Friends of the Madison Heights Public Library hold pop-up book fairs

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published September 18, 2020

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MADISON HEIGHTS — The Friends of the Madison Heights Public Library recently refocused, with the library director inviting the community to play a more direct role.

The Friends are a citizen-led organization that support extra programming for adults and children at the library, located at 240 W. 13 Mile Road, such as the annual summer reading program, book clubs, February Coffee Concerts at the Active Adult Center, and more. The group has 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and is able to accept tax-deductible donations.  

Heather Hames, Madison Heights’ adult reference librarian and the library liaison to the group, characterized the new Friends as a “renewal.”

“Any organization can go through a period of time when the leaders get ready to retire and then it’s time for new energy — and boy, does this new board have that in spades,” Hames said. “What’s most exciting to me is that this energetic board is also trying to navigate how to operate during a pandemic, and that brings innovation.”

Already, the group is taking a new approach due to the coronavirus pandemic. The annual book sale is a major fundraiser for the library and is usually held indoors at the library in October; however, this year the event will take the form of pop-up book fairs outdoors, with measures in place to meet social distancing guidelines, as well as a requirement to wear masks to avoid spreading the virus to others — COVID-19 doesn’t always show symptoms right away, so those carrying it may not know they have it, putting vulnerable people they meet in danger.

The first sale will take place in conjunction with Trail Tunes 2020, the new strolling concert by the Madison Heights Arts Board, set for 4-7 p.m. Oct. 3 at Civic Center Park, located behind Madison Heights City Hall on 13 Mile Road, just west of John R Road.

However, others are in the planning stages throughout the fall, with dates and locations to be announced in the future. Each installment of the book fair may have a different format. One idea is for a book bag pickup on the lawn of City Hall, each bag containing a mystery selection of books, available to residents when they drop off their absentee ballots. More information will be available in the coming weeks on the library section of the city’s website, madison-heights.org.

The board itself is comprised of Keri Valmassei, president; Merri Busch, vice president; Deborah Shepherd, secretary; and Elizabeth Blomenberg, treasurer.

New members are encouraged to join, with low dues starting at just $5 for seniors and students, $10 for individuals, $15 for families, $25 for businesses and groups, and $50 for lifetime membership. Interested parties can learn more by visiting www.madison-heights.org/726/friends-of-the-library, or by emailing mhplfriends@gmail.com.

“We are hoping to create a more vibrant, progressive thinking and vital support to the library,” Busch said. “Fresh ideas, supported financially by the Friends, will help our (group) create a library reflecting the needs of a modern, technologically advanced community. Access to information and recreational reading helps a community to have a better quality of life.

“Whether you’re researching styles of environmentally friendly rain gardens, learning to cook a diabetic menu, fixing your old Chevy or teaching your child to enjoy reading and developing their imagination, the local library is the most useful of institutions.”  

Among the group’s other efforts at the moment are the sale of a limited number of shirts and book totes with designs by local artists, with the first design created by artist Crystal Fox, a resident of Madison Heights and advocate for native plants and pollinators. This is reflected in the design featuring a Monarch butterfly fluttering from an open book with the tagline, “Let your imagination fly.”

“Hopefully these shirts will not only promote the Friends of the Madison Heights Public Library group, but also bring awareness to Monarch butterflies who start their migration south to overwinter sites during the fall. All proceeds go toward the Friends of the Madison Heights Public Library group,” Blomenberg said.

She added that any artists interested in working with the Friends in creating a future design should email the Friends at mhplfriends@gmail.com.

“As a huge supporter of the arts, I am really excited to partner with local artists to showcase their talent, bring awareness to community causes, as well as raise funds for the Friends group,” Blomenberg said.

Valmassei said she believes that the library is one of a community’s most valuable assets.

“The library is a haven for parents with small children through its children’s programming, older citizens who may need help using modern technology, and those of us who just like to read but don’t want to have to remortgage our homes to afford tons of books we want,” Valmassei said. “I am an avid reader, and through this pandemic, the library has been a lifeline. During normal times, the library is a community hub, bringing people together to learn and have fun.”

Madison Heights City Councilman Mark Bliss said that he appreciates the group’s work.

“Our Friends of the Library group is critical for the continued success of our library, and I’m thrilled that this group has been revitalized with some amazing new volunteers. I was fortunate to attend their first meeting a couple of months ago, and I can say without a doubt that this group had some amazing ideas that will help to expand and revitalize our library and its offerings,” Bliss said. “Overall, this group is filled with energy and excitement for our library, and I’m confident they will do some pretty amazing things. I look forward to seeing all the great ideas they have come to fruition, and I’m excited to help out any way that I can.”

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