Libraries Get By With a Lot of Help From Their Friends

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By Steve Zalusky

Libraries get by with a lot of help from their Friends – volunteers who devote their time to raising money to provide the resources for additional programs, much needed equipment, support for children’s summer reading and special events throughout the year.

Those efforts indicate the importance of the library to the community and the key synergy that results.

Friends of the Library groups and libraries across the country will be celebrating the 10th annual National Friends of Libraries Week Oct. 18-24, 2015.

National Friends of Libraries Week offers a two-fold opportunity to celebrate Friends – promoting the group in the community, raising awareness and increasing membership and also giving libraries and boards of trustees the opportunity to recognize the Friends for their help and support of the library.

In addition, United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association (ALA) that serves Friends groups, will be awarding $250 each in honor of their celebrations.

With the support of the Lana and Michael Porter Foundation, five Friends Groups were awarded $250 each in honor of their celebrations in 20072008, and 2009. In 2010201120122013, and 2014, two groups were awarded $250 each.

This year, Friends groups will celebrate the week in ways that engage the community and benefit their libraries in the process.

In Oconee County, the Oconee County Library System will recognize the contributions of its Friends group. In an article in the Anderson Independent Mail, it is noted that the group, which is supported by more than 300 members and volunteers, raises funds each year for its four branches and its bookmobile. Its special projects include Read to Me, a program to encourage early reading in conjunction with Oconee Memorial Hospital.

In Montclair, N.J., the Friends of the Bellevue Avenue Library will be holding a "Last Ditch Book Sale" to benefit the library. The sale will include items that were donated but could not be included in the collection. At the end of the week, the Friends will hold its annual Halloween Puppet Time Extravaganza, which will offer two puppet shows and face painting by local performers, as well as Halloween snacks and treats.

Over the years, the week has been a showcase for the creativity of Friends groups.

Last year, Friends of the A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands, California, held a Western-themed kickoff party for National Friends of Libraries Week, billed as the “Friends Roundup.” The event was free and open to the public and included author presentations, live bluegrass music, family friendly activities, tabletop displays, giveaways, and refreshments.

Friends of the Logan County (Kentucky) Library celebrated by, among other things, sponsoring a basket giveaway. During the week, the library greeted patrons with a bulletin board in the lobby that contained photographs from many of the events that Friends held, helped sponsor, or staffed with volunteers. On Friday, some Friends volunteers attended both sessions for story time that day and helped read stories to the children. Then they went outside on the patio and everyone decorated pumpkins for Halloween.

Highlights of past celebrations of the week include the efforts of the Friends of The Cambria Heights Library in Queens, New York, which launched the week by taking part in a Breast Cancer Walk. The Friends also conducted a "Buy a shelf of books to support our library" campaign, as well as encouraged participation in The Art Miles Project 2010, a United Nations initiative that ushers in 2010 as the decade of peace with a canvas painting of words and images of positive messages that will be mounted in Egypt in 2010.

One particularly tasty celebration occurred at the Allen (Texas) Public Library, where the Friends of the library held a "Chocolate Friendzy" to thank members for their support. Since it was the 25th anniversary of the Friends of the Allen Public Library, the Friends went the extra mile, holding a special demonstration by the Guinness Book of Records holder for strawberry-dipping in chocolate, Collin Gouldin. He broke his own record, dipping 54 strawberries in one minute.

For more information on National Friends of Libraries Week and Friends groups, including tips on how to start one, visit the website of United for Libraries.