Friends of Edmonds Library celebrates 40 years of support for community literacy

“We’ve come a long way since 1979,” began outgoing Friends of the Edmonds Library President Luke Distelhorst as he welcomed an estimated 100 guests to the group’s gala 40th anniversary celebration Thursday evening at Brigid’s Bottleshop in Salish Crossing.

“Forty years ago, 15 citizens came together to found Friends of the Edmonds Library to support and enhance the library, promote literacy, reading and the use of information resources, and to advance education in library and information sciences,” he continued.

Distelhorst’s three-year term as president expires this year. Taking over the helm for the next three years is Liz Morris.

The group now has more than 150 paid members and brings in about $30,000 a year from ongoing book sales in the library, charitable contributions, and an annual book sale and silent auction that fills the Frances Anderson Center Gym each fall. The first book sale in 1980 raised $868. This year’s proceeds topped $9,000. Since its founding, Friends of the Edmonds Library has raised more than $456,000 for library programs.

“I see a bright future for continued growth and support,” Distelhorst added.

About half of the money goes directly to the Edmonds Library for programming and other needs identified by the librarians themselves.

“They’re the professionals,” Distelhorst said. “They know what they need for their programs.”

The rest of the funds go to support Friends of the Edmonds Library’s ongoing programs and initiatives. These include Sno-Isle Libraries summer reading program, equipment and training for staff, new furniture, the library aquarium, indoor plants, outdoor signs and a $4,000 scholarship to a graduate student in library science.

This year’s scholarship, now in its 26th year, went to University of Washington student Magenta Loera, a second-year graduate student. She plans to graduate this spring with a master of library science.

“Community engagement through libraries synthesizes my primary interests in leadership, social responsibility and advocacy work, and I believe it is at the heart of what makes libraries transformative institutions,” Loera said as she accepted the award. “As a future outreach-community engagement librarian, I plan to continue brainstorming new ways of reaching more remote and underrepresented communities through creative oral knowledge projects and with the help of digital technologies.

“Receiving the Friends of the Edmonds Library Scholarship will allow me to continue to devote time and attention towards my current academic and professional responsibilities as well as my future goals within the library field. Your generosity is key to my ability to be part of the world of librarianship,” she continued.

Next to the podium was Friends member and regular My Edmonds News contributor Wendy Kendall, who built the innovative “Read! Recommend! Raffle!” program that promotes community literacy through soliciting book recommendations. Anyone can submit a recommendation for a book they feel deserves to be shared and widely read, and their names are entered into a drawing for a Kindle e-book reader.  Kendall’s employer Symetra funds the purchase of the Kindles through a matching gift for her volunteer work. This year four Kindles were given away. One of the recipients, Addie Marie Jones, was present at the event to accept her award.

“I recommended ‘Skin Deep; An Interactive Coloring Book’ because it helps increasing understanding of diversity and acceptance in the targeted 4 to 12-year-old audience,” Jones said as she accepted her award.

Returning to the podium, Distelhorst announced the winner of a newly-minted grant program designed to support education and literacy in the Edmonds community. The $1,500 grant went to Scriber Lake High School in recognition of the school’s efforts to serve a diverse and specialized student population. Accepting the award was former Scriber Librarian and present Edmonds School District Library Coordinator Leighanne Law.

“When I first arrived at Scriber we had no library budget at all,” she explained. “We dove into writing grants and other efforts to upgrade the library to reflect the diverse needs of our student body. Thanks to gifts like this, the whole culture at Scriber has shifted dramatically; our students have become amazing readers, and in many cases writers themselves. We are so grateful.”

The formal presentations closed with Sno-Isle Libraries Executive Director Lois Langer Thompson thanking attendees, volunteers and all supporters for their efforts. “The library’s role in the community is enriched by your advocacy and promotion of the library,” she said.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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