Behind The Books

Bibliophiles Reinvigorate Friends of Lane Library
and Provide Much-needed Assistance

By Steve Craig

Hampton Union, Tuesday, January 4, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Linda Libbey is the president of the revitalized Friends of the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton.
[Hampton Union photo by Jay Reiter]

Linda Libbey knows her local library served her. As one of six kids, she found the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton to be a childhood oasis of serenity. It took just a short walk from home and she could imaginatively wander for miles and miles.

"I found it a peaceful, quiet place to go to learn anything you wanted to learn," Libbey recalls.

She is now the one serving the library, as president of the revitalized Friends of the Lane Library.

"Because of my love of libraries, I feel friends groups are such an instrumental group for a library to have," she says.

Libbey is happy to help. She knows that in the not-too-distant past, the Friends of the Lane Library had been dormant for a period of several years.

Lane Library Director Catherine Redden said there had been a push to try to re-organize a Friends group on two or three occasions with no success. While never completely dead, the Friends were probably just one or two more apathetic steps away from extinction.

Then, as Redden put it, came a revitalization of the group. It was motivated by desire by both the library staff and the trustees; that it happened was one of those serendipitous things," Redden suggests.

The arrival to town of Dot Gooby was part of the equation. Gooby had been an active member and past president of a Friends group when she lived in New Jersey. When she was named an alternate to the library trustees, the notion of starting a Friends group was pushed to her.

"The problem is, I have trouble saying no," Gooby said with a laugh.

Then she set about "talking people into joining." She served as president from the group's re-inception in February of 2003 until this past September when Libbey took over. The group is back up to around 60 members strong with a revolving core of volunteers that usually produces about 15-20 members who show up at meetings.

Then came an unfortunate event that pushed the Friends into some decisive action. The children's room was flooded by burst heating pipes in January of 2004. More than 600 books were destroyed and there was also extensive damage to the carpeting, furniture and book stacks. The ensuing two-month closure of the well-used facility gave the Friends a galvanizing cause.

"When we had the flood in the children's room, they came to us and said, 'Can you help?' and we said of course," Libbey says.

Redden saw that the flood "brought (the Friends) together with a sense of purpose."

The energy translated into several valuable enhancements to the re-opened children's room. Book and bake sales raised funds. Colored beanbag chairs were purchased. Shelves, pictures and other furniture were purchased. When the Friends discovered that one of the children's librarians had always wanted a rack for the audio CDs, a handcrafted rack, accessible to the children, was constructed by the husband of one Friend.

These types of enhancements came out of conversations with the staff, Libbey says.

The members of the Friends of the Lane Memorial Library are self-described cheerleaders: Diane Keyes, left, Connie George, Kay Keriazes, Linda Sadlock, Linda Libbey, Arlenea Batchelder and Dot Gooby. [Photo by Jay Reiter]

Now the focus is on "growing the group," and making it more diverse in terms of age and gender. That way the Friends of the Lane Library won't grow old and stagnant.

"I'll tell you what we're really looking for is to get younger women with small children to become Friends of the Library," Gooby says. "It's not terribly time consuming."

The volunteer group was originally formed in 1968 and retains its original focus of increasing public attention and support for the library and fund raising to provide the library with extra tools that could not be afforded in the annual budget. Anyone can become a Friend with a $10 individual annual fee ($15 for the family).

"People are busy and a lot of times, I think people wonder, if I join the Friends do I have to do something?" Libbey says. "Obviously we'd like that, but simply by joining you are making a donation to the library and supporting the library."

The easiest way to join the library is to fill out an application. Print the application and bring it into the library or mail it to The Friends of the Lane Memorial Library, c/o The Lane Memorial Library, 2 Academy Ave., Hampton, NH 03842.

Libbey knows the Friends were vital in reacting to the children's room flood. She believes they are also becoming more proactive in their actions.

She cited a recent bake sale and raffle that generated a quick $665 in revenue in two days. That money is earmarked (though not yet officially approved via a group vote) for a button-making machine requested by the children's library staff and to recover some chairs. Also, a number of donations have been made in memory of Mary Gale, a former Friend of the Lane Library. That money will probably be used for a "beautiful display case" which can help connect users of the library to a special-interest exhibits.

A longer-range goal is to renovate the Dearborn room. Now used mostly for storage, the room has great potential as a meeting place, for the Friends and other groups, according to Gooby.

Already underway is a significant undertaking of turning the Friends of the Lane Library into an officially recognized non-profit group. Friend and attorney Karin Theodoros, who practices in Lowell, Mass., and has a home in Hampton, has already donated a significant amount of legal work to that cause, Libbey said.

"This non-profit status will be critically important going forward as we seek to be an attractive organization to accept more donations," Libbey says. "Especially large ones."

Transforming itself from a bake-sale group to an endowment-recruitment group could, obviously have a huge impact on the overall welfare of the Lane Library.

The library trustees and staff are in an initial phase of long-range planning for the future of the Lane Library, Redden says. That could mean a "reallocation of space," Redden says, "or to expand."

While understanding that the ultimate decision would not be with them, Libbey says the Friends group wants to be a vital part of the process.

"Generally, the Friends proved assistance when unbudgeted or unpredicted needs arise," Libbey says. "But we're out and about in the town. Our newsletter is a vehicle for increasing awareness of what's at the library. Part of our job is to promote the library and what the facility has to offer. We're like the cheerleaders for the library."



ON THE BOARD

PRESIDENT: Linda Libbey
TREASURER: Connie George
SECRETARY: Linda Foster
FUNDRAISING: Diane Keyes
MEMBERSHIP: Linda Sadlock
NEWSLETTER: Arlene Batchelder
FUNDRAISING: Dot Gooby
PUBLICITY: Jen Boyle
BYLAWS: Mary Lou Heran and Karin Theodoros
COMMUNICATIONS: Kay Keriazes and Priscilla Hall

YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY FRIENDS -- Anyone can become a Friend of the Lane Memorial Library with a $10 individual annual fee ($15 for the family). The easiest way to join the library is to access the Friends' Web page at www.lanelibraryfriends.org/ and then click on the link for filling out an application. Print the application and bring it into the library or mail it to:
"The Friends of the Lane Memorial Library," c/o The Lane Memorial Library, 2 Academy Avenue, Hampton, NH -03842.