By Dawn M. Chiossi
Friends in need, friends indeed: The Friends of the Butler Public Library Organization is celebrating 35 years. As such, they are proving that long term friendships are the best kind. The Friends of the Library’s efforts provide an extra special something– treats that are guaranteed to put smiles on visitor’s faces.
According to Library Director, Louis Rodriguez, Butler’s Friends of the Library is made up of voracious readers and library lovers– devoted members who consider the library to be the hub and heart of the community, making it a homey place for everyone. “I am thrilled that our Friends of the Library has been still going strong after all these years, that they are so committed to helping us,” he remarks.
In particular, he mentions Marlene Donnelly, a long-time member of the Friends organization. “She is one of the original members, and she knows a thing or two about keeping the group running and actively keeping it together,” he quips. “The friends do so much, including fundraising, allowing the libraries to do all of the things that patrons enjoy.”
For Donnelly, a teacher for 33 years before she retired, being part of the Friends was a natural fit. “I have always loved being in libraries,” she shares. “My first part-time job as a teenager was as an assistant to the middle school librarian when the school’s library was open for eight weeks during the summer. They make me happy.”
When the Friends of the Butler Public Library was formed in 1984, Donnelly became one of the initial Trustees of the Friends and slipped into the role of treasurer–a position she has held ever since. She recalls that the group organized around the time that the Butler Library was moving to their current location on One Ace Road. The initial committee was inspired to create an organization that would help to buy the things that the town would not have included in the library’s budget.
She shares that some of the initial purchases for the library included new furniture and matching the state grant of $2,215.67 to join M.A.I.N., the Morris Automated Information Network, and supplying a computer dedicated to this. “It was one of the first things the Friends’ did because they wanted Butler’s library to not only be current along with the times but also to be on par with other libraries in Morris County. We wanted something that patrons would take full advantage of to make their research and experience easier.”
In donating their considerable, time, attention, and devotion to Butler’s library, the Friends have given so much to consistently enhance Butler’s library over the years. “Benches, tables, chairs have provided places for patrons to sit and relax or work,” explains Donnelly. “(There’s) electronics of all kinds, including many computers, printers (even a 3-D) and a 70 inch flat-screen TV have helped to keep us up to date. Programs such as support for the summer reading program and many other events help to enhance library activities.”
Throughout the years, the number of members has varied, but Donnelly never lost heart, or drive to help. For her, it was still a chance to treasure her love for libraries and serve the community at the same time. Since retiring, she has even had more time to follow her passion.
Her devotion to the library shines through “Butler has a wonderful library,” she prides. She credits the team effort the Friends has with the Library staff. All of them are involved with brainstorming ideas to enhance the library. Together they keep in mind what the library needs, and what would be much looked forward to by their patrons. “Director Louis Rodriguez is a gem,” she praises. “All of the staff is… Kristen, Margaret, Arlene, everyone is just wonderful.”
These ideas and endeavors can be seen in the library affecting everything across the board from kids’ events to adult programs, and everything in between.
“The Friends have bought us computers for the public’s use when they noticed that ours were getting old,” Rodrigez relates. He is particularly proud that the Friends have completely funded the Museum Pass Program so that library patrons can enjoy an outing of culture, to take advantage of museums. For children, the kiosk featuring tablets is a huge hit,” he enthuses. “It is so eye-catching. It looks like a large crayon.”
As a result of their teamwork, the community and public have responded with a tremendous outpouring of support.
“We are such a small library, but it is wonderful that people are so supportive. “Kids can walk or ride their bikes to come to the library…people can even access us online. No matter what, it gives them the tools to succeed and to have fun,” Donnelly prides.
Although the organization is not planning a celebration to mark its 35 years, Donnelly relates that they prefer to reinvigorate the Friends Group. “I am very encouraged that since the summer the Friends has been able to have meetings every other month and can look to some “younger blood” to carry us on. It’s very important to me that this organization continue in the future years,” she asserts. “The library has given me such a feeling of satisfaction over the years that I want to make sure it keeps going.”
Having an organization like the Friends of the Library in his corner is a partnership that Rodriguez is extremely grateful for. “We are so fortunate to have them, to have people that care about our community to enhance our library like this. They do what they can for us and then some. They truly are instrumental in the success of the Butler Public Library.”
Looking back on the Friends’ 35 years with the library, Donnelly is emotional regarding their efforts. “The library has such a successful, positive feel. It’s amazing how people have responded. Everyone is such an essential part of the library’s success, and we want it to expand and grow…libraries aren’t just for books anymore.”