If you’ve lived in Edmonds for any amount of time, it’s likely you’ve heard of the Friends of the Edmonds Library.
Best known for its annual late October used-book sale, which generates a line of eager buyers hours before it opens, the Friends – as the organization is often called – also sponsors many of the library’s children and adult programs. In addition, it assists with other library needs, from computers to furniture to blinds – that are not otherwise funded by the Sno-Isle Library system. And it awards college scholarships to local students studying to be librarians.
So it should be a concern to many that the Friends of the Edmonds Library is considering the idea of disbanding.
The reason is simple, says current Friends Board Budget Director Bea O’Rourke. The volunteer-run organization needs to fill five board positions or it will lose its 501 (c) 3, tax-exempt status. And being required to pay taxes would spell the end of the Friends, which operates on a shoestring budget, O’Rourke said.
Here’s a bit of history about the Friends and its role with the Edmonds Library. Prior to its 2001 annexation by the Sno-Isle Library system, the Edmonds Library was owned and operated by the City of Edmonds. In 1979, a small group of citizens founded The Friends of the Edmonds Library. Goals included supporting and enhancing the Edmonds Library as a cultural asset to the city, promoting literacy and advancing education in library and information services.
After the library became part of Sno-Isle, the Edmonds Friends continued its mission to support the library. The book sale, now in its 35th year, has become a popular fixture in Edmonds, but the Friends also works to engage the community in all the library has to offer.
Last year, for example, the Friends sponsored an essay contest on the topic: “Why Today’s Modern Library is My Friend.” The winners were in three categories — Tween, Teen and Older Adult —specifically to encourage literacy in younger age groups and technology proficiency in the older group.
To address its need for board members and a more engaged membership, the Friends board recently conducted a member survey, which included a request for volunteer board members. While two people stepped up to help, the board still has three more positions to fill, O’Rourke said.
The Friends has approximately 160 members (dues are $10 for an individual and $15 or a family). Proceeds come from dues, along with the October book sale plus an ongoing sale of donated books, CDs and DVDs – on the honor system – inside the library.
But like many longstanding volunteer organizations in Edmonds, its membership is aging, and the Friends are looking for an infusion of new – and younger – members.
“We are definitely moving into the 21st century by changing bylaws to reflect the electronic age, and how all business meetings do not have to be face to face, but could be done electronically,” O’Rourke said. Another possible change: Sponsoring programs that accommodate the schedules of working people, rather than the current time of 1 p.m. on a weekday.
The current Friends board is now developing a strategy for expanding its membership base and also ensuring it has a full board of directors to maintain its nonprofit status.Such a goal doesn’t seem to be a stretch, given the number of young families with children who can be found using the Edmonds Library.
“We can become that new vibrant organization for the future,” O’Rourke said.
If you are interested in joining the Friends of the Edmonds Library Board, or becoming a member, contact Board President Leslie Elsaesser by emailing email@example.com or calling 425-745-6468.
— By Teresa Wippel