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Our Friends of the Library

Supporting East Bonner County Library and sharing the love of reading with the community By Jillian Chandler

East Bonner County Library

It was 1989 when Jim Clarke inspired the creation of Friends of the Library (FOL). He enlisted the help of his wife, Judith Clarke, along with Pat Stevens, Phyllis Burwell, Gloria Ray, Dick Wolf and Jeff Johnson (who would become the organization’s first president). “Jim was a strong patron of the library at the time, with friendships among the staff working [there],” shares Julie Smith, FOL president. “As a legally blind individual, he utilized the library and became inspired to form an organization of volunteers who could support the library. His wife, Judith, joined him in this pursuit.”

Friends of the Library is a 501c3 organization, and the group serves as library advocates, raises and provides funding for projects that are not normally within the scope of the library operating budget, provides volunteer assistance with library programming, and otherwise promotes library services.

“The Friends of the Library functions as an adjunct in how it supports the library through its book sales and events,” says Pam Webb, FOL member-at-large. “The FOL promotes the library’s mission to meet community needs by serving as ambassadors of the library through its offered programs and events.”

The primary purpose of the Friends of the East Bonner County Library shall be: to maintain an association of person’s interested in libraries, to focus public attention on the library, to stimulate the use of the library’s resources and services, to receive and support and cooperate with the library in developing library services and facilities for the community and to support the freedom to read as expressed in the American Library Bill of Rights.

Today, Friends of the Library has 101 members! When joining FOL, members may choose a lifetime membership or an annual designation, according to Julie. “Our membership year runs January 1 to December 31, so we are actively inviting new members and processing renewals.”

Those interested in becoming a member can fill out a membership form, found in the membership brochure on the kiosk in the library lobby. When filling out the membership form, members can select several areas for involvement: book sorting, book sales, hospitality, publicity, program development or serving on the board—many of these activities require only a once-a-month commitment.

Each month, FOL holds its Used Book Sale—with these book sales being their primary fundraiser and service to the community. “The monthly book sale is a treasure trove of reading choices, listening choices for music or books, or viewing choices of all sorts of movies and documentaries!” Julie affirms. “Each month the sale offers different choices among the various reading genres or media items. The discovery of this new item that a shopper may be interested in is delightful to see. Which leads to the fact that just the experience of browsing and shopping at the Used Book Sale is a time of pleasure, exploration and, hopefully, discovery of an item that must be purchased. The atmosphere is welcoming, the ‘weather’ inside is warm, and when finished with the sale just a few more steps can take a person into the library for another wonderful experience!”

As Irene Adler, Book Sale chair, adds, “FOL receives books, DVDs, CDs and audio books from the library as they cull their various collections … to make room for new inventory, but it mainly helps to keep their collections fresh, with choices that members of the public are interested in checking out.”

These items are then sold at at extremely affordable prices—$1 for hardback books, $.50 for paperbacks, half price for children’s books, along with some books that are specially priced. “Putting books into the hands of the community has been a constant purpose/theme for FOL and its members,” Irene states.

Members of the community are also welcome to donate items for the sale, some of which may be added to the library’s collection. All materials must be in good condition, clean, dry and mold-free. The library currently accepts three boxes of donations at a time. Accepted items are books (hardback, paperback, children’s), audiobook and music CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray, as well as video games. Financial donations are also gratefully accepted.

“Creating this monthly event offers the community an opportunity to financially support their Library,” smiles Julie. Approximately $750 is raised each month from the sale. “Primarily our money is donated back to the library in our matching grants each December. In 2021, we were able to offer $3,500 to be matched by the community and in 2022 the offer was $5,000. That grant was matched by our community to around $18,000.”

Donated books also support The Native Plant Society’s library; several “Little Library’s”; the Juvenile Detention Center and county jail; smaller private schools with non-fiction educational sets that have been weeded; assorted books to the Assisted Living Centers; and various schools throughout the community. “This past fall, our program contributions funded 10 wireless hotspots at $120 each for three years. the Library of Things $3,000, a yearly staff monetary gift, and new flight controls for the flight simulator,” according to Julie.

Not only does attending the book sale support the library through your purchases, Julie adds that one of the greatest benefits is that of the community, meeting up with friends and fellow readers. “The Friends of the Library is more than the monthly book sales,” she says. “Programs and events that benefit and enable the library to reach out to community members is also a vital aspect of FOL. There is also the camaraderie within the group, as we create friendships out of our love for reading, books, and getting books into the hands of others.”

FOL’s Monthly Used Book Sale is held 10am to 2pm the first Saturday of the month, with upcoming 2023 sales as follows: March 4, April 1, May 6, June 3, July 1, August 5, September 2, October 7, November 4 and December 6.

Mark your calendars for March 14, Pi Day, as the Friends of the Library will host a Koffee Klatch in the East Bonner County Library Community Rooms, where local book club members and reading enthusiasts are invited to share their favorite reads with other like-minded readers. There will also be opportunities to discuss books in breakout genre discussion groups. In recognition of Women’s History Month, there will be a display table of current women authors. “The library is a place of community, as well as a place of multiple resources not easily obtained through streaming and electronic access,” affirms Pam. “The library is beyond books in scope. DVDs, video games, audio books, newspapers, magazines—they are free to check out and enjoy. The library gives back to the community and is community-centered in its approach.”

The East Bonner County Library has a variety of other services it provides to the community: the seed catalog and Wi-Fi hotspots; a computer lab and a 3D printer; a Lifelong Learning Center—where youth and adults have access to tutors for school subjects and technology tutoring for those needing assistance with smartphones, tablets, and other technology. In addition, the library offers meeting space for nonprofit groups, a teen space and children’s programs.

If you or your child has yet to secure a library card of your own, there’s no time like the present. “A library card is a lifelong passport to exploring the new and adding on to the known,” smiles Pam. “A library card helps children become independent and helps them to learn about responsibility, providing them the opportunity of selecting for themselves books that spark their imaginations and interests, promoting lifelong reading skills. It opens up a world beyond Sandpoint.”

Show your support to our local library and our Friends of the Library by attending an upcoming Used Book Sale, signing up to become a member, or donating those books and items you and your children have outgrown that will become a new treasure for a reader in our community.

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