Mill Creek counts on its Friends

Selma Bonham came to the Mill Creek Library looking for a book discussion group. That was eight years ago.

Little did Bonham know that she would become part of The Friends of the Mill Creek Library, a volunteer group that raises money for library programs, such as the one she’d come to find.

“It is an opportunity for us to go beyond what the library budget allows, to present programs, materials and furnishing that couldn’t be obtained otherwise,” Bonham said.

The Friends group raises money by having a used book sale twice a year and by maintaining an ongoing small sale in the library.

When people no longer use their books, the Friends group sells them and all the money is put into library programs.

“It is the ultimate in the concept of recycling, “Bonham said.

It’s also an intergenerational effort. Some teens come and help out with the sale, as do library staff and other volunteers from the community who are interested in the library.

Enough donations of books every week keep the book sale shelves full while the overflow is kept in storage. A donated storage unit houses that book reserve.

“That’s great because we’ve been depending on people’s garages,” Bonham said.

The Friends also bought a photocopier for the library. The copier is also a moneymaker for programs because all the proceeds from it go to the library fund.

“We wouldn’t be able to put on any programs at the library without the Friends group,” said Ruth Griffith, a Mill Creek librarian.

From providing carts to shelving books, the group is vital to the library’s success, she added.

Money raised by the volunteer Friends group also pays for presenters such as Rick Hartman, a toymaker and storyteller who made a recent visit to the library to kick off the summer reading program.

The multifaceted program gives people lots to enjoy such as songs, games and audience participation, Griffith said.

Summer reading programs, which started July 1, are held for children, with some for adults, too.

Those who participate in the group’s summer reading program can win prizes, thanks to the Friends. This year each participant is encouraged to read a book and write a review to receive a ticket to an Everett AquaSox game. Weekly drawings are also held for book prizes.

“Because of their funds they are able to purchase book prizes,” Griffith said.

The Friends volunteers are responsible for having all kinds of programs for kids, teens and adults. Last year they hosted an event at Mill Creek City Hall on The Patriot Act.

The public was invited to attend an evening with a panel of speakers, including Steve Sher from KUOW radio, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart, an FBI supervisor and a Sno-Isle librarian.

City Hall was overflowing with people. The event could have been held at a larger venue. Some teachers in middle schools and high schools were giving credit to students for attending.

“It cost us nothing,” Bonham said. “It was amazing.”

The summer reading program got its beginning in humble roots, said Bonham.

Bonham, the Friend’s library historian, can take them back to 1984 when a woman wrote to the City Council asking for a library. From that request came the formation of the Mill Creek Library Foundation.

Eventually that group raised enough money to build a library. It opened in 1987 on two acres that had been donated by a local family, the Hammitts.

The group changed its name to Friends of the Mill Creek Library in 1988 and in 1992 the library was expanded.

Today, the Friends group has about 30 members. Only a few participate, but anyone can join and participants don’t have to live within the Mill Creek city limits, Bonham said.

Whether or not they are robust in membership, the Friends of the Mill Creek Library make a huge impact on what programs are available at the library. To illustrate what the group has done with its small numbers, Bonham likes to quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead:

“Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Reporter Christina Harper: 425-339-3491 or harper@heraldnet.com.

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