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Friends of The Library -

“Our secret weapon of MASS ORGANIZATION.”

By Carrie Switzer

Friends of The Library
(435) 259-5421

Friends of the Library is a national phenomenon, local support groups for our public libraries that insure the community receives services in excess of those offered by often meager budgets. In Moab, Friends adopts the literal meaning of the word. This group, while accomplishing so much in terms of library support, has a blast doing it.

Sara Melnicoff, President of the Friends of the Library Board

“Our meetings are marked by a lot of laughter,” says Sara Melnicoff, president of the three-person board and organizer of a core group of 12 to 15 volunteers. “The main thing I like about our Friends group is that we are super harmonious. The way we have prospered is by being open to each other’s ideas.”

Grand County’s Friends of the Library was established at the tail end of 1999, and has been an active presence ever since. The group’s annual Book Sale, the Friends’ single largest fundraiser, brings in about $2,500 a year. A rack of books for sale from the Friends collection can be found at the Grand County Library year-round. Most of these are donated, culled from the library’s inventory or are duplicates of books donated to the Grand County Library. “All year long we spend hundreds of hours sorting,” Sara said.

Helping in that effort, and every other need Sara comes up with, are Judy Russo, Karla Hancock, Belinda Ledbetter, Robin Zank, Marcus LaFrance, Ann Gordon, Janet Williams and others.

“We have a very talented, very diverse group of volunteers,’ Sara says.

Moab’s Friends (synonymous with Grand County Friends) have been fortunate in recent years to have a place to work with their collection year-round. The books have been housed in the Old Middle School, where the sale has been held each year. Next year the Friends will have to move, but thankfully, they are not likely to be moving to a storage shed.

“That’s backbreaking, to have to haul books in and out and it makes it harder to organize our collection by genre,” Sara said.

Instead, Friends has asked the Grand County School District for permission to use, and renovate, the former Food Bank building on 100 North Street. Sara was waiting for a decision from the District when we spoke.
Friends of the Library branches out to other non-profits as well. Seekhaven Family Resources Center, the County Jail, and Head Start are among those who have received generous donations of books specific to their clientele. Sara said Friends purchased three magazine subscriptions for the jail and reorganized the library there, weeding out old books and replacing them with newer ones.

“If a group, any group, needs books, we want to give it to them, as a donation,” Sara said.

The immensely popular book sale (there was a line out to the street waiting for the sale to open this year) was followed by a “free book day,” also popular.

“Every year we are making something out of nothing,” Sara, an avid recycler, said. “”And many of the things we do are woven into the fabric of the library.”

These include all of the library’s computer furniture, two terminals for visitors, a child-size bookshelf, signs, and even a generous donation to the library’s campaign to build a new, larger library.

“It gets crowded in here,” Sara said. “That is why we bought the visitor computer terminals.” In the dead of winter, mid-December, the round computer lab was full.

Friends of the Library is embarking on a new children’s program as well, in conjunction with the Delicate Stitchers of Moab.

“Every child born in Grand County will go home from the hospital with a hand-made book bag, with a board book, library card and book mark. We bring them to the hospital 120 at a time, and when they run out we bring them more.”

“Over the years of working together, we create an awareness of other non-profits,” Sara said.

Membership dues are $3 per person, per year, or $5 for a family. Most of the 175 current members signed up at the book sale to take advantage of the first day of the sale, a “members only” sale.

Additional donations of books, time and money are always welcome. More information is available by calling 259-5421, or sign up at the library.

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