Friends of the Mansfield Public Library Do It by the Book
Jul 20, 2015 04:56AM
● By Kevin
If you don’t really know much about an organization called Friends of the Mansfield Public Library then you are missing out. This group of volunteers works diligently to fundraise, promote and advocate for the library in Mansfield. Much of what they do is unseen but is inarguably valuable to the community.
Each year the non-profit group organizes events that help provide additional funding for the library. They put together a used book sale, accept tax-deductible book donations from citizens, and sell canvas book bags, plastic book bags, electronic time-keeping bookmarks and coloring books in the library. The group also relies on membership dues, donations and sponsorships to help raise proceeds that go to help fund the library’s operations.
Perhaps the biggest event the organization plans each year is the Mansfield Reads! program in the spring. It’s Mansfield’s take on the nationwide “One City - One Book” program where everyone is encouraged to read the same book at the same time, typically during the month of April. This year’s book was The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg. This program culminates with an “Evening With the Author” to discuss the featured book. This year it was held for the first time in the MISD Center for Performing Arts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Friends in conjunction with the City of Mansfield’s 125th birthday.
But the purpose of all of this is to raise awareness and funds for the Mansfield library. It’s the reason Friends of the Mansfield Public Library was founded.
People & Books
There are a number of key people who oversee the Friends of the Mansfield Public Library and who work hard to support the library. One of them is Carol Ann Grantham, the current president who is in the second year of a two-year term. “I like to compare the Friends group to a booster club like the ones you find in schools,” she says. “We provide funding for special programs at the library which are not covered in their regular budget.”
Grantham says she has been a big reader and book lover all of her life. She grew up in Alpine, a small town in far west Texas where she says everybody knows everybody else. “I could – and did – walk safely all over town by myself. One of my favorite places was the public library. I spent hours reading at the library and then checked out as many books as I could carry home.”
Over the past 50 years she says she’s done everything from “long-distance telephone operator to secretary to sewing instructor, with retail sales and color analyst in between.” For more than two decades she was a legal secretary for a small law firm in Fort Worth, but she has lived in Mansfield since 1977. She’s been married to Bob for 38 years and they have three adult children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When she retired eight years ago she realized she had the time to get involved with volunteering at the library. “I started by re-shelving books that had been checked out and returned,” she says. “That’s when I learned about the Friends and began attending meetings.” She jumped right in.
She did a four-year stint as secretary before moving right on to president. She describes the way the organization functions. “Everyone in the Friends group is a volunteer, with a liaison provided by the library. We have bylaws which define the official duties of the officers, but those don’t preclude us from stepping in and helping out with whatever needs to be done,” she says. And there are always “job opportunities” for interested volunteers. She says they are currently looking for help with their online newsletter.
The group is a great ally says Steve Standefer, city librarian. “Along with the library board, the Friends provide a forum for citizens to offer input into the design of library services and development of the public library. In addition, the Friends actively program events, activities and publicity for public service.”
“Without the financial support of the Friends, many items not covered in the budget would go unfunded,” says Paula Highfill, long-time member and past president. “Without the volunteer hours and support through promotion and production of events like Mansfield Reads!, those programs simply wouldn’t happen.”
Grantham says fundraising can be a challenge and she understands there’s a lot of competition for donated dollars out there. “Libraries in general, and therefore the Friends group, have a unique situation in that the perception of the value of libraries is changing,” she says. “Because of that, we now have to play a higher-profile advocacy role.”
That’s where volunteers can help and she says new volunteers are always welcome in the group. She explains that, “Volunteering is fun! Not only can you make new friends, but there are cool perks, like meeting authors.” She says volunteers can pick and choose what they want to do. “We have a job for everyone – helping with our scrapbook, decorating the glass display case, writing articles for the newsletter, helping with social media and a variety of jobs related to Mansfield Reads!,” she says. “You don’t even have to come to the meetings; you can come for the fun stuff and volunteer from home.”Grantham says the group’s goal is actually very simple. “To grow our membership and improve our service to and support of the library, which benefits the community of Mansfield in so many ways.”
Written by Kerry Pipes.