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Demopolis Library has great group of ‘Friends’

The Demopolis Public Library is one of the educational hubs of the area, providing guests with much more than free books and wi-fi. Each month, the library hosts a number of programs designed to educate and enlighten and helping to make sure these program exist is a dedicated group known simply as the Friends of the Library.

The Friends of the Library are a group that supports the library’s missions, both through volunteering time as well as providing financial support.

While the origin of the group is not very clear, in 2000 the Friends’ leadership had dwindled to a single person, Judy Bird, and she asked Carolyn Cowling to join her. In 2007, about the time that current Demopolis Librarian Morgan Allen joined the staff, Carol Glass agreed to join the Friends as the group’s treasurer.

While the leadership of the group was being rebuilt in 2000s, there were those who supported the library.

“We always had a core group of donors who are very generous to the library. There are a lot of very faithful members,” said Cowling, who served as the Friends President.

Today, the Friends consists of those who make annual contributions and is led by a five-member board: Cowling as president; Glass, treasurer; Katie Poole, Anner Gray, Beth Lindsay, Elizabeth Smith, and Kathy Owings, who is the children’s librarian. Together with the core group of donors, the Friends’ leadership has a established a focused mission to increase a variety of learning opportunities.

“Our top priority is the library, but we also want to see the library partner with other organizations to promote reading and art in our schools. This past year, the focus has been at Westside Elementary, but we plan to grow from there,” Cowling said.

During the past school year, the Friends held art instruction for second grade classes at WES and held a drum program, “Get Rhythm,” that taught about music, math, vocabulary and science through the art of sound. That project was a partnership between the Friends and the Two Rivers Art Council.

While the Friends organize and promote a variety of activities, their focus is always on what is best for the library.  With membership dues and other donations, the Friends provide support for the numerous Lunch & Learn programs where those funds are used for snacks and beverages. They have also invested in a flat-screen television and a laptop for children’s programs. In 2016, the Friends purchased a pergola and seating to provide seating outside the library.

“Anything special at the library, the Friends helped to make it happen,” Allen said.

Cowling said her passion for serving the library comes from her life-long love of reading.

“I’m an avid reader and without the library providing books, it would be an expensive habit. Libraries remain a great source of information … I love being in a library,” she said.

Allen said the efforts of the library’s Friends have gone a long way in making the Demopolis Library among the best in the area.

“Their support is vital and it makes my job easier,” Allen said. “Our library is as good as some in Birmingham and I feel that is due in large part to the support of our Friends. They bring a lot of new ideas and are always interested in improving the library.”

The Friends look forward to continuing their initiative in art education and seeing its children’s library grow and improve. There is also a lofty goal of transferring current information stored in the library’s microfiche collection to digital so it may be searched on the internet.

As a non-profit agency, the Friends of the Library is dependent on donations and each donation is utilized specifically for the library and its programs.

Membership into the Friends organization isn’t very hard; simply making a donation to the library is all that is required. There is no minimum donation and they can be made at the library or from the library’s website.

For those Friends members who want to do more, Cowling said there are those opportunities as well.

“We always accept people’s time and talents to help with our projects and programs,” she said.

(This article originally appeared in the  2018 Progress Special Section in the June 30 issue of the Demopolis Times.)