“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it`s the only thing that ever does.”
-- Margaret Mead
What do Post-It Notes, Cable News Network, and Friends of the Shaker Library have in common? They were all launched in 1980, but while Post-It Notes and CNN had huge organizations behind them, Friends of the Shaker Library was begun by a small group of people who loved their library and wanted to find a way to support it.
In 1980, as student at the Kent State University School of Library Science, Phyllis Harper, now a librarian at Hathaway Brown School for Girls in Shaker Heights, approached the Director of Shaker Library and asked if she could form a Friends group. The answer was a resounding yes, and Harper established the nonprofit Friends of the Shaker Library with other neighbors who also had a love for the library and a vision of what could be.
Twenty nine years later, Friends of the Shaker Library was honored to receive the Ohio Library Council’s Friends of the Year Award. It was presented to them in December as they anticipated a year-long celebration of their 30th anniversary in 2010. In thirty years, through the ebb and flow of different boards, Friends of the Shaker Library has supported the library by fund-raising (through semi-annual books sales, membership and the sale of merchandise), campaigning for library levies and bond issues, and advocating for the library in Columbus.
The Friends’ Book Sale has burgeoned from an annual event that raised $900 in 1980, to two well-organized, semi-annual books sales that generate between $11,000 to $13,000 each sale. The first book sale was held in a room at the Shaker Library and took volunteers a day to set up the books and sell them. Today, the group runs a slick operation that takes over the entire second floor of the Main Library and makes a huge assortment of books, movies, and music available to the community for four days. The sale is well organized thanks to the hard-work of a steadfast Friend and a former librarian for the Cleveland Schools, Lyla Olden, who comes to the library every Wednesday morning, and with a few other stalwart volunteers, sorts, categorizes, and boxes the library’s donated books in preparation for the sale. This behind-the-scenes work by “a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens” has given the Friends’ Book Sale the reputation of a well-run, well-organized event.
In addition to book sales, Friends has supported the library’s programming by underwriting Summer Reading programs and by providing for the giveaways and incentives that help to keep youngsters reading throughout the summer months. This, initiative, too, has grown through the years. In 1998, the Friends ramped up its contributions to summer reading and began to fund and to host a Friday night Family Ice Cream Social and Summer Reading Kick Off on the lawn at the Bertram Woods Branch. This annual event with entertainment, games, popcorn, lemonade, and, of course, ice cream, has come to signify the start of summer and a season of reading fun at the library.
Friends has promoted the Library through innovative programming. The longest running poetry series in a library, Poetry in the Woods, has had Friends’ support since its inception more than twelve years ago. This series has featured award-winning regional poets, as well as visiting poets from Cape Cod and Rhode Island, who share their poetry with others. Friends has funded author visits, music programs, art gallery openings, Local Author & Book Fairs and an Arts and Crafts Fair.
When Library Director Barbara Luton retired in 1994, Friends began the Barbara Luton Art Fund in her honor and every year hold an art competition serving not only the library, but also the artistic segment of our community. When the Library wanted to establish an Endowment Fund through the Cleveland Foundation, the Friends wrote the $10,000 check for the Foundation’s start-up funds. When the Library needed a way to transport material between its main building and its branch, Friends bought a large white van and had it imprinted with its logo and a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Now the community is reminded of the Friends each time the van drives up and down the streets of Shaker Heights.
Friends’ generous gifts have included a motorized scooter for the Main Library so folks with mobility problems can hop in and drive around the library to find what they need. Red baskets with the Friends’ logo and small red carts remind library visitors of the Friends thoughtful support. Friends funded the purchase of, Bee A Reader, the Library’s mascot and often can be found under its fuzzy fur at library events.
Friends’ board members have shared their time, talent, and creativity with the library. In 1992, when the library added a new children’s room at its Bertram Woods Branch, Friends of the Library organized a quilt project for textile artists ages 8 – 12 and adult volunteers. Working with a noted quilt artist, young textile artists designed quilt squares based on Jack Prelutsky’s poem, Children, Children, Everywhere. The quilt squares were pieced together and set out on a long table at the branch where adults quilted it. The happy result of the project hangs on the soffit in the children’s room next to a congratulatory letter from Jack Prelutsky where it continues to bring smiles to library visitors both young and young at heart.
Friends work and play well with others. In 2006, Friends sought a grant from the City of Shaker Heights to replace an 80-year-old flagpole and move it closer to the Main Library. They received the funds and celebrated the installation with a flag-raising ceremony for the community. Friends has worked with the local Nature Center on Earth Day poster contests for children and has cosponsored programs for adults on ecological awareness. Working with the local historical society, Friends sponsored a “What’s It Worth” program where participants could bring in up to four books and have them valued by a panel of experts. (And this was before the Antiques Roadshow’s popularity.)
In February 2010, Friends held another novel program - A Feast-ival of Chocolate Friends Raiser, and invited community members to participate in one of two ways: to share favorite chocolate recipes with others or to join the Friends and taste and rate them. Local grocers and specialty shops donated gift baskets as raffle prizes and three winners with the best chocolate recipes received coupons for the Friends Spring Book Sale. The tasteful program was fun for all and once again demonstrated that the Friends is a talented group with the ability not only to imagine a new program, but also to implement it.
Thirty years is not a long time, but in that time span, Friends has donated almost half a million dollars to the library. Friends is the enterprising group that helps to sustain the library and the go-to group when something is needed. That is certainly CNN and Post-It-Note worthy, and it all started with a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens who most certainly have changed the Shaker Library world!
Friends Presidents 1980 - 2010
Terry McKinney: 1980-1981
Linda Macklin: 1981-1983
Phyllis Harper: 1983-1984
Lee Edwards: 1984-1987
Leslie Samuel: 1987-1988
Margaret Simon: 1988-1989
Margaret Bradford: 1989 -1991
Susan Gall: 1991-1993
Christine Bretz: 1993-1995
Nancy Longman: 1995-1997
Gena Cohen: 1997-1999
Evelyn Greene: 1999 -2001
Angela VerDuyn: 2001-2003
Sanford Cone: 2003-2005
Nikki Evans: 2005 -2007
Martha Sivertson: 2007-2009
Sharon Heslin: 2009-2011
Bette Bonder: 2011-2012
Margaret Simon: 2012-2013
Christine Bretz: 2013-2014
Nancy Longman: 2013-2014