Joining Friends of the Library helps support your library

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 20:00

Friends of the Library listed its accomplishments for the past year at its annual meeting last week. They were quite impressive. This non-profit, volunteer-run organization raised nearly $80,000, most of which goes toward adding more items to the Anchorage Public Library’s collection, both online and in our neighborhood libraries.

In addition to the financial contributions to support the collection, Friends resources enhance children’s programs such as: Storyteller Series, Reading Rendezvous, Lap-sit Bags, Summer Reading Celebration and Live @ the Library – our outdoor, summer concert series with local musicians. Friends support was also key in several of the events staged to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Loussac Public Library.

As the Municipal dollars for the library have steadily decreased, Friends, a member organization, has become an important “fingers in the dike” partner helping the library maintain its public services, especially during recent budget cuts. A member organization, Friends also works with the Anchorage Library Foundation and the Library Advisory boards to coordinate library support in a variety of arenas.

“Assisting in grassroots community and organizing to enlighten the public about municipal issues involving our Library is an ongoing effort,” states the FOL website ( “The Friends is dedicated to encouraging our neighbors to ‘help keep our libraries the heart of our Community.’” The Friends raise money through the Beyond the Stacks auction/luncheon in February, and bi-annual book sales the first weekends of May and November. Attending or donating to any of these events directly feeds the FOL coffers. In addition to these events, there are a variety of ways to support Friends. Join the organization. The more members it has, the stronger its voice for our community libraries. You can join on their website or pick up membership application at any APL location.

Friends members get in early to the Fall Book Sale opening day November 5. Not only do members get first pick of the sale items between 8 and 10 a.m., they are treated to an elaborate continental breakfast hosted by the Friends.

Another way to help the Friends is to volunteer. The Friends is expanding its board and needs new members. The Beyond the Stacks Committee is always looking for people with new ideas to enhance that fundraiser. And the two book sales require more than 100 volunteers for each one. Book sale volunteers can sign up on the library website, Click on the volunteer button, go to “service events” and follow instructions to sign up for one or more volunteer shifts. For each shift they work, volunteers receive a $5 coupon to use at the sale. APL Director Karen Keller resigns Karen Keller, the director of Anchorage Public Library since 2006, completed her work for the organization, on Friday, Nov. 21. Karen’s tenure was marked by significant changes, both positive and negative.

“I have been privileged to work in this beautiful community with some wonderful, hardworking people,” Karen said. “This has been an incredibly challenging job and I am proud of all that we’ve been able to accomplish over the last five years. With the completion of the first part of the Anchorage Library Renewal Initiative, I think the timing is right for new leadership to undertake the renovation of Loussac into a facility that serves 21st century needs. In 2006, shortly after being appointed by Mayor Mark Begich, Karen helped launch the Anchorage Library Renewal Initiative to revitalize library facilities, technology and community outreach. The next year, the Muldoon Neighborhood Library moved into a renovated location in the Muldoon Mall. In 2008, Municipal voters passed a $2.9 million bond for the Renewal Initiative. Thanks to funds from the city, state and private donors, the Scott and Wesley Gerrish library in Girdwood moved into a newly constructed, 9,000 square-foot building that same year. The next year, the Chugiak-Eagle River library opened in a new and larger space. In 2010, the Mountain View Neighborhood Library opened its doors to a community hungry for all the programs and services it offered. A long-term community plan for the library, generated from the participation in a survey by more than 6,000 local residents and released in 2009, noted that downward funding trends would cripple the library system. Behind the scenes, Karen was dealing with significant budget reductions with the precision of a surgeon working hard to save jobs and maintain library services and hours.

Often, doing that meant increasing her own responsibilities and workload. Three years ago, Karen re-wrote the assistant APL director position as a development director to focus on getting funding through a variety of sources. Two years ago, when the budget was again cut, she eliminated the branch manager position and shouldered many of those responsibilities to avoid layoffs that would shorten library open hours even more. Despite her best efforts, continued cuts from the Municipality led to the closure of the Samson-Dimond Branch after 33 years of service, leaving patrons between Girdwood and Midtown without a neighborhood library. The mayor’s current proposed budget for 2012 mandates more cuts in staff which will probably lead to reducing library hours. Anchorage Public Library staff thanks Karen for her commitment to this community’s library system, and the passion and dedication with which she did her job over the last five years.

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