Friends of the Library: Supporting the Library Since 1989
Volunteer-run organization provides supplemental funds for library programs and upgrades.
Author Luncheons, Books for Babies, energy efficient lighting, recycling and audio-visual equipment all have one common thread at the Northville District Library – they were supported by Friends of the Library.
Friends is a non-profit organization run by volunteers with a mission to support the library. Since 1992 it has raised more than $350,000. According to Denise Stacer, Friends treasurer since 2003, its donations to the library have increased from $20,000 in 2002 to $50,000 in 2010.
Friends has three avenues by which it promotes and raises money for the library: a gift store, used book sales and memberships. These are overseen by the Friends Board, of which Jennifer Gustafson is president.
“Northville District Library is a fantastic library!” Gustafson said. “The community understands the importance of having a strong public library. This is vital on so many levels.”
Perhaps its most visible presence is the Friends Store inside the library, just past the main entrance. According to volunteer Carol Holland, the store has evolved from its original purpose.
“It started in 1996 with pencils, pens, note paper, things you’d need for library work,” Holland said. “The store was more for convenience.”
Gift items were added over time. The store has expanded to include books, puppets, jewelry, puzzles, backpacks, and more. About 25 volunteers work at the store in two hour shifts. Martha Nork, a Friends volunteer of eight years, manages it and keeps track of inventory.
“The store gives the Friends visibility,” Nork said. “It makes people aware there’s an active Friends group.”
All proceeds from store sales benefit the library.
“The library gives the Friends a wish list of things it can’t afford with its regular budget,” explained Nork.
Joe Thomas is the Director of Used Book Operations. The Friends Book Cellar, located on the library’s lower level, is filled with donated items: gently used books, audio books, CDs, videos, DVDs and puzzles
“The citizens of Northville have been very generous and supportive through donating and buying used books,” Thomas noted appreciatively. “We have great volunteers, about 25, who do the sorting, shelving, and selling. About a year ago we were able to expand our Book Cellar hours because there were more volunteers.”
Friends Book Cellar prices are .50 for paperbacks and $1 for hardcovers. Thomas recalled how dealers used to wait outside the Book Cellar before it opened. Wanting to be the first ones in, they searched for and bought books they recognized as valuable and in-demand, to resell at much higher prices.
However, the Friends found a way to reap the benefits of its more valuable book donations. In November of 2009 they brought in Mission Based Books, an Ann Arbor based company that scans the ISBNs of new donations for their online value. MBB takes books deemed valuable and lists them on Amazon. When sold, MBB does the shipping and handling, and splits profits 50/50 with the library.
“It has been profitable,” Thomas said. “Our customer base is anyone who shops online.”
The numbers back this up.
Treasurer Stacer explained, “The Friends’ fiscal year is from March 1 to February 28. In 2002-2003 used book sales were just over $10,000. In 2008-2009 it was $22,000; in 2009-2010 it was $27,000; and for the year just ending we’re close to $37,000. That’s $10,000 more than last year. It’s due to the new process.”
The money Friends donates to the library is used in various ways. In 2010, the lighting throughout the library was upgraded with energy efficient lights. A meeting room was renovated and tables were replaced.
Friends’ donations also provide reading incentives, snacks and prizes for the Summer Reading Program. It supplements funding for many of the library’s collections, classes, and activities.
Sandy Walts and Ellison Franklin are on the Membership Committee and said there were about 300 members. Plans are underway for the Annual Membership Drive, which is held every March.
Correction: The Friends of the Northville District Library incorporated in September of 1989. Through fund raising efforts they have raised $350,000 since 1992. A previous version of the story misstated the founding date.