Three years after COVID-19 stopped its work, Friends of the Key Center Library is reconstituting to continue supporting the library and Key Peninsula community, and they’re looking for help.
“The Friends is basically a fundraising organization of the Key Center library,” said Rosina Vertz, a self-described “dedicated volunteer” for the Friends who retired as the supervising librarian of the Key Center library in 2018 after starting out there in 1991.
The late librarian Dory Myers first organized the Friends of the Key Center Library in the late 1980s or early ’90s, according to Vertz. It is one of many such nonprofit organizations operating under the umbrella of the Pierce County Library system, authorized to collect donations and raise funds for the benefit of the Key Center branch.
“When I was library supervisor, the Friends funded the programming that we did,” Vertz said. “We had one for instance that was for building bat houses. The Friends supplied all of the material and we had like 70 people hammering away building bat houses. It’s my all-time favorite program.”
The Friends also brought in artists, musicians, authors, and even arranged field trips to the Seattle opera for a few years.
“The pandemic pretty much knocked the Friends of the Library on the head,” said former Friends Board President Maureen Reilly. The library closed to outside activity in 2020 and is only now ready to welcome the Friends back after getting its core functions back on track.
In addition to funding programs, Reilly said the Friends also supplied the library with things beyond its budget: magazine subscriptions, a new laminator, or in one case supplying $40,000 in donations to renovate the community space known as the Brones Room.
“The library has always been, or at least used to be, the hub of the community,” said volunteer Carolyn Wiley, who worked with Reilly to raise the $40,000, among other things. She will not be continuing such an active role, she said, but “the next generation, or at least a younger generation, needs to pick up the mantle. It’s very important.”
Vertz and other legacy Friends are reaching out to the community to assemble a new board of directors and rebuild the volunteer ranks.
“Our main fundraiser always was the book sale,” she said, referring to the annual weekend sale of used books donated to the Friends. “I always thought the book sale was a good community service. They are inexpensive books, they are good books, interesting novels and nonfiction, kids’ books.”
But given the amount of work involved and lack of volunteers, Vertz said they must forgo a big sale event.
“Right now we have a small shed in the back of the library that is up to the rafters in donated books that have been sitting there for three years,” she said. “We are hoping to stock the two shelves dedicated to the Friends in the library lobby for book sales. It is on the honor system; there will be a cash box attached to one of the shelves. The library is cashless, the staff does not have change, so whatever people can put in is gratefully accepted. We also have a nice collection of movies that will also be on the shelves.”
Vertz hopes to have the shelves stocked sometime in May. “And we have no room for more donations right now,” she said. “We expect to be inundated with book donations later, but somebody has to be there to sort them, and eventually get them back onto the shelves as the shelves allow it.”
The Friends of the Key Center Library will have a booth at the Livable Community Fair May 13 at the KP Civic Center for anyone interested in volunteering. Inquiries can also be made at the library itself.
“We don’t know what form it will take yet,” said Supervising Librarian Jessica Widmer of the future of the Friends and the library. “We haven’t been able to meet up yet.”
“You don’t want to be stuck in what was past, even though it was great for that time,” Vertz said. “Is what we were doing still needed on the Key Peninsula? There are other needs and who knows how the Friends fit into that. We need transportation, we need better internet. That is a discussion the Friends can bring to the (library) system.”
“I don’t know what the phoenix is going to look like when it rises from the ashes,” Reilly said. “We have an award-winning library and anything the general public through the Friends of the Library can do to support it, to make sure it continues to be an award-winning library and help it to grow, is totally beneficial for the whole community.”
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