2015-02-13 / Community

Library Links

A friendly endeavor
By Kevin Davis

You may have heard about this at the annual Friends of the South Portland Public Library Book Sale in the fall, or perhaps you’ve noticed the “coming soon” sign posted on the door on the Main Library’s lower level. Maybe you heard mention of it among library staff and volunteers, or have caught wind of it at a library event. Certainly word is out, one way or another, since the most frequent question I have been getting over the past several months is, “When is the Friends book sale room going to open?” Well, I’m happy to announce that the ongoing book sale room – officially named the Friends BookShop – is slated to open its doors to the public on Tuesday, Feb. 17, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Friends BookShop is a new initiative from the Friends of the South Portland Public Library – a year round book sale room at the Main Library. The room will offer the same range of materials as the annual book sale, just on a smaller scale. Because of the smaller footprint of the space, we have had to be far more discerning about the quality and condition of what is retained for sale in the book room. Of course, the items can still be had at the great bargain prices the Friends book sale is known for. The hope is that running an ongoing sale will be a more efficient means to raise money in support of the library’s services (as well as being easier on volunteers).

The work of the Friends is essential for the library to continue offering the kinds of services our community expects from us. The municipal funding the library department receives only covers library staff, collections and upkeep of the library buildings and grounds. Without the Friends, we would have no funds available to hire performers or speakers, to purchase supplies for children’s events or refreshments for author talks, or to even buy simple items to help dress up the library with seasonal displays and d├ęcor. Simply put, the city budget provides the body of the library, but the Friends provide the soul.

Thanks to the Friends, the soul of the library has grown by leaps and bounds over the past several years. If you have been a regular user – or have paid attention from afar – you have probably noticed how much more active the library is these days than in the past. While writing this, I dug through our files and took a look at the library’s calendar of events for February 2006. For that month, nine years ago, there are just 13 events listed. Our February 2015 calendar shows 13 programs just this week alone. There are 53 programs on the schedule for February 2015, most of which are made possible thanks to the generous support of Friends of the South Portland Public Library.

If you’ve participated in programs here (or have attempted to, only to find that they had filled to capacity), you know how popular they can be. Last Saturday, we had two major programs – the Snow Ball event put on by our youth services department had more than 120 people participate throughout the afternoon. Later that evening, as part of our very popular After Hours concert series, the Valentines-themed show by the Piping Hot Flutes brought more than 100 visitors out to the library on a cold wintery night, after the library had closed for the day. There’s clearly an appetite for library programming and we desperately want to keep offering – and expanding upon – it. Support of the Friends of the South Portland Public Library, and of their efforts with the new Friends BookShop (or other ventures down the road) help to keep these programs going … and growing.

I’ve been asked why the change is being made away from a large annual sale toward ongoing, smaller, sales. Simply put, the annual book sale model was looking to be unsustainable. The Friends were realizing declining revenue from the annual sale, the volunteer rolls were shrinking and the impact on the library’s space was becoming too great.

The Friends BookShop aims to continue the year round effort of organizing a book sale, but to have the effort spread across more people, in a much less stressful manner. As an upside to book shoppers, rather than one week of sales, there are now 52 weeks of sales at the library, featuring an ever-changing selection. Who knows, we still may do occasional “big” sales from time to time, as well as special promotions in the Friends BookShop, just to keep things interesting.

The Friends are currently not accepting donations for the Friends BookShop. There are currently not enough volunteers on hand to sort donations, nor is there space to store them. When we are prepared to handle donations again, an announcement will be made. If you are interested in volunteering to help out in the Friends BookShop, please talk to a Friends volunteer in the room, once it is open, to discuss your availability and any opportunities that may be available.

To start, the Friends BookShop will operate on a limited schedule – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. As more volunteers come on board, the hope is that hours will expand. The Friends BookShop is very much a work in progress. We expect that the selection of books for sale, hours of operation and perhaps even the layout of the room itself will evolve as the book room becomes a part of the routine for library visitors. Since this is all a learning experience, please feel free to pass on feedback to us, once you’ve experienced the Friends BookShop.

Kevin Davis is director of South Portland Public Library.

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