning about both new and familiar topics. The library designs programs to help participants connect with others in the community, learn stuff, and engage with experts. This emphasis on engagement supplies encouragement and inspiration to be the very best you can be.

Throughout the year, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library hosts programs about topics of interest in our community, and those topics are as diverse as our neighbors themselves. This month, they include an interactive poetry event (“Writers’ Read,” a salute to the beat generation), a hands-on workshop on finding reliable health information online (“Health Online”), a horticulture class (“Hydrangeas 101”), and a make-and-take crafting session for adults (“Sashay Scarf”). Visit to learn more, and to browse all library programs by intended age group and interest. By learning actively, you’ll have better long-term outcomes and more fun.

Speaking of having fun, check out this upcoming program: “Books & Beasts.” It’s a pop-up adoption event and book sale taking place from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 9. Volunteers from the Eau Claire County Humane Association will bring animals to meet potential adoptive pet parents, and the Friends of the Library will offer animal-themed books for sale.

Every day is a new chance for learning and success. Now, go get it!

Tree canopy from the ground

Growing Up

Whether or not you garden, it’s a great time to start thinking about growing trees and shrubs.

Cornus sericea

The red bark of Cornus sericea, Red Osier Dogwood, makes it a popular ornamental.

Many counties in the area have tree and shrub sales at the year’s start. These are opportunities to acquire low-cost, native trees and shrubs for shade, wood, fruit, or nuts. You’ll generally need to commit to a bundle of plants—10, 25, or even 50—which is enough to create a hedge, organize a class project, or split plants with friends and neighbors. To use these programs, place an order before the deadline (all programs are first-come, first-served) and pick up your plants later in spring, usually mid-April.

County Deadline Notes
Buffalo January 31 Trees
Chippewa March 30 Trees, shrubs
Eau Claire January 31 Trees, shrubs, plants
Pepin April 5 Trees, shrubs
Trempealeau March 1 Trees, shrubs

Other options for low-cost trees include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources if you’re using trees for conservation purposes or joining The Arbor Day Foundation to receive 10 trees with your membership. Your city may also have a program to plant shade trees in the boulevard, that strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road: In the City of Eau Claire, residents can apply for a rebate for costs incurred in planting approved trees.

Prunus tomentosa

Prunus tomentosa, Nanking Cherry, is a hardy shrub bearing edible fruit.

After deciding on what to plant, you’ll also want to check if your city provides free mulch or compost. City of Eau Claire residents can collect both at the Eau Claire Green Waste Facility starting mid-April. Locations that recycle holiday trees in your area are another place to investigate.

The MORE online catalog has a number of resources to answer questions you have about growing trees and shrubs. We’d also be happy to assist you at Information & Reference in locating or ordering books or DVDs to help you care for your new additions.

Boy with book, laughing

Give a Kid a Book

I have always enjoyed the feeling of opening a brand new book. The crisp, untouched pages, vibrant colors that just pop and fresh ink and new paper smell that hits your nose before you even open it. There is something magical knowing that no one else has ever witnessed the adventures in your brand new book. Many children in need, however, do

Memorial High School students delivering their donations to the library

not get to experience this joy. They are used to hand me down books; battered, torn, dog-eared…very well loved. There is nothing wrong with these books, my shelves are full of them. But to give these children in the Eau Claire area the opportunity to experience owning a brand new book that they can call their own, the Friends of the L. E. Phillips Memorial Public Library has hosted the Give a Kid a Book project for the past 24 years during the holiday season. This book drive collects new and unwrapped books and then distributes them to local agencies, like the Salvation Army and Boys and Girls Club of the Chippewa Valley, who in turn give them to children in their programs.

For the past two years, I have volunteered at the Toys for Tots event at the Salvation Army. Parents can select which brand new book they think their child would like to receive for Christmas because of the donations from the Give a Kid a Book project. I have witnessed the excitement the parents share when they have found the perfect book they want to gift to their child. The generosity of the community allows a wide selection of quality books that may not be found other times of the year. We appreciate the support of donors and volunteers and there are many ways you can help with Give a Kid a Book to ensure that every child receives their perfect, new book this holiday season!

1. Donate new, unwrapped children’s books and deliver them to the library: 

  • Fiction & non-fiction books for ages 6-18
  • Picture books for ages 2-5
  • Board or cloth books for babies
  • Audiobooks for all ages

    Give a Kid a Book volunteers sorting books to be delivered to agencies.

2. Let us shop for you!

  • Mail your check to:

                        Friends of LEPMPL

                        Attn: GAKAB

                        400 Eau Claire St.

                        Eau Claire, WI 54701

3. Drop off books at The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild event, “Joy to the Word: An Evening Of Songs, Stories, Humbug And Holiday Cheer,” on December 18 at 7 p.m. at the Pablo Center at the Confluence.

4. Participate in Books-A-Million’s (BAM) holiday book drive Nov. 4 – Dec. 15.

5. Volunteer to shop, sort or deliver books at or email


National Friends of the Library Week

October 21-27 is National Friends of the Library Week which makes me reflect upon the time I’ve served on the Friends board. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside many talented and dedicated volunteers and library staff who believe in the power of libraries to change lives and are working to ensure our library’s future.

I used to think about volunteering but was overwhelmed with all the choices and the worthy organizations. There are so many groups that could use my help, how to choose? How can I make a real difference? Then I heard Peg Leinenkugel speak about public service and how important it is to give back. She said she had the same dilemma and one day she just decided to start somewhere, start with one cause and do whatever small thing she could, even if it was just one hour. She found that doing that changed her life and her community.

About eight years ago I took Peg’s advice and picked something. Public libraries have been a huge part of my life: from childhood summer reading programs, to part time work at the library as a student, to attending adult reading and educational programs. So I tried a few things.

After one shift, I realized I don’t want to help with the book sale. Don’t get me wrong! I deeply appreciate all the hard work that’s put into the book sales which helps provide over $20,000 a year to enhance library services. The hours of work that go into each one and the teamwork by so many is amazing! Working with used books stirs up my allergies and I’m too tempted to bring strays home. These are the same reasons I don’t volunteer for the Humane Association.

Next I tried serving drinks at a library event.  Let’s just say there’s a reason my career as a waitress lasted only one week.

Then one night I got a call asking if I’d be willing to serve on the Friends’ Board as secretary. What does the secretary do? Take the official notes at meetings. Anyone who has worked with me knows I can type as fast as people talk. If there are questions at work about what was said, it’s not uncommon to hear a call to ‘check Brenda’s notes’. This gig was tailor made for me! I was nervous at the first meeting but quickly realized that my fellow Board members love the library as much as I do and are working to provide the best for it.

Over time I’ve found other ways to volunteer for the Friends. Serving on the Board has also enhanced my career by giving me opportunities to develop leadership skills. But more important than what volunteering does for me, I know my efforts have helped the library that I love fulfill its mission and ensure its future.

I could go on and on but the point is, if you’ve been thinking about volunteering but aren’t sure where to start, just try something. National Friends of the Library week is a perfect time to explore all the volunteering opportunities available. Check out for all the programs and if you have more questions, don’t hesitate to contact Jamie Claudio, Friends’ administrative assistant, at

You never know what you will gain from it, but you can be sure the library will benefit from your efforts, no matter how small you may think they are.Sales Fulfillment Team