By: Jack Fox
Despite having contributed to the Mount Olive community for more than a decade, the local nonprofit “Friends of the Mount Olive Public Library” is facing serious troubles— the kind that could make it difficult for the longstanding organization to remain afloat.
The issue appears to be a shortage of personnel. “When we have sufficient staff, it’s a well-oiled system,” said Friends of the MOPL President Wendy Ryle. “We no longer have the manpower necessary to do the work.”
As a nonprofit, Friends of the Mount Olive Public Library has raised critical funds for both its namesake library and the wider community. In 2018, funds from its book sale provided for child and adult reading programs, free museum passes, audio book and movie license acquisition, improved library technological resources, and autumn activity programs for children. Perhaps most importantly, the nonprofit’s activities raise awareness regarding just what the library can offer— or, indeed, that it’s there at all. “One day at a book sale, a patron told me that he had lived in Mount Olive for three years, and had never known that the town had a library,” President Ryle said. “He’d found out about it from seeing our book sale signs. It’s one of the ways we promote library awareness.”
The organization raises funds through book drives and sales, which have drawn contributors and buyers from as far away as New York City. Each major book sale brings in more than a thousand dollars at a time for the library’s use, while also recycling books that the library cannot process alone and making sure that they remain in the community. When asked what might happen if they were forced to dissolve, President Ryle had this to say: “…if Friends of the Library no longer existed, what would people do with all of their unwanted books? The library cannot accept all of them; they would get swamped with books in no time. We help people recycle their books back onto other readers’ shelves, as well as provide them with new books at our sales.”
And yet this situation— one where there are no book recycling drives, no book sale fundraising, no reading programs, and vastly reduced community engagement— may soon come to pass. Previously, the Friends of the Mount Olive Public Library had four sales and four donation days every year. Currently, plans for 2019’s donation and sale schedule are completely absent. The group does not have enough participants to run either. “Many of our volunteers are seniors, and the physical work of moving boxes of books is becoming difficult. Some of our members have moved, some have health problems, others simply have stopped coming out.” said President Ryle. “We’re down to about seven members who actually come out on work days.”
How can this issue be fixed? “The only way we can expand the program is for new people to present new ideas,” Ryle said. “We ask that the community step up to the challenge of keeping the Friends intact. Please volunteer. No gift of time and talent is too small.”
The Friends of the MOPL can be reached through the Mount Olive Public Library’s normal contact numbers and addresses.