“Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.” ~R. David Lankes
If you sit down with Barb Esposito to talk about the Fountain Hills Friends of the Library, she will repeatedly mention that they love to do things that build community. Barb is the president of the organization and is proud of the programs they’ve been able to fund.
Friends of the Library is a nationwide program, and most libraries have one. Their purpose is to help fund local libraries’ activities, programs, and other needs so they can offer more than they could otherwise provide.
“The director of Maricopa County Libraries told us that the Fountain Hills Friends of the Library was the strongest of all the Friends groups in Maricopa County,” said Barb.
Barb credits their strength to their bookstore and the volunteers who run it.
“Our bookstore next to the library lobby is thriving,” said Barb. “It has enabled us to do things that some libraries don’t have funds to do.”
The bookstore sells gently used books for $1.00. They also sell magazines, DVDs, and puzzles.
“There are eight people on our board,” said Barb, “but we also have volunteers who help run the store daily. We have a couple of bookstore managers who know books really well, and they know what will sell. They also seek advice from a local book collector when they get something they think is more valuable. In those situations, they often list the higher valued books on eBay or place them in the antique locked book cabinet by the front door.”
The Fountain Hills Friends of the Library is also funded through a huge annual book sale, memberships, and occasional grants like the one they received last year from the Fountain Hills Community Foundation.
The funds provide a wide range of programs and physical items.
“The library used to have a little nook with vending machines,” said Barb. “We funded the construction to enclose that space with a glass wall and door so it could become a private study room. Patrons frequently use it for things like Spanish classes, tutoring, or a quiet space for people who need to focus on their work. Library patrons can go online and reserve the room for free.”
“We’re also working with the Library to bring the teen area back to life. The Fountain Hills Community Foundation donated a sound barrier panel, and we donated another panel and some furniture. It gives teens their own space where they can build community among themselves. They have been slow to return to the Library after COVID, and we want them to feel welcomed here. We’ve even donated books for a Teen Book Club.”
The Library is creative in designing various programs for every age level and to appeal to different interests.
“They’re the experts in programming,” said Barb. “We choose the programs we’d like to fund. We recently funded aromatherapy classes, adult coloring classes, and guided meditation activities.”
A recently experimental program called “Stories in the Hills” was hugely successful.
“The first Stories in the Hills event was about how people got to Arizona. A small group of people gathers for a rehearsal. The program director times them and lets them know if they’ve gone too long and how to shorten it to make it more interesting. Our board members assist in providing critique during the rehearsal.”
The program is based on the idea of Moth Radio Hour. The Moth promotes the art and craft of storytelling to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of the human experience.
“The program was well-received, and over sixty people showed up,” said Barb. “Someone approached me afterward and said, ‘You know, I really felt a human connection today.’ That one comment made the entire event worth it. We want everyone to feel like they’re part of the community, and that’s what this program did.”
They also helped with funds to redesign the children’s area in the Library. The design revolves around a Dark Sky theme celebrating Fountain Hills as an International Dark Sky Community.
The Friends of the Fountain Hills Library also reaches beyond the local library.
“The Fountain Hills Elementary and Middle Schools libraries approached us and asked us to buy books for the school’s book club. We were happy to do that. I know these school libraries are sometimes afterthoughts, so I asked what else they had on their wish list. The elementary school needed a new reading carpet for the kids to sit on during story time, so we took care of that, too. It feels good to do things in our community that encourage kids to read and to enjoy reading.”
They also offer an annual scholarship administered through the Golden Eagle Education Foundation. The recipient is ideally a volunteer of the Library and receives a $3,000 scholarship.
The Friends of the Library also does outreach beyond Fountain Hills.
“We’ve done some things for an underserved community through the Guadalupe Library. We were able to donate books for a holiday party last year.”
Becoming a Friends of the Fountain Hills Library member is a great way to support this organization. Memberships begin at $15 for an individual. You can learn more about the organization and how to support it at fhfl.org.