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CHECK THIS OUT: What does it take to be a Friend of the Nelson Public Library?

Janice Cooper writes about the library’s volunteer fundraisers
Friends of the Nelson Public Library hard at work planning their next fundraising event. Photo: Submitted

by Janice Cooper

Up until the recent paint job, there was a door in an out-of-the-way corner on the children’s floor in the Nelson Library. Scrawled on that door were the words “Friends Den.” Many questioned what went on in that secret room. Well, we’re here to spread some light on what it takes to be a “friend” of the Nelson Public Library and what goes on behind that door.

The Friends of the Nelson Public Library was formed in the 1980s as a fundraising support group, officially becoming a not-for-profit society in 1983 with the aim to raise funds through grants, raffles, and the ever-popular book sale. The Friends made their first donation to the Nelson Public Library of over $5,600 in 1985, which would roughly be a whopping $10,072 in today’s money! Since then, donations to the library have totalled over $360,000 for programs, furnishings, equipment, and you guessed it, even books!

You may remember the large annual book sales that took place in the lower level of the library throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. But once the lower level was renovated into the well-loved children’s area, those annual sales took a short road trip down the street to the Church on Kokanee Street. Most recently, the Friends have transitioned to more regular boutique sales, back in the library, and held a few times a year.

“Where do they get these books?” you may wonder. Well, from even more Friends! Each year the Friends put out a call to the community to donate like-new books for the sale – and, wow, does the public ever respond! Weeks before the sales, you will find library staff sorting, piling, and transferring boxes of books, DVDs, puzzles, and sometimes even vinyl into storage, waiting for the Friends to sort and prep for the sales.

The Friends fundraising isn’t limited to book sales. Many programs and services are made possible through grants applied for and administered by the Friends of the Library. These grants have supported renovations, the Tech Hub project, and even the Summer Reading Club for kids. Many changes and improvements to the library have been implemented over the years with the help of the Friends, including improved accessibility, furniture for the children’s area, and this year enhancements to the Large Print collection.

While the Friends were able to operate in a limited capacity during COVID-19 restrictions, we are now back in full force and are seeking some new volunteers for ongoing and future projects. Some of the original members of the group have recently retired after decades of volunteering, and new Friends are always welcome to join.

Why become a Friend of the Library? All our current executive group have different motivations: our secretary loves supporting all the amazing services provided by the library besides lending reading materials; our chair (that’s me) is a lifelong reader and library user; and our treasurer joined so long ago she doesn’t even remember why!

As library services change and evolve, the Friends are always looking for new ways to fundraise and promote our well-loved library. Become a Friend, make friends, find out what is behind that mysterious door, and support the library! If that sounds like your cup of tea, meetings are held at the Nelson Library on the second Tuesday of each month from September to June at noon. For more information about the Friends, or to join, please contact the library at 250-352-6333.

Janice Cooper is chair of Friends of the Nelson Public Library.