Public libraries often operate within limited budgets and library staff stays constantly busy with daily library tasks. For this reason and more, libraries across the nation rely heavily on their friends groups to support vital library functions. The third week in October is National Friends of the Library Week, a time to celebrate the contributions of friends groups, raise community awareness, and promote membership.

Delta County Libraries has five active friends groups making a positive impact in their libraries and communities every single day. From organizing book sales and bake sales to sponsoring library programs and shelving books, library friends support the daily operations of the libraries.

"We have raised a lot of funds to improve the Hotchkiss Library, especially the children's area," says Sue Whittlesey of the Hotchkiss group. "A number of our active friends also serve on the board of trustees for the district. Other friends are regular volunteers at our library, shelving books and working the front desk."

Paonia friends have offered similar assistance to their library. "Our group contributed significantly to building the current Paonia Library," says Laura Major, a Paonia Library friend. Along with book and bake sales, Paonia friends support the library by sponsoring summertime musical events, participating in a grape stomp, and organizing a potluck.

In addition to fundraising, library friends take pride in showcasing their libraries in their communities. In this way, friends groups have made it a priority to provide funds and volunteers for maintaining the landscaping on library grounds. "Our library is amazingly beautiful, relaxing, and welcoming," says Major, of Paonia Library.

"Our friends are especially vital to our libraries as we face shrinking revenues and higher costs," says Lea Hart, district director of Delta County Libraries. "A recent book sale in Cedaredge raised over $5,500 for the Cedaredge Library. The community needs to know that there is so much we would not be able to do without their support."

In Delta and Cedaredge, the friends often plan and facilitate programs. Cedaredge friends offer a monthly program for adults prior to their regular meeting.These programs help support library staff while also offering opportunities for the groups to recruit new members.

Membership is essential for the continued success of these groups. "Our groups are always looking for new members to help continue their work and bring fresh ideas to the table," Hart says. "Anyone who wants to get involved is appreciated for whatever their contribution is, big or small."

Friends and staff of Delta County Libraries hope that National Friends of the Library Week will encourage others to get involved. The rewards are numerous; by participating as a friend of the library, you show your support for your library, but it will also provide you with opportunities to meet like-minded community members, enjoy the company of library staff and patrons, get your hands on some excellent used books, and feel good about making a difference.


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