Friends with books…

Friends with books are true Friends Indeed
Liz Thompson
Published in ThisWeek Newspapers
October 4, 2012

People must love bargains and are avid readers, or aspire to be when given time.

Proof positive of this theory was evident when I was one of many volunteers working the book sale for the Southwest Public Libraries’ Friends of the Library (Friends.) I spent a couple hours surrounded by books of every ilk. A place I love to be. The Arts in the Alley filled the streets of Grove City Town Center and beyond, the sun was shining and the high school band was filling the air with lively music nearby.

Bargain hunters bought bags full of gently used hard cover and paperback books for a dollar or fifty cents each. Some hauled bags so full they were straining to walk.

If you missed the sale, don’t distress. The Friends has ongoing book sales that include magazines and videos. Better yet, for nothing but the ownership of a library card – which is free – you can borrow books in print or audio format, magazines, movies and CDs. You can reserve these items online or with a phone call. You can browse the shelves for hours, sit and read in the library or use one of the computers.

Friends of the Library is part of almost every community in the U.S. where volunteers find ways to support the programs their library provides. When I talk with any library staff, the important role of the Friends is clearly appreciated.

Lisa Fuller, Director of Community Engagement for Worthington Libraries, was quick to say, “Friends of the Library groups provide vital program support and advocacy for public libraries. Membership in Friends of the Library organizations directly benefits the community by helping to ensure the future sustainability of the library as an educational resource for everyone to use and enjoy.”

She went on to say that each community has unique ways to obtain this goal. Most have book sales, donations and membership in Friends of the Library, as a way to gain funds needed.

As a writer, I admire their commitment to “encouraging the love of the written word, freedom of access to information for all, and eliminating illiteracy.” They represent what I believe when it comes to libraries. They “appreciate the privileges of a fine public library and work to improve the quality and scope of library services so others may benefit.”

Judy Thornton, of SW Public Library Friends, said Bill Plank, owner of Plank’s Beer Garden in Grove City, is generous in offering a fun way for the community to help.

“We have a good partnership with him,” Judy said. “For three years he has sponsored a chili cook off with the proceeds going to the library.” Bill started this event before the 2010 Levy passed when the library was struggling in many aspects.

To keep any library alive and up-to-date, new materials are purchased continually.  As with everything else, costs continue to rise. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers in our communities including organizations like Friends of the Library, thousands of dollars needed each year is provided.

Next time you are cleaning house and realize you have material collecting dust, consider donating your gently used books, children’s materials, magazines, DVDs, CDs, videos, and recorded books. They will be added to the library collection or sold in the Friends’ book sales.

Unique ways to contribute to the Friends’ fundraising programs include Bucks for Books, memorials, or honorary donations, as a living tribute to a loved one. Membership in Friends is five dollars for students or seniors, $10 for individuals, $15 for a family, $50 for Mark Twain and $100 for a Shakespeare membership.

A library is in large part about material; what you see and what’s available for residents. We want new publications, programs and resources at our fingertips. When you think about the logistics of ordering, cataloging, organizing on the shelves and online and customer service, to name a few, it’s about people. The librarians, who answer your questions, find what you are looking for and make recommendations.

It’s the person reading books to your children during the lively story time sessions, assisting on the computer, developing and providing the varied programs, keeping the website updated and all the other behind-the-scenes work that makes the library quietly hum.

That teamwork of staff and volunteers gets that book in your hand. Give back when you can. It’s a bargain worth the investment.

To get involved with your own local Friends of the Library volunteer organization, contact your local library.