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Building Community with Friends of the Library

One of the pleasures I have had while serving on the Columbia County Board has been to serve on the Columbia County Library Systems Board, CCLSB, and currently, I serve as chair of that body.  It has afforded me the opportunity to get to know all ten of our remarkable and unique Columbia County libraries and the communities they serve.  Libraries do so very much to serve and support their communities, often on a shoestring budget.  Their work is greatly aided by Friends organizations.  These organizations not only provide key financial resources to libraries, but they are also a vital link to building strong, vibrant communities.

This past Saturday, August 14, provided a prime example of the role of Friends and community.  Along with my husband and two of our four grandchildren, we took part in the annual Lodi Library Run/Walk sponsored by the Friends of the Lodi Public Library.  What a great day!  It wasn’t just the fact that it was a beautiful, perfect morning for a run.  It wasn’t just the fact that over 150  people registered for the event.  It wasn’t just the volunteers who registered participants, handed out water, provided fruit and treats to all in attendance. It demonstrated the value of an activity that brings residents of all ages and abilities together to enjoy the day, participate in the run/walk, cheer the participants on, chat, and  yes, support the library.  It truly was an event that celebrated the essence of what it means to be a community.  — Full disclosure, my husband, Tom Long, originated the Lodi Library Run/Walk and organized and managed it for 25 years.  I, we, do have a soft spot in our hearts for this event.

Across Columbia County, Friends of the Library organizations sponsor numerous other events that not only give visibility to libraries but strengthen community bonds, heighten awareness and knowledge of contemporary issues, highlight local artists and artisans, and in general encourage community involvement. Quilt and art shows, book discussions, summer reading programs for children, adult programming on a number of topics from computer technology to cooking.  Yes, these activities are undertaken to enhance financial resources of libraries, but they also knit communities together and help to build the bonds communities need in order to address a myriad of challenges and move forward.  

In their book, Our Towns, published in 2018, James and Deborah Fallows wrote:

 “After visits to dozens of public libraries from Maine to Arizona, from Mississippi to Minnesota, I saw that America’s public libraries, the place people used to go primarily find books or do research, have become the heart and soul of American communities. I learned that in the library, I could discover the spirit of a town, get a feel for the people’s needs and wants, and gauge their energy and mettle.”

There is no denying the financial benefit of Friends organizations to libraries.  Through their enthusiastic efforts, libraries in Columbia County have been able to enhance technological resources, update their facilities, and add informational materials. All of which enhances their value to the communities they serve.  Hats off to all the Friends organizations for you do to support your local libraries!!  Through your efforts, you insure that libraries will remain strong components of the Columbia County communities.  

Become a Friend of your local library!  Become a part of the heart and soul of your community. 

Nancy Long

County Board Supervisor-District 27 Lodi

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