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Helping Hands: Improving Summit County’s libraries

Kathryn Corazzelli
Summit Daily News
Summit Daily file photo
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Every year in April, August and December, members of the Summit County Friends of the Library gather and organize heaps of paperbacks, hardcovers, CDs and DVDs for a tri-annual book sale. The money raised – usually around $2,000 -$3,000 – all goes back into the libraries, helping pay for things like the Young Adult Reading program or larger ticket items like printers and cabinets.

“I don’t know how a library system survives without friends,” Janet Good, branch manager at the North Branch Library said. Good has been a member for over 20 years; she was originally recruited by a neighbor, and was promoted to treasurer after a few meetings.

The Friends is a nonprofit, all-volunteer group organized in Summit County in 1960, around the same time the library started up. It was officially incorporated in 1977, and gained its 501(c)(3) status the next year.

The group’s mission is three-fold: to increase public awareness, use and support of libraries; to provide financial assistance by purchasing special items in support of library programs; and to sponsor programs designed to add to the cultural life of Summit County.

“In the 23 years I’ve been running this library, they’ve probably spent at least $50,000 or more on the library,” Joyce Dierauer, library director and Friends member said. “It’s probably more than that.”

For Dierauer, membership is an important role since she can update others on library happenings, and help them understand why certain things are needed.

The Friends – which consists of approximately 40 members, eight of whom are active – help sponsor a variety of events throughout the year, including an annual writing workshop, travel slide shows throughout the winter and a speaker series. The adult reading program that began earlier this month, aptly titled Fall into Reading, is also sponsored by Friends. Participants play “Book Bingo” through Nov. 30, filling out a bingo card as they read or listen to different books. Once they get a bingo, they’re treated with candy or cookies; everyone who completes a line is entered into a grand prize drawing for an e-reader.

But perhaps the biggest programs funded are the young adult reading initiatives – one during the summer and the Missing Ending Book Club throughout the school year.

This past summer, the group paid for paperbacks given away to teens for every eight hours read, which amounted to a couple hundred books. They also paid for the program’s grand prize: an iPod Touch, with speakers. During the school year, kids get to keep 10 books every month during Missing Ending’s six-month duration. Refreshments are also provided, because “you have to feed them.”

“If it weren’t for the Friends, we would have no teen programming,” Good said. “People think teens don’t like to read and it’s not true.”

The two programs have encouraged kids to read – some even more than they would have on their own – and introduce them to new genres, like science fiction or mystery, or older books they might have avoided.

When it comes to ideas for book clubs and events, it’s a two-way street. The writing workshop and a kids poetry contest a few years ago came from Friends’ members. Other things, like the travel slide shows, were ideas from the library, but supported by the nonprofit. It pays for flyers and refreshments.

Dierauer also points out the numerous big-ticket items the group has provided over the years: new cabinets, sky lights at the South Branch Library, a digital color copier, cameras and laptops. They contribute the “more expensive” books, DVDs and CDs, and for the past six or seven years, pay for someone to catalogue materials on weekends, since the stacks were so high staff couldn’t get through them.

The organization’s biggest money makers are the three big book sales. Books are also constantly being sold at individual libraries, “which make quite a bit of money,” Good said. Membership fees, which start at $15 a year, also contribute. Overall, the organization runs on about $20,000 a year.

Right now, active membership is fairly low, and the group needs more people to help with the organization’s ongoing work. There are many who volunteer for the book sales, but Friends needs folks willing to help out throughout the year.

The group could do a lot more with more active members, Good said.

The organization meets the second Wednesday of every month, except those weeks with the tri-annual book sales.

“It’s a wonderful group and we would welcome them with open arms,” Dierauer said, adding that new, active members are needed to keep it vital and ongoing. “It would be a shame to see it die after all these years.”

For more information about membership, or to donate, go to http://www.summitcountylibraries.org/friends-of-the-library


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