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Our Friends: Key to Bellingham Public Library success

By Janice Keller, Bellingham Public Library

Can you name a non-profit organization in Bellingham that has contributed nearly half a million dollars to our community in the past five years, with no paid staff and few administrative costs? If you answered “Friends of the Bellingham Public Library,” you are correct!

If you participate in summer reading programs for children, teens or adults, check out books from our collection, or enjoy visits by authors like Timothy Egan, Daniel James Brown and Cheryl Strayed, you benefit from the hard work of the Friends of the Bellingham Public Library.

Our Friends are a non-profit charitable organization whose mission is to support the library, through fundraising, advocacy and education. In operation since 1952, the Friends of the Bellingham Public Library includes a board of directors and hardworking volunteers who focus on the group’s main task: raising funds by accepting donated books and selling them.

While the City of Bellingham provides most of the funding for library staff and facilities, the Friends contribute thousands of dollars each year for equipment, children’s activities, library materials, author visits and much more.

Friends Book Sales

The Friends primary means of raising funds is through book sales typically held four times a year, in March, May, August and December. These popular sales offer thousands of used books and other materials at bargain prices, most $1 or less.

During a book sale, the Lecture Room at the Central Library – and sometimes the hallway nearby – is filled with books and other materials carefully selected and organized by Friends volunteers in the months prior. Savvy shoppers line up before the doors open, and crowds stream through all day while busy volunteers direct traffic, accept payments and bring out box after box of additional books for sale.

Between sales, volunteers accept and sort donations of hundreds of books per week. Library staff reviews the items in best condition to consider for library use. Other items are offered for sale online or placed for sale in the library. The rest are organized and stored for the next sale. Items not in sellable condition or leftover from sales are set out at the library for people to take free of charge.

How can you help?

The Friends’ gifts of time and commitment are important contributions to the Bellingham Public Library’s mission of connecting our community with each other and the world. Below are a few ways you can get involved:

Join the Friends: Join the Friends for a modest annual fee starting at $5-$10 per year, with opportunities to donate more and become a “best friend.” Many people show their support with a simple annual donation.

Become an active volunteer: Once you are a member, roll up your sleeves and help out! It takes many hands to manage donations, sort books and perform all the tasks required for each sale and other activities.

Donate used books: Bring used books to the Central Library for donation to the Friends. Be sure to check the donations guidelines, available on the library website or at the library.

Attend book sales & buy books: Book lovers rejoice!  Attend book sales and buy books and other items in good condition, most priced $1 or less. Other deals on books can be found at the Central Library, where “nearly new books” (many donated by Village Books) are sold. Special books of local, historical or aesthetic value also are offered for sale at the Central Library.

More information can be found on the Friends page of the library website, at each location of the Bellingham Public Library, or by contacting the Friends at 360-778-7250 or friendslibrary3@gmail.com.

Friends are everywhere!

These hard working volunteers are providing a valuable service to our community through their support of the Bellingham Public Library.  And we are not alone in having great Friends; similar groups provide vital support to all Whatcom County Library System libraries, as well as libraries across the nation and around the world. It is a long-standing successful model of support and advocacy for libraries and literacy.

As the well-known lyric goes: we get by with a little help from our friends! At the Bellingham Public Library, we are very grateful for their support. Our community is immeasurably richer for their hard work and dedication.

Janice Keller is the Communications, Community Relations, & Programming Manager for the Bellingham Public Library.

Updated:  November 2015