By Sally Smith
FOTL’s Memphis Co-Representative
My husband and I travel from Florida to Alaska and from Maine to Hawaii, and whenever possible we stop at the library. There are great new modern libraries like the one in Seattle and beautifully restored traditional libraries like the one in Portland, OR. The architecture of the Library of Congress cannot be matched; and in Haines, Alaska, when we asked our walking tour guide if we could visit the library, he was more than happy to lead us to it. It has been recognized as one of the best small libraries in America.
As we visit these beautiful libraries, we always check to see if they have a bookstore where they sell discarded and donated books to the public. Most of them do, and they are run by either the library staff or local Friends of the Library. Although I may be somewhat prejudiced by the fact that I volunteer in the Memphis Public Library bookstore called Second Editions, I believe it is the best library bookstore in the nation. The Friends of the Memphis Public Library support and staff the bookstore, which is open six days a week during library hours. Friends of the Library also cover the cost of two part-time managers for the store.
The Second Editions bookstore looks like many other bookstores with racks for books sorted into the various categories such as fiction, history, literature, and children’s books. There are also tables and shelving displays for special topics like “New Arrivals,” “Local Interest,” “Pulitzer Prize Winners,” “Signed Copies,” and “Oprah Winfrey Book Club.” These can be rotated to highlight other collections at different times during the year. In addition to books, the store also offers collections of long-playing vinyl albums, music CDs, movie DVDs and books on tape or CD. Recent copies of popular magazines such as Southern Living and O are also available.
To increase interest, the store runs special sales from time to time. These sales feature books on individual topics such as cookbooks, romance, mysteries, science fiction, and children’s books. Besides attradting the attention of readers with interest in these special areas, these events also help to keep the stock balanced when we get too many of one genre. What do you do if you receive a donation of over a 1,000 romance books? You hope for a hugely successful Romance sale.
There are normally from 7,000 to 10,000 books available in the store. You may ask, “How does a store keep this kind of inventory replenished?” There is a large sorting room on the lower level of the library that receives library discards from all branches of the Memphis library system. In addition, Memphis is blessed with patrons who donate their used books to the library bookstore. The sorting room cleans and reviews each book and then prices it for shelving. If a book is determined to have exceptional value, it is put into the Memphis Friends of the Library online bookstore. This has proven to be a good way to get the maximum value for these in-demand books.
Luckily we have volunteers who have the interest and talent to maintain the online bookstore. Some of the donated books are quite old and need repair before they can be resold for their full value. A special volunteer who has expertise in this field brings these books back to life with unusual skill. As could be expected, many of the donations received have been well “loved” and are not in salable condition. While some of these have to be recycled, many more are given a second life in outreach to the community.
While the bookstore is available six days a week all year long, the Friends are still able to conduct large spring and fall book sale events. These sales are well publicized and draw hundreds of people from throughout the area, many of whom carry their purchases out by the box load. And yes, the Friends do provide boxes for these “best” customers. Everyone else gets books in a Friends of the Library bag. The people who purchase books at the big sale are also solicited to join the Friends. Those who join not only become a Friend but also get a special discount on their purchases.
There is a risk involved in being a volunteer at the bookstore. It creates a need for more bookshelves at home. I always find “one more book” that I want to read just as soon as I can get to it.
Barbara Stripling, 2013-2014 president of the American LIbrary Association (ALA), came to Nashville in August to unveil the Declaration for the Right to Libraries. Eloquently the document affirms what Friends of Libraries cherish about public libraries.
Downloadable versions of the document are available on the ALA website.
Communities dig summer reading programs.
“The summer reading program was a huge success!” according to “The Bookmark,” published by the Lawrence County Public Library (July/August 2013).
In Knox County, 12,000 signed up for summer reading, and a remarkable 8,239 stuck with the program until its end.
In White County, the library’s newsletter reported that 662 children read an average of 13 books per child and that 205 adults enrolled in the summer reading program read 2,065 books. Librarian Cathy Farley continued, “None of this summer reading fun would be possible without the financial and physical support of the White County Friends of the Library. The Friends group uses money raised at their used book sales to fund the entire program. They also volunteer during the program to help register the participants, provide snacks, manage the crowd and do various other tasks, including making hot dogs!“ (White County Public Library newsletter, August 2013)
What accompanied that thunderous applause for Friends in the White County Library’s newsletter was a list of two dozen local businesses and individuals who helped to support the summer reading program. In White County and across the state this summer, public and private organizations, businesses, individuals, and groups worked together to encourage people of all ages to read, to enjoy what libraries hope will become a lifelong activity. That kind of partnership is a model for continued growth in any community. Well done!
As school closes for vacation this month, Tennessee public libraries and their Friends are trying to keep kids off the summer slide.
What is this affliction of childhood?
The organization Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) defines the summer slide as “the educational background . . . children could lose during the three-month break from school, particularly when it comes to reading.” When school resumes after summer vacation, teachers report that they must spend at least a month reviewing and re-teaching materials that students have forgotten.
“Summer slide affects millions of children each year in this country—but it doesn’t have to,” according to RIF. There is a preventative.
According to RIF, “Experts agree that children who read during the summer gain reading skills, while those who do not often slide backward.”
There’s a lot of summer reading for free—and for the fun of it—at the public library, where kids are urged this year to “Dig into Reading.” On Facebook on a single day in May, three Tennessee libraries invited children to enroll in their summer reading programs. Across the state Friends of libraries underwrite those programs that entice children to read and reward them for doing so. Friends help libraries pay for magicians and musicians who encourage reading. They help to finance the appearance of writers and illustrators. Friends buy prizes to reward children who read a certain number of books. They also encourage and reward reading among teens (“Beneath the Surface”) and adults (“Groundbreaking Reads”) as well.
The office of Tennessee’s Secretary of State Tre Hargett promotes summer reading by providing libraries with materials, sponsoring workshops for librarians, and making public service announcements.
Research done over a three-year period by two members of the faculty at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville indicates that reading achievement increases significantly when students receive books for summer reading at home and when they can choose what they read. Dr. Richard L. Allington and Dr. Anne McGill-Franzen report, “Students in our study attended a spring Book Fair, where they were offered hundreds of titles, including multicultural and school-related books . . . . Pop-culture books—those featuring musicians, athletes, and television and movie characters—proved to be universal favorites.” The 852 first- and second-grade students were then given 12 free titles to take home with them for the summer, and 478 students comprised the control group. Researchers concluded that “summer reading is at least as effective as summer school” and a lot less expensive as well.
Scholastic also has some good tips for making children’s summer reading memorable.
Parents and children get ready for summer reading by shopping at the Friends of the LIbrary sale during the Children’s Festival of Reading in Knoxvillle on May 18.
One of FOTL’s most valued friends is the Tennessee Library Association (TLA).
Like many other good friends, we don’t get together every day, but when we do, as we did at the TLA conference in Chattanooga on April 25-26, we resume conversations right where they left off the last time we met, and we begin new conversations that are energizing.
Learning about the transformation of the Chattanooga Public Library under Corinne Hill’s leadership challenged some assumptions about what public libraries are and do. By the same token, Steven Smith, dean of the University of Tennessee Libraries, gave us insight into transformations occurring in academic libraries where a renewed focus on the library’s role in promoting learning means more services and different settings for students.
Hearing about the leadership of Larry Hinton, recipient of the Trustee of the Year Award, was inspiring. His unshakeable belief in the value of libraries has led to the building of three new libraries in Sumner County, and the citizens of Sumner County recognize what Mr. Hinton’s persistence and dedication have done for their area as chairman of the Sumner County Library Board and the Portland Area Library Foundation, Inc.
For the third year FOTL and TLA honored a group for having made a significant contribution to the advancement of libraries in Tennessee. FOTL President Susie Webb Ries presented the 2013 Friend of the Year Award to the Friends of the Benton County Library, an organization that saved a library. When budget cuts to the library resulted in the loss of state services to the library, the Friends mounted an educational campaign to raise public awareness of what that loss would mean and in four months raised $22,000 to resolve the crisis. Friends of the Benton County Library showed all of Tennessee how to save a library by working with state and local officials, using social media, contacting news outlets, and mobilizing local residents to become advocates for their library.
The Benton County Friends’ defense of their library was an important part of FOTL’s presentation at the conference, “Beyond the Used Book Sale: Tennessee Friends Innovate.” Included in the presentation about other remarkable Friends’ achievements were a fundraiser in Newbern, an outreach program in Blount County, and innovations in communication and advocacy in Knox County.
The TLA conference is over now, but FOTL continues to learn from TLA and to join forces with it to promote, support and advocate for libraries. It’s a good partnership.
Martha Moore Gill
Friends of Tennessee Libraries
Steven Smith, Dean of UT Libraries
Susan Tyner, left, and Rhonda Tippitt, accept the Friend of the Year Award on behalf of the Friends of Benton County Library
Larry Hinton receives the Trustee of the Year Award