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Friends donate $100K to library building fund

The Friends of the Library board, led by president Pat Miller, right. The organization’s original rummage sales evolved into now thrice-monthly book sales to help fund building and grounds upkeep.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
The Friends of the Library board, led by president Pat Miller, right. The organization’s original rummage sales evolved into now thrice-monthly book sales to help fund building and grounds upkeep.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Raised from book sales, the donation creates an endowment.

It’s not every day you see a $100,000 check change hands.

And this one was so unassuming – not a Publishers Clearing House-sized poster, but a standard wallet-sized draft.

“It should be one of those big ones,” Friends of the Library board member Betsy Bidinger said.

The check that Friends president Pat Miller passed to Val Tollefson, Bainbridge Public Library board president, represented the start of a new endowment for upkeep of the library’s physical plant and grounds.

While the Kitsap Regional Library system foots the bill for the books and staff, it’s community support that keeps those walls intact, a fact of which Miller is amazed some patrons remain unaware.

“I’ve met people who’ve been on the island longer than I have, and they haven’t got a clue,” she said. “They’ve even written checks to the ‘BPL’ without even realizing they’re supporting the library.”

The substantial operating gap not filled by KRL is one that the Friends have bridged since 1971.

According to islander Barbara Winther in her Bainbridge Library history, “They Liked Noble Causes,” that was the year the Friends loosely converged to take over the library’s annual fall book and rummage sale.

Its first $1,300 went toward shelving and folding chairs for community meetings, and to fund overdue building repairs.

Subsequent sales included everything but clothing, the highlight being 1975’s $3,000 event featuring “a winter coat kit (black fleece, spindle, and knitting needles), laying hens, rabbits, a pair of Muscovy ducks, and stuffed geoduck dolls that came with their own autographed theme song on a record,” Winther wrote.

By 1979 the event had morphed to a twice-yearly sale of books, and only books. After the building was expanded in the 1990s, providing a dedicated space downstairs, book sale frequency increased.

Echoing an observation of recently retired branch manager Cindy Harrison, Browne called the operation “the best of virtuous recycling.”

He estimated that each week, 15 to 20 volunteers put in 100 hours to process 1,500 to 2,000 donated books.

The most recent of the Friends’ thrice-monthly sales grossed $1,600.

As they have since the beginning, Friends of the Library earnings go toward maintaining the Bainbridge Library facility and making it a place residents want to spend time in. Miller calls it “the heart and soul of the community.”

Notable book sale-funded contributions have included roof repairs; the children’s library aquarium; shelving; and tables for public computers.

There are also “extra” but no less vital purchases such as art, the rug on the floor of the kids’ reading area, couch upholstery and a water cooler in the staff room.

Miller pointed out that no one “sits” on the FOL board. In addition to regular meetings, at which operational efficiency is generally a topic, each member began as part of the volunteer corps and is now responsible for managing four sales per year.

The same is true for Miller, who joked that someone should offer her a salary some day.

“They should charge you rent,” Tollefson answered.

The tongue-in-cheek exchange underscored the ongoing synergy between the Friends and the day-to-day operations of the library, which the endowment now embodies.

Further cementing the relationship, Friends board president Miller was recently appointed to the library board as well.

“Val and I are of a mind that the board and the Friends should work hand in hand,” she said. “You don’t want to have competing interests, because the money is all going to the same pot.”

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Book on over

Friends of the Library will hold its next book sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Bainbridge Public Library. Visit www.bifriends.org.

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