Volunteer group recruits new members to support library

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 15, 2021


MADISON HEIGHTS — Last fall, the Friends of the Madison Heights Public Library refocused, with the library director inviting the community to play a more direct role. The citizen-led group acts as a support for the library, providing extra programming for kids and adults.

The library, located at 240 W. 13 Mile Road, has offered such activities as an annual summer reading program, book clubs, February Coffee Concerts at the Active Adult Center, and more, although some of these items have been altered or postponed due to pandemic-related restrictions on in-person gatherings.

Now, as society works towards exiting the pandemic, the Friends are planning events in the near future, while also redoubling their efforts to recruit new members to help out. The group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so all donations to it are tax deductible.

Among the group’s first efforts last fall was a pop-up book sale at the inaugural Trail Tunes, a strolling music festival that took place in early October at Civic Center Park. Around the same time, the group was also selling a limited number of shirts and book totes, with the first design created by artist Crystal Fox, a resident and advocate for native plants and pollinators. This was reflected in her design featuring a monarch butterfly fluttering from an open book with the tagline, “Let your imagination fly.”

There were plans for other pop-up sales, but due to COVID-19, only one other sale was held last year, during a sunny day in November near the Solberg Tower senior apartments. During a T-shirt drive around the same time, the Friends raised $430 for the library. The group also experimented with several online sales featuring the library’s vintage, rare and antique book collections, including military books and noir paperbacks.

Merri Busch, the president of the Friends, said another sale is planned for Trail Tunes this year, which is set for Aug. 7. The group is also planning a spring paperback and kids book sale on May 22, outside the library from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and more online sales. And while a date hasn’t been set, plans are being made for the library’s traditional annual book sale sometime in October.

So far this year, the Friends helped the library purchase a variety of new software, including an online program for crafts. The staff breakroom was refurbished with new shelving, a commercial microwave oven and toaster, and some plants and art. The group also purchased items for children’s reading programs. Last fall the group provided materials for a story walk at Monroe Park, as well.

The park will also be the site of a Friends-funded Little Free Library — a newsstand containing donated books that residents are free to check out. The Friends are also funding the installation of Little Free Libraries outside Madison Elementary School and Wilkinson Middle School. Depending on the funds raised, the group also hopes to add one Little Free Library to each of the two mobile home parks on Dequindre Road.

To top it all off, the group is currently looking to fund an oral storyteller as the library’s contribution to the city’s upcoming Juneteenth celebration on June 19, an event that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

The more, the merrier
Now the Friends are seeking new members.

“We have fewer than 50 members, but consider every resident as people we serve,” Busch said in an email. “I encourage all of our residents to actively participate with the Friends through making donations of books, spending money at our book sales, joining the Friends as a member, and donating volunteer time.

New members are encouraged to join the Friends, with dues starting at $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.

The next youth volunteer orientation will be 10 a.m. June 12, assuming the library is open. Busch cited several student volunteers for their involvement: Cooper Henkel, Rebekah Rinke, Natalie Back and Hannah Haines. Busch asked the City Council to prepare appreciation certificates for them when their volunteer contracts end in May. They help with recruitment,  logistics, setup and takedown for events, and more.

The youth division runs from January to May, June to August and September to December, with the students volunteering one or two Saturdays per month. Each commitment is several hours. The summer dates are just once a month unless the volunteer needs extra hours for a project.

“They are taught to curate, sort and box books, how to value a vintage or rare or antique book, and the final project is participating in one of the three book sales for the Friends of the Library,” Busch explained. “We wear masks, have check-ins with a temp check, and practice social distancing. The kids are awarded a letter of appreciation and their hours noted. I also offer to be a job reference for the older kids.”     

Roslyn Yerman, the library director, said that the library is now planning the implementation of the “Playful Tranquility” project on the library grounds, funded by a $54,000 grant the city received from the national nonprofit KABOOM! Proposed features include murals, a patio, themed pathways, interactive instruments on the lawn, and more.

“The project is scheduled for completion in early October,” Yerman said via email. “The library contributes to the quality of life in the community, meeting the educational and recreational needs of all age groups through materials, resources and programs.”

Busch said she hopes people will continue to support the library that provides so much.

“The library is the community ‘brain’ — the collection of knowledge, history and recreational reading and activities,” Busch said. “Making sure that our residents have all the information and entertainment media they need and want is what brings the great quality to ‘quality of life’ living.”

For more information on making donations of money or materials, search “Friends of the Madison Heights Public Library” on Facebook, or email mhplfriends@gmail.com.