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Friends groups active at Green, Portage Lakes libraries

4/18/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

The Green Friends of the Library commissioned “A Celebration of Life,” a mixed media wall sculpture and painting by Green artist Abbigail Schermesser, a memorial to former Green Branch student assistant Laura Easterday.
Photo courtesyof Green Branch Library
GREEN/NEW FRANKLIN — Behinds the scenes of most of the branch libraries within the Akron-Summit County Public Library system are groups of volunteers best known for holding book sales.

Portage Lakes Friends of the Library posted a sign advertising the group above a bench purchased with funds they contributed earlier this year.
Photo courtesy of Portage Lakes Friends of the Library
The Friends of the Library (FOL) exist to help library staff meet their goals, and small groups of committed helpers are active at the Green and Portage Lakes branches, according to group leaders.

“[The Green FOL] help us so much, especially with connecting with the community,” said Sherry Swisher, Green’s branch manager.

The groups each hold two books sales per year at their respective libraries, coming up at both locations April 27.

At the Portage Lakes branch, 4261 Manchester Road in New Franklin, the regular sale will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with an all-you-can-carry bag sale during the last two hours. During the bag sale, customers can purchase a paper grocery bag from FOL for $2 to fill with as many books as it can hold. Magazines, hardback and paperback books and CDs and DVDs are sold for 10 to 50 cents during the regular sale. The “boutique,” which is not part of the bag sale, offers the sale of newer books, sets, bestsellers and other specialty books at prices ranging from $1 to $5.

At the Green branch, 4046 Massillon Road, the sale will be April 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a bag sale taking place the last hour. For Green’s bag sale, customers should bring their own bags, which they can fill for $1. During the regular sale, books and audiovisual items cost between 25 and 50 cents each.

Money raised during the book sales helps provide programs and supplies their library branch budgets don’t offer, according to group leaders. FOL groups also contribute to the library system as a whole, they said.

Book sales at the Portage Lakes Branch usually raise about $2,200 for library programs, according to Margo Erme, the branch’s FOL president. They also sell books online year-round to bring in additional funding, she added.

Their contributions to their library range from purchasing a TV-DVR to refinishing chairs, she said. They also have paid for music performances in the garden and purchased supplies and materials for the summer children’s reading program, she added.

“We believe the library is such a valuable resource in our community,” said Erme, a New Franklin resident. “We do what we can to ensure that our library remains strong.”

Being involved with Portage Lakes FOL has provided opportunities to meet like-minded people — “people who love to read books, believe the library is an important asset and want to give back to their community,” she said.

“I love reading, and I came across it in the library brochure,” Erme said of how she got connected to the Portage Lakes group around 15 years ago.

Green FOL has commissioned several works of art for the library, according to Kim Hastings, Green FOL president. They also funded an Eagle Scout project to redo the library’s courtyard with plantings, according to Hastings.

Other recent purchases by Green FOL include puppets, an easel for children’s programs and a cart for holding books on tape, said Hastings.

Hastings said she has been involved in the Green group for about 10 years.

“I started because we, as a family, use the library all the time. To me, having the access to those materials at no cost is a blessing, and I felt the need to give back because we were getting something out of using the library,” she said. “And the people there are just so friendly and helpful.”

Some of the money raised by the groups will be placed in a scholarship fund to provide higher education for library staff, group leaders said.

Both FOL groups also will look at contributing to support a library levy when it comes up, they said.

Both groups depend on volunteers to help run book sales, including setting up beforehand and cleaning up afterward. Also at both libraries, FOL members are needed throughout the year to sort through donated books and library discards in preparation for future books sales.

Another project volunteers in Green are charged with is maintaining the library’s courtyard, including its sensory pots and bird feeders, according to Hastings.

The Green FOL group also is behind the dedication of a historical marker planned for June 1 at 10 a.m. That event will follow a documentary on the life of John Buchtel taking place at the Central Administration Building, 1755 Town Park Blvd.

Buchtel was a member of the first committee to get a library in Akron, said Hastings.

Erme said she would like to see more people actively participate in the Portage Lakes FOL. The group is open to all ages, she noted. Student volunteers who need to complete community service hours for graduation requirements can get a statement of their hours, she added.

One of the benefits of joining an FOL group is special admittance to preview sales held at any branch within the Akron-Summit County Public Library, said group leaders. Also, members receive the library’s newsletter by mail and a discount at the Library Shop on Main.

Each FOL group is autonomous, and people can belong to more than one, according to Erme.

Groups set their own dues structures. Membership in the Portage Lakes group costs $2 annually for an individual and $5 for families. In Green, membership is $1 for students, $2.50 for senior citizens, $5 for other individuals and $10 for families.

For anyone interested in joining the Portage Lakes FOL, email Erme at margoerme@neo.rr.com or pick up a brochure at the library or call 330-644-7050. For the Green branch’s FOL, contact the library at 330-896-9074 or fill out a membership form at the library.

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