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Friends of the Lincoln Library amazing

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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I want to thank the usually unrecognized 298 Friends of the Lincoln Library members. Most of them are retired. Several are grandparents. A few are former city library board members. Every year, without fail, they donate thousands of dollars to the city of Lincoln for library services. Members of the Friends, as the nonprofit organization is fondly known, also volunteer at the library. These volunteers successfully find money to keep the library open for us during a faltering economy, when many residents have less spare dollars to donate. The Friends donated almost $30,000 - or $29,950 - last fiscal year, according to the organization’s president Karen Jarrell. That’s through grants, donations, book sales and membership dues ($15 for individuals, $25 for families and $40 for businesses) and the second annual library dinner on March 3. The Friends work every day to make sure that their sponsored programs, including Mother Goose on the Loose, summer reading program, Books in the School, Read Across America and Read for the Record continue. This year, the Friends also raised $3,500 for the Brainfuse software program, “Help Now,” an interactive tutorial Internet guide for students doing homework; and $2,100 for Brainfuse’s online “Jobs Now” for individuals seeking employment or a career change. It’s not easy raising $30,000 in today’s economy. Why do they work so hard on raising the money? “It’s important to keep the library programs operating and, in these hard economic times, we realize some programs would be dropped due to the city’s financial difficulties,” Jarrell said, “if we didn’t raise the necessary money to keep the programs operating.” Case in point is Mother Goose on the Loose at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Thursdays in the library for children up to 4-years-old. “Mother Goose is an early opportunity to teach kids what books are and what fun learning can be,” Jarrell said. “It is limited to the first 100 children and we have turned people away because of demand.” The Friends gave $7,500 the past two years to the city so that Mother Goose on the Loose continues. The Friends have supported Mother Goose on the Loose since it began in 2008. The first two years, the library paid for the program and the Friends paid for the supplies. In 2010, the program would have been dropped if the Friends had not paid for the full funding plus supplies, according to Jarrell. “It should be noted that the $7,500 we give to Mother Goose on the Loose goes to keep the library open three more hours on Thursdays,” Jarrell said. “We specifically put in our letters that it has stipulations to pay for three seasonal library staff: two to plan, implement and run Mother Goose on the Loose and another to staff the desk when the library is open those extra hours.” Recently, the Friends found out that interim library director Jon Torkelson was considering having another city department run Mother Goose on the Loose instead of the library. “There was a rumor going around. There was also a note in the job duties of Jon Torkelson that indicated Mother Goose on the Loose would be run by the rec department.” That rumor did not make Friends members feel like their efforts were appreciated, according to Jarrell and Friends vice president Jeff Greenberg. “If they move any library program to parks and rec, it’s no longer a library program and the Friends don’t fund parks and rec programs. We fund library programs,” Jarrell said. “It undermines fundraising efforts to say the least. We want to keep it free and we want to keep it as a library program where it belongs.” Greenberg, the Friends vice president, was in my office Friday talking about Mother Goose on the Loose’s value to the community. “It’s an amazing program. I see the kids’ faces and the (accompanying) grandparents’ faces,” Greenberg said. “Our bylaws say we only fund programs run by the library. If it’s run by the recreation department, we can’t fund the service.” Coincidentally, Mayor Spencer Short walked into my office and heard Greenberg’s concerns. “The city is looking for contingency plans for every service because of the economic times we’re in,” Short said. “If the Friends keep providing the funds, we will continue providing the service.” Short too appreciates what the Friends continually give Lincoln. “My gosh, by helping to continue to fund programs for children and provide support services for the library, the Friends of the Library are an integral part of the community,” Short said. “We’ll continue to work together to provide those services together and look forward to many more years of working together.” Thank you, Friends of the Lincoln Library, for all you do.