STEUBENVILLE – The Steubenville and Jefferson County Public Library is looking for friends.
Not necessarily the kind to hang out, talk or hang out with, but friends to help make the library system an even better place, according to Sarita Asawa, community outreach coordinator.
His idea is to form a Friends of the Library group, a non-profit organization that exists alongside the library to support, advocate and raise funds through grassroots activities such as selling used books, seniors programs and galas.
Asawa hopes to gauge interest in his institution at an informal meeting scheduled for July 14 from noon to 1 p.m. at the Main Library, located at 407 S. Fourth St., Steubenville.
“We will provide a light lunch for all attendees and would love to see anyone who is interested, curious or has ideas.” Asawa explained, noting that those interested in attending can register by calling the main library at (740) 282-9782.
“To get things done, we are looking for a steering committee that will likely become the board, but we would like to hear everyone’s ideas.” Asawa explained. “I hope that five to eight committed members will decide the direction of the Friends group along with feedback from many others who want to volunteer on a more general level. There is no limit to the size of a group of friends, it depends on the needs of the community,” she added.
So who exactly are the Friends of the Library?
“Friends are enthusiastic library supporters who believe in the importance of libraries in their communities,” Asawa noted. “Members are people who use libraries and organize fundraisers for libraries to foster further development. Some of the most popular fundraising activities include used book sales and galas,” she added.
A library friend would sign up as a member with as little or as much commitment as desired.
“Once the direction of Friends is decided and what events they would like to hold, details of membership and engagement can be arranged”, she said, pointing out that some common benefits of membership include things like a “Members-Only Book Preview Sale.”
A group of library friends is necessary, according to Asawa.
“Over the years, we have received many requests to volunteer at the library. A structure like the Friends of the Library allows us to work with volunteers from the whole community,” she noted. “After the huge success of the used book sale, we realized there was both an interest and a need for the continued sale of books. In two days we had over 600 customers bringing home hundreds of books,” Asawa said.
“Traditionally, used book sales are conducted by a group of friends, and we want to do everything we can to keep this going as an annual tradition,” she continued.
“Friends will decide where funds generated from fundraising are applied – often the money goes to specific projects, increased programming or exclusive Friends of the Library events. We hope this will provide our community with a fun way to actively engage with the library.
The used book sale held recently was the first attempted by the library system in more than 25 years, according to Asawa.
“It was a bit of a trial run to see if it was something Jefferson County wanted. Given the response from book sales, it’s a resounding yes. Traditionally, used book sales are used by a group of friends as a fundraiser for their goals,” she says.
Asawa explained why fundraising is important for a library system.
“While we enjoy tremendous economic support and support from our community in Jefferson County, there are many things we would like to offer the community beyond what we already provide. “, she says.
“Fundraisers could be used for bigger prizes for summer book clubs, visits from popular authors (like Lisa Scottoline, Kathy Reichs, or Shelly Shepard-Gray), a crafting space, or STEM kits. circulating for children”, Asawa continued.
“All fundraising funds would directly impact the community and bring even bigger and better events, programs and items to Jefferson County. Beyond fundraising, I see Friends as a huge opportunity for us to learn from our community and work together towards a common goal.
Asawa imagines there are many things a group of library friends could do.
“I have several ideas floating around that I would like to see come to fruition,” she began.
“First and foremost, I’d like to see the book sales continue – it’s been wonderful to see so many people enjoying the (used) book (sales), and I think it’s a great way to give a new home to a used book. More than that, I would love the opportunity to work more closely with volunteers in our community. The Friends will give me the opportunity to learn and engage with our customers from a real and exciting way.” she says.
“One of my big dreams is to see a library of things in Jefferson County,” she added.
“An Object Library is a new service in the library world that allows our customers to view items they want to try before they buy or only need once in a while. I saw libraries offer everything from ukuleles, small kitchen appliances, tools, cake pans, and craft kits. I love the idea of being able to check out an air fryer from the library,” she says.
A group of library friends is not a new concept.
“It’s very common in small and large libraries across the country,” Asawa said. “We would love to help one get started here.”
Jennifer Cesta, public relations coordinator for the library system, agrees.
“The Friends of the Library group will be an excellent opportunity for people who wish to volunteer in the library”, Cesta said.
“Communities in our county love their library. This group will be a great support system to reach and engage people with the library and to create future projects.