Former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who has slowly re-emerged into the spotlight since resigning, turned this week to his Facebook followers to fill the library shelves of a new high school on the Leech Lake Reservation. Within a day, the book requests were filled and donations to a GoFundMe page topped $50,000.
Franken, who resigned in 2017 amid sexual misconduct allegations, has posted on his Facebook page since he left office — comments ranging from “heartfelt (but not mawkish), to angry (but not bitter), to thoughtful (but not too thoughtful),” he said in a post Thursday that asked for the library donations.
Franken noted that he helped fight for money to replace the dilapidated Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School in northern Minnesota. Last August, he toured the new school, including a library that can hold up to 20,000 books.
Franken launched a project to fill the library’s bookshelves. He directed donors to click on a wish list of books from the school librarian, Laurie Villwock. For those who prefer to donate a favorite book that isn’t on the list, he provided a link to e-mail the librarian.
Franken also provided a link to a GoFundMe post for those who prefer to donate money.
“I admit that I was a little nervous sending out the request,” Franken said in an update Friday. “I’m re-entering the public square and didn’t quite know what the reaction would be. The response has been terrific.”
Franken said the librarian was overwhelmed by people’s generosity. Donors gave her all the books she asked for. And by Friday, the GoFundMe page created a month ago had raised more than $54,000.
“This is going to make a difference for these children,” he said Friday on Facebook. “I cannot tell you how many lives you are going to enhance by being so generous. These are real kids and real books.”
“Laurie doesn’t want to be greedy,” he continued, “but not only has she added to the list, she wouldn’t mind having more than one copy of certain books.”
Both posts generated thousands of “likes” and other reactions, along with hundreds of comments thanking Franken for starting the book drive.
“Thank you, Senator, and welcome back,” said one post. “We’ve missed your voice.”