Books are our friends, we used to tell our children, echoing what our parents told us when we were growing up. That statement was enough to stop children from ripping out pages or coloring on borrowed books. Who would want to hurt their friends?
It’s a lesson well-learned when we are young, and it paves the way for us to think of libraries as the ultimate hang outs for those who enjoy reading, learning and meeting new people.
I am newly arrived into the huge community of people who comprise friends of libraries everywhere, having recently joined my local Hampton Community Library group, but it’s something I have thought about doing for a long time. On every library visit I have made over the years -- and there have been many, including today -- I would notice the announcements about activities the Friends were doing. Someday, I thought, when I have more time, I am definitely going to look into that.
Now that I have joined, I have found the experience to be more worthwhile than I imagined. Being a Friend means getting to be creative, helping others (while helping myself) which always feels good, and the actual best part? I get to spend more time in libraries, where the atmosphere makes me feel like I am at home, surrounded by comfortable things. And it’s especially nice to spend time with like-minded people who think that libraries are important enough to preserve.
Friends’ groups abound around the country with each intent on the same thing � being stewards for the always-growing resources offered by libraries that remain free-of-cost at a time when there is not much of anything else that you don’t have to pay for. (Even using supposedly “free” Internet access at local café’s and bookstores may not be really free as advertised, but demand a payment for use.)
Alison Strome has been involved with the Hampton Community Library since the early days when it was just the dream of several local residents sitting around “Judy’s kitchen table.” Judy is Judy Gifford, who along with her husband Stephen, has been an instrumental part of nurturing Hampton Community Library into existence.
Now serving as president of the Friends of the Hampton Community Library, Alison says her thoughts on being a friend to the library have not changed since those early beginnings of the library in 1988: “I feel now as I did then. I think a library is a necessary and vital part of a community, that its existence supports literacy and the efforts of our schools as well as being a source of information and enrichment for everyone.” “To me,” Judy adds, “a library in a community enriches the minds and spirits of its residents.”
Because being a “friend” to something doesn’t sound very intense, it may be that people consider Friends’ organization to be low-key, quiet affairs, but nothing could be further from the truth. Friends’ members are adamant about taking care of the library, those who use it, and especially about sharing the good word about what is going on with their fellow residents. They are walking advertisements for the library, ready to discuss the library with anyone who will listen.
If you are looking for some way to “give back” to your community, joining the Friends group at your local library is a great way to do that. You will meet interesting new people, be part of a viable community resource, and help to take care of all of those friendly books, just like your mother told you.
By Teresa K. Flatley