Friends of the Library announces membership drive

Published 7:00 am Friday, March 11, 2016

Special to  the Daily News

Editor’s Note: The membership committee of the Friends of the Library submitted this story.

What role does the library serve? Is it all that important? How you answer these questions depend on many things, but some facts can be telling about libraries in the United States. The library is the one public good or service that has the potential to serve all of the constituents in a community.

In our own Washington Parish community, the library offers books, newspapers, magazines, and audio books as well as free computer training, online computer training, and computer help with Windows, e-readers and many operating systems. On the “fun” side, the library offers classes in painting, genealogy and university-level non-credit courses. Your library card is the one card in your wallet that rewards you for your interest — but wait, there is more: Many of us have made our first trip to the library for the summer reading program or a book club, or have had to make that last-minute ominous trek to do a term paper.

The generous help of the Friends of the Washington Parish Library supports all of these activities. Their commitment to literacy and literary pursuits is, without question, unique. They are one of the few groups that hosts a regional book festival, supports library programs and helps in many ways. In the past, when the library was on shaky ground financially, the Friends helped by providing direct support for things within the library that could not be met by its budget alone.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Friends organization and it marks the 70th anniversary of the library. Their cause is the continued support and vibrancy of the library and its pursuits. In 2014, according to internal library counts and the Public Libraries in Louisiana Statistical Report, 97,519 people used the library. In terms of registration, 27,493 out of a population of 46,286, or 59 percent of folks have library cards. This ranks in the upper half of parishes and their libraries in the state of Louisiana. Our neighbors south and west have some catching up to do.

While services and “electrons” matter, the library does not ignore its original core market: print media. We have 90,000 books on the shelves with 57,000 books being checked out each year. The Friends have provided support for the summer reading program and support for the genealogy collection. While online “zines” are all the rage for the teenage crown, we still have many traditional print magazine titles as well.

The role of the Friends of the Library is crucial to the viability and continued support of the library. In recent years, their membership has increased. Many in our community see the necessity for the library in terms of services provided. It serves as the “Swiss Army knife” of social service agencies, multi-faceted and ready for anything. The staff takes a personal interest in those who need help with resumes, taking online courses, filing for assistance, learning to do free music downloads (via FREEGAL free music downloads).

In many years of library service, the staff has seen times when the library was the only publicly available high-speed internet gateway during crises such as Katrina, Isaac, and others. The emergency function that has been provided in the past with filing for FEMA aid and Louisiana Road Home, contacting loved ones and insurance companies, is one that has often been overlooked, but is just as vital as any of the regular functions.

In many terms, both the Friends and the Washington Parish Library are very small organizations. But they accomplish a great many things with resources that are given. The Friends of the Library is worthy of your support. They do not ask for much — for the cost of a $10 membership, they have repeatedly demonstrated that they are capable of increased and continued support.

Should you wish to become a member, please be an active one. There are projects abound that need your help. Stop in any library for an application.