Lincolnshire library attracts much-needed new Friends in membership drive

Lincolnshire’s library still has Friends.

Like the members of other public-service groups in the village, the Friends of the Vernon Area Public Library have been getting older, and new faces had not been popping up.

The Friends held a special membership-drive meeting on July 16, and vice president Alice Moody said enough new volunteers came that the group will carry on its activities.

“It felt very positive,” Moody said. “We found several new people who would like to help.”

The Friends’ membership has dwindled since its high point of about 200 about eight years ago. A founding member, Moody is now 84, and president Angie Goodrich, who has held that position for seven years, is moving to Washington, D.C.

Age creep is a common problem for a variety of do-gooder groups, and the leaders of the Lincolnshire Community Association have spoken recently about their own pursuit of younger volunteers.

The Friends hold book drives and fundraisers and in recent years have purchased the community room’s new audio-video system, updated the room’s walls so that they can display art more easily and commissioned a sculpture of Allen Meyer, the VAPL’s first executive director.

But at the same time, both membership and funding have dropped. Moody noted that it has been a few years since anyone sent out the group’s annual dues-collection forms.

Cindy Fuerst, the current executive director, said that as the library’s role evolves, it needs fundraising and its volunteer-resource auxiliary.

“We still have a lot of needs,” Fuerst said. “They have been involved with the library since its inception.”

Indeed, Moody was on the committee that in 1972 first started looking into whether the growing town of Lincolnshire needed a library, and she hired the original staff of three.

The result of that committee’s work — the library itself — is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and went through a major interior renovation in 2013 to modernize its facilities. The Friends organized in 1979 to help the library move into its first building, and have been raising funds and buying books ever since.

But book buying is a lower priority for an organization intent on becoming a 21st century learning center. Fuerst noted that as time has passed, the Friends have not adapted as quickly to the library’s new needs.

“We’re just at a place where, the projects that they’re interested in pursuing and the needs of the library, there’s a little bit of a gap there,” she said.

And if change comes on the Friends’ end, it may come slowly. Moody said that of all the new volunteers who came to the July 16 gathering, most were the habitual helpers she sees in other community service groups, and only a few were young and new.

“The rest at the meeting were older, familiar faces,” she said.

Yet the proof of the Friends’ importance to the district was built into the walls. When the library went through last year’s makeover, the planners dedicated an entire wall in the cafe to the Friends’ used book and DVD sales rack.

Moody said she visits three times weekly to straighten it out, fill the gaps made by purchases with new supplies and empty the donations bin.

“I think we’re going to power through this,” Fuerst said of the Friends’ struggles. “I think it’s going to work out well.”

“We still have a great volunteer base in Lincolnshire,” Moody said. She believes her group will uncover more of them soon.

The Friends’ next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 24 at the library.

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