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Patrick Coleman, the acquisitions librarian at the Minnesota Historical Society and a member of the board of directors of Coffee House Press, has been honored with this year's Kay Sexton Award.
The award is given annually to a person who is dedicated to books and to fostering reading in Minnesota.
"I'm seriously humbled by this," Coleman said Tuesday. "I feel I shouldn't be on any list that Elmer Andersen is on."
Coleman has served on the boards of the University of Minnesota's Friends of the Library and the Minnesota Humanities Commission. He writes a blog about the 150 best Minnesota books, a cheerful and deeply knowledgeable look at Minnesota books throughout history. It's at discussions.mnhs.org/collections/category/150-best-minnesota-books. He has been acquiring historical books for the state for the past 30 years. He remembers quite clearly the book that got him started. "I was maybe 17 years old when I read this autobiography by James Manahan called 'Trials of a Lawyer,'" he said.
Coleman liked the book so much he wanted to buy it, but it was out of print. So he called West Publishing Co., which published law books. "The person on the other end of the phone was more patient than I deserved," he said. "They said, 'Have you tried a used bookstore?'"
Aha. Within two years, Coleman was on his way to amassing a great library of Minnesota books, though it was 20 more years before he found another copy of the Manahan. His avocation became his vocation, and he donated his private collection to the state Historical Society when he began working there.
Previous recipients of the Kay Sexton Award include Emilie Buchwald, founding publisher of Milkweed Editions; Norton Stillman, a longtime bookstore owner and publisher of Nodin Press, and, yes, Gov. Elmer Andersen, who was a well-known book collector. The first award, in 1988, went to Kay Sexton herself, a book buyer for B. Dalton Booksellers.
The award will be presented April 25 at the Minnesota Book Awards ceremony at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown St. Paul.
Laurie Hertzel • 612-673-7302