Focus on Friends - Fort Lauderdale Friends of the Libraries
In 1963, Virginia Young of the Fort Lauderdale Woman's Club wrote the Florida State Library for help in bringing the concept of a countywide library system to Broward County. That same year, Joyce Gardner and Miami Herald editor Henry Kinney solicited $1,000 from the Fort Lauderdale City Commission for a survey to determine the future needs and goals for the existing Fort Lauderdale Library. Feeling the study was too costly, commissioners turned down the request. Convinced an assessment by a qualified and experienced library authority was the best first step for the city to take, Gardner called ten friends and business owners and quickly raised $100 from each. In relating the story, Gardner stated that she "knew there were people available who would know what we needed to do, and I wanted the best advice I could get".
During this same time, the American Association of University Women, responding to growing concern over inadequate library services, initiated a meeting of numerous civic groups to organize the Fort Lauderdale Friends of the Library. According to local documents, John U. Walker, the first dues-paying member of the Friends of the Library, challenged his bridge partner, Art Moninger, to stop complaining and do something about the numerous inadequacies of the Fort Lauderdale Public Library. Mr. Moninger made a $5 contribution that resulted in the incorporation of the Friends of the Fort Lauderdale Library. More than 700 members had signed up by the time the Friend's charter was secured on June 25, 1963. (Excerpted from the soon to be published book; The Building of a Mountain: The Story of Broward County Library's First Thirty Years, by Sherry Lynch McVey, Community Relations and Partnerships Coordinator for Broward County Library.)
Throughout its history, the Broward County Library has been nurtured by its Friends groups.
In 1984, the Ft. Lauderdale Friends expanded its charter to include the new Main Library. Since its inception thousands of individuals who care about libraries have dedicated their time and dollars to improve the community through these libraries.
Both the Ft. Lauderdale Branch Library, located at 1400 E. Sunrise Boulevard, and Main Library, located at 100 S. Andrews Avenue, in Fort Lauderdale have daily book fairs and larger books fairs throughout the year. The money raised by dues, fairs, donations and other events help to support programming, advocacy and staff development at these two libraries. This past year the Ft. Lauderdale Friends supported the Children's Reading Festival with a $7500 donation. They also support the Invent Broward exhibit and awards program, which is an annual countywide event done in partnership with Broward County Schools.
Every fall, the Ft. Lauderdale Friends demonstrate their support of literacy by bringing students from Bennett Elementary School for a Day @ the Library. Students travel by bus and are given a tour of the library, sign up for library cards are treated to a special performance, have lunch on the terrace, do a craft and are each given a book purchased by the Friends to commemorate their visit.
This year the Ft. Lauderdale Friends hosted Datapalooza, a research festival which focused on providing demonstrations of library databases. Each participant completing 4 demonstrations was awarded a personal radio provided by the Friends and became eligible for a drawing for other prizes. This program empowers individuals to use modern library resources to get information, and answers to their questions.
They also support Teen Read Week, the Teen Summer Bash, the Summer Library Program, as well as various other programs for all ages during the year.
The Ft. Lauderdale Friends of the Library recognize the important mission of the library to reach out to all members of the community to provide a place where anyone can come for free programs and information. They support the English Café and Crossroads Café, weekly programs for individuals wanting to improve or practice English.
The Friends play an advocacy role. They send members to the American Library Association and Florida Library Association conferences, work with the Broward Legislative Delegation, and send advocates to Library Days in Tallahassee and Washington.
Libraries in Broward are as successful as they are today thanks to the efforts of the Friends, from 1963, until the present.
Opportunities for involvement in Friends groups exist at most Broward County Library branches. For information about other Friends groups, contact the Friends of the Broward County Library at 954-357-7771.
Remember: Good Friends make Great Libraries!