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Future reader and library patron Emmelia Breun, 6 months, arrived with mom Alli. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Friends celebrate three decades as library, literacy supporters

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Thirty years ago, a group of literary enthusiasts met to confer on a library deficiency; the Carnegie Library had no telephone.

"Librarians had to go down the street to the telephone company if there was an emergency," recalled Friends charter member JoAnn Benjamin, who hosted that meeting.

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Benjamin would succeed in convincing recalcitrant library board members of the need for Friends of the Library, originally thought to be "unnecessary."

Eighteen members would form the non-profit advocacy group in 1981. Dorothy Hurd, at 98, is the oldest of the original members.

Thursday, the Friends, now 40 members strong, celebrated their anniversary, library staff recognizing them with a display of their ongoing achievements. Seven charter members arrived for the event.

"They are completely service oriented," library manager Jodi Schultz said, "a major contributor of materials and supplies," augmenting what would otherwise be a "bare bones budget."

Each year, they orchestrate four book sales, adding $10,000 to $12,000 to the library's budget.

Newborns head home from St. Joseph's with baby bags. They coordinate reading programs for children and adults and fund bus rides for daycare children to the library. Members volunteer countless hours in the library itself.

Friends reach beyond the library walls to assist with teen writing contests and book clubs, augmenting school libraries and community bookshelves, including the jail.

"They have a passion for the library and the community," Schultz said.

"We love books," Friends charter member Sandy Drury explained of their motivation.

Jennifer Geraedts serves as Friends president, Rhoda Jackson is vice president and Sue Keller is club treasurer.

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