Friends of the Whidbey libraries need community’s help
August 13, 2010 · Updated 4:24 PM
The word comes from the Old English “freond” and claims an Indo-European root meaning “to love.”
Considering that most of these “friends” came together around their love of books and libraries, it’s an apropos descriptor.
The Friends of the Langley Library have joined with their Clinton, Freeland, Coupeville and Oak Harbor counterparts to extend the reach of what each group does to foster an island-wide love of books and libraries.
“Most people don’t know anything about the groups,” said Pam Owen, president of the Langley group.
“We’re a friendly bunch,” Owen added, a tagline she said is a bit corny, but describes the Friends in general.
Like most people, Owen said she had no idea about who the Friends of the Library were, or what they did. Then she was asked by a neighbor to become involved.
“Being new to the island, I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer in the community, and this seemed a terrific place to start, since I love to read,” Owen said.
What the Friends do is organize a number of programs independent of those funded by the Sno-Isle Libraries system.
For the upcoming season of September through May, the Friends of Langley Library offer five programs with a variety of interests. The other Friends groups also offer a roster of local library events.
The November presentation of the popular book-loving guru Nancy Pearl at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley is considered an annual gem which fills the theater with book lovers from both on and off the Island. Pearl arrives with a long list of her favorite books and the reasons why she thinks everybody should read them.
The event is a favorite among a number of the friends, including Owen and Gwen Brass, the publicity person for the Langley group.
“She always has great books to recommend, and is a very entertaining speaker,” Brass said.
“She is an hour of entertainment that just happens to include the subject of books,” Owen added.
The Langley group was also instrumental in bringing one of the first emergency preparedness programs to the community in November 2005, a program that has been updated to include a focus on what individual neighborhoods can do to prepare for disasters.
Recently, the groups took on a new idea called “All Whidbey Book Groups Gathering” in order to open the door to all island book lovers from North, Central and South Whidbey through a focus on books. The gathering was created by a private Langley-Clinton book group. The Friends groups are stepping in to take the lead and keep the event happening every year.
But all the Friends on the island need help to keep the support substantial.
“We have such wonderful, dedicated people on our board, but we need to bring in new ones,” said Else Christensen, president of the Friends of Freeland Library.
Christensen said she discovered the Friends in 1995 when somebody told her that there was a fellow Dane working as a librarian at the Freeland Library.
“Of course I had to go and meet her,” Christensen said.
Before she knew it, she had joined the Friends, paid the dues and was named treasurer.
“Betty Bell, bless her soul, could talk anybody into anything,” she added.
But Christensen admitted that Bell’s persuasiveness was aided by her passion for libraries. She is still flabbergasted by the runaway success of the branch’s first-Saturday- of-the-month book sale, with people waiting in the parking lot for the doors to open at 10 a.m.
The Friends of Clinton Library president Betty Freeman agreed that the monthly book sales are important.
“The biggest ongoing project is our monthly book sale, which happens on the third Saturday of every month (except in December) at Clinton Community Hall,” Freeman said. The money earned from the donated books, CDs, DVDs and videos goes to library programming for adults and children, and to special projects.
The special project this year is to install a new carpet in the Clinton branch and that financial goal is almost met.
Likewise, in Freeland, a new carpet will be installed in October, and the meeting room has a fresh coat of paint, thanks to the volunteer help of Windermere Real Estate, friends indeed.
“The Freeland/Greenbank community is so incredibly generous with money. We are so grateful for the things we are able to support our library with, especially in these economically difficult times,” Christensen said.
But Clinton, like Freeland and Langley, is in need of volunteers to help with the monthly book sales and to sit on the board.
“There are as many opportunities to volunteer on Whidbey Island as there are hours in the year, and our island is a much more beautiful place to live because of all those who help,” Owen said.
Brass said she joined the Langley friends because she loves using the library, and because it’s a great group. She particularly enjoys selling the multi-colored strip curtains at Choochokam each summer in support of the Friends.
“We import them from Belgium, and as far as we know, we are the only source for purchasing them here in the U.S.,” Brass said.
Ultimately, for all these Friends, they want to help the libraries because they do more than just loan books.
“One of the first things I did when we moved to the island in late 2005 was to join the Friends,” Freeman said.
“I sensed then, and I know now that our little library in Clinton is a hub of community activity and a good place to make friends and enrich life.”
To find out more about how to volunteer, and about upcoming programs planned by all of the island groups, visit the Friends page at the Sno-Isle Libraries Web site, click here.
Also, check out a film about the friends of Clinton, click here.