Finding the best ‘Friends’

Blount County Library Foundation honors Friends of Library as 20008 Champions

In six years, the Friends of the Library has contributed more than $200,000 for programs at the library. As a result, the Blount County Library has 1,040 champions.

That’s not just a friend, but a “best friend.” To honor their service and contributions, the Blount County Library Foundation awarded Friends of the Library as “Champions of the Library” for 2008.

More than 100 supporters gathered for a reception at Preservation Plaza and then dinner at the library as part of a gala event kicking off National Library Week.

“I can’t think of a more deserving organization to receive the Champions of the Library than the Friends of the Library. If it weren’t for the volunteers, I doubt any public library would exist,” Kathy Pagles, library director, said. “My job is a lot easier because of Friends of the Library.”

Susan Jones, president of the Foundation, and Joy Bishop, chairperson of the Trustees, presented the 2008 Champion of the Library Award to the Friends of the Library for their outstanding volunteer work raising funds and assisting the library staff with numerous library-related tasks. Accepting the honor on behalf of the Friends was the president, Robert (Bob) Ramger, and book sale chairman, Phil Baker.

The Champion of the Library Award is the library’s highest honor. A committee made up of representatives from the three library boards, the trustees, the foundation, and the Friends of the Library, recommended the Friends of the Library volunteers as the 2008 recipient of the award.

Kizer and Black attorneys sponsored the reception held at Preservation Plaza before dinner at the library. Several on hand shared their thoughts on the library’s impact on the community.

Matt Haralson said the library is an asset for school children but is also important for recruiting businesses to the community. “I enjoy it, kids enjoy it, and it’s important for the community as a whole,” he said.

Ray Anderson said when he and his wife moved from South Florida, one of their biggest concerns was sacrificing cultural amenities. The library has been a pleasant surprise to the couple. “We found a place large in size and large in spirit,” he said.

Amanda Rader said the library is a wonderful resource, especially the children’s area. “They can explore and imagine,” she said.

David Black said the library is a great place to introduce children to lifelong learning. “Before it was built, some asked why build a library if you’ve got the internet but you can’t beat books,” he said.

Dr. Bill Proffitt said the library is an asset to the community. “I think it’s important. It’s good for attracting businesses and people to the area,” he said.

The Friends of the Library has raised and contributed funds to the library since it was opened six years ago. Bishop said Friends of the Library volunteers in any area are always on and at the library.

“The first champion of the library award given in 2007 recognized the Kiwanis Club of Maryville for their work with the Imagination Library,” she said.

Phil Baker with Friends of the Library said the group had donated $200,000 to $250,000 to the library since it opened. “Eighty to 85 percent of that money has come from the book sale,” he said.

Brown praised the Friends of the Library. “It’s a very, very wonderful award to a very deserving people,” she said. “The Friends of the Library are wonderful. They sponsored your dinner and paid for their award.”

Also included in the Gala event program was a video of various Friends volunteers working at the book sale and doing other jobs.

The quarterly Used Book Sale, chaired by Baker and coordinated by Bob and Marie Harris, is the largest project and largest fund-raiser conducted by the Friends. At each sale, 40,000 to 50,000 books are available for sale to the public, earning more than $60,000 last year.

The next book sale will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 17 (for members only) and April 18 and 19 (open to the public) in the lower level of the library.

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