PORTLAND — Friends of Portland Public Library launched a membership drive May 14. The new organization hopes to gain at least 400 members in its first year.
Friends President Ted Spitzer, who is also a member of the library Board of Trustees, said this week that library officials have been discussing the benefits of an independent friends group for several years.
“So many people are already members of the library,” Spitzer said. “We’re trying to create an organization where people can get more involved.”
According to Spitzer, friends groups are common for community libraries. The group will work closely with trustees in an effort to enhance the library system and help move along programming and fundraising initiatives.
Friends of Portland Public Library, which has a six-member board, is planning its first big event for the end of October: a book sale. Although the library currently has book sales a couple of times a year, according to Spitzer, those sales have been handled by library staff.
“We don’t feel the book sale nearly meets the potential it could,” he said, adding that the friend’s management of the event will ease the burden on library staff.
The sale will not only include old library books, but also donated books from residents and book dealers.
Library patrons who become members of the Friends of Portland Public Library will get to attend a sneak-peek at the inventory and have first dibs on the books.
“The book sale should be quite a big attraction for the city,” Spitzer said.
Starting this month, friends members will also visit branch libraries in the city to recruit members. Membership for an individual is $10, for a family it is $15 and business dues are $25. A Web site, friendsofppl.org, is expected to be up and running “soon,” according to Spitzer.
The friends have incorporated as an independent, nonprofit corporation and have applied for tax-exempt status.
“The friends group provides a good way to ensure that we continually meet the community’s evolving needs and it offers a great mechanism to provide input into our planning and operations,” Library Executive Director Steve Podgajny said in a prepared statement.
Spitzer said Podgajny has been very supportive of formation of the group, pointing out that Brunswick, where Podgajny previously ran the library, had a very active friends group.
The main branch of the library at Monument Square is currently undergoing a $7.3 million interior and exterior renovation.