ARLINGTON – Friends of the Arlington Library volunteers have supported the library since 1981, while sharing their love of books with the community.
The nonprofit Friends organization has about 100 members who raise funds to keep the variety of literacy and educational programs free that the library offers for all ages, while building partnerships with other groups to meet community needs.
“We decided a long time ago, along with the librarian, to offer more programs that the community can benefit from, especially the children’s programs,” Friends President Eileen Ray said. “That’s where we choose to use our money.”
Managing Librarian Kathy Bullene appreciates the efforts of Friends, giving the Sno-Isle library branch that edge of flexibility that helps them better leverage their resources.
“The Friends group gives us a stronger community connection,” she said.
The Friends gain most of their donations through daily book sales in the library, lobby book sales the second Tuesday and second Wednesday of most months, an annual membership drive in October, and through participation in community events.
This month the Friends are putting a little more heart into their fundraising when they host a two-day Valentines Day sale at 135 N. Washington Ave. Hours are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Feb. 13 and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 14.
For the first time the Friends also will be selling “gently” used jewelry – an idea pitched by Bullene to help boost sales that fits the Valentine theme, along with the group’s traditional homemade baked goods, candy and candy dishes.
Most fiction books will be priced at three or four for $1; non-fiction sells for one or two for $1. Any purchase ensures entry to win a Valentine’s door prize basket.
Some of the outreach programs Friends supports are Books for Babies, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Project with the Arlington Education Foundation, dictionaries for all third-graders with the Kiwanis Club, Children’s Storybook Garden with the Arlington Community Garden and Arlington Arts Council, Halloween and Easter town events, and the food bank’s new “A Simple Gesture” program.
Ready Reader Storytimes for babies to preschoolers are an example of the Friends’ generosity, Bullene said. Staff using the early literacy service could just read the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and point to a picture book until the cows come home. But to really grab the attention of toddlers, she said, maybe that takes a spider puppet to do the trick.
“That’s where the Friends’ funding support comes in handy,” Bullene said. The Friends can provide the money for supplies to make or buy the puppet.
Friends has coordinated the “Books for Babies” program at Cascade Valley Hospital for more than a decade, which benefits all new parents giving birth there. Currently, they provide up to 20 “Books for Babies” bags a month. Each bag contains information about the importance of reading to a new baby, library card application, a board book, newsletter and other information for parents.
“Parents really appreciate it,” said Ray, who moved to Arlington with her husband six years ago after she retired as an administrator with the Anacortes School District. She immediately jumped in to help the Friends.
Ray said while children garner the most attention as the next generation of readers, the group’s kindness extends to all ages. If more board puzzles are needed for a youth program, or a dance program for kids needs scarves to round out the routine, The Friends are ready to help, Ray said.
Remember last August’s total solar eclipse? The library was able to provide eclipse safety glasses at a viewing party in part thanks to Friends volunteers who bought them.
For patrons who are using the library and computers for job searching, resume writing and handling documents, the Friends also stocks USB thumb drives that can be bought at cost.
Ray said more than 86 percent of their funding goes toward children, teen and adult free programs, 8 percent for community outreach and 6 percent for library enhancements and fundraising. On average, the book sales monthly generate up to $350; with baked goods also available for purchase, donations can run as high as $800.
Membership in Friends costs $10 a year, or $125 for a lifetime.
Last month, the Friends launched a new business membership for $25 that includes advertising in the group’s newsletters and recognition listing at community events. So far, 13 businesses have signed up.
“Some of the members are active that like to help with the sales, and bake, and some are supportive members because they agree with what we do,” Ray said.
Ray said she likes that the library changes with the times and, in the age of Kindles and e-readers, “They’re keeping up with all this new technology. We’ll always still need libraries. What would we do without them and all the resources they provide?”
If you want to donate, the Friends will accept adult, teen and children’s hardback and paperback fiction and non-fiction, magazines, CDs, DVDs and audiobooks. They cannot take damp or moldy books, or textbooks, Ray said. The group also accepts monetary donations, or gifts can be made in memory or in honor of a loved one. Donations are tax-deductible.
Friends meets the second Wednesday of each month at 3:30 p.m. in the Stillaguamish Conference Room at Haller Park, 154 W. Cox St..
For details, call Ray at 360-770-3768.