They are everywhere in Volusia County libraries, working behind the scenes to develop the best libraries for their respective cities.
The volunteers known as “Friends of the Library” donated about $95,000 last year throughout the county, not including any funds they spent directly to programs.
Ormond Beach Regional Library has an active Friends group with more than 250 members and a 16-member board. Jane Finchum, president, said all the Friends of the Library groups have a purpose statement identifying the reason they exist that are pretty similar.
“We are advocates for the library,” Ms. Finchum said. “We provide funding for items the budget would not tolerate them to have as a result of cuts that have been occurring throughout the county. We want to give back and are devoted to supporting the library and our community.”
Specifically in the children’s area of the Ormond Beach library a wooden boat, the S.S. Reads A Lot, has benches for children to sit on and read a book, several lawn chairs for parents to relax as their child plays in the boat, and a submarine sensory wall unit.
The Friends bought or funded the building of all of these items. They also bought a play kitchen, a workbench, BBQ stations around the perimeter and a new ocean-themed rug. Meeting room chairs, sewing machines for Maker Spaces and cabinets for moving and charging computers have also been purchased by the Ormond Friends of the Library group.
“We’ve done everything we can to make that an attractive area that would draw children in,” Ms. Finchum said.
Her group also buys books, including an extensive large print collection, seeds for distribution to the community and funds for entertainment.
Friends-sponsored book sales bring in needed donations to continue their work, even having a book sale room in the Ormond library. In a true partnership, even if Friends volunteers are unavailable, library staff can accept money for books on their behalf.
Libraries in general have evolved to be so much more than books with computer access, coloring classes, tax preparation classes, movies and concerts.
“It’s a community meeting place,” Ms. Finchum said. “The goal is (still) for people to be literate and read. All that is still there.”
Celia Martin, president of the Friends of the Edgewater Public Library, began volunteering in 2002.
“Without the Friends we wouldn’t be able to have the preschool through young adult programs, the exercise programs, the outreach programs and events, crafting classes and scholarships,” Ms. Martin said. “We do three big scholarships every year. We have a yoga class that meets every single week. Our auditorium is packed. We support that group. Anything the library needs that we can fund them with. We are anxious to have more members.”
In Edgewater, membership dues are only $5 per year for the Friends group, which has with monthly meetings.
Lucinda Colee, Volusia County Library Services Director, sees the role of Friends of the Library as that of advocacy.
They also provide, “word of mouth marketing about the services and programs in the library. They are certainly some of our best voices in the community to promote our services and programs,” Ms. Colee said. “They provide financial support for programs and a lot of the ‘extras’ in the libraries. That is certainly very commendable and important as to how we continue to move library services forward. They work very hard raising money. We count on them for a lot of different reasons. We love our Friends and appreciate all the work they do on behalf of the library.”
For more information, visit volusialibrary.org.