The FRIENDS, the First 10 Years
(with thanks to Gay Klaus Scarborough for providing this history at the time of the 10th anniversary celebration)
1989: The first meeting to organize the Friends of Williamstown Public Library was held on January 31, 1989, with Glenn Andrews, Helen Renzi, Sam Cherubin, Norma Fox, Margaret Chang, and new library director Annette Jenks. By February 28, the executive board had expanded to include David Loomis, Dorothy Seney, Jay Pasachoff, Priscilla Coulter, Paula Murphy, Harriet Townsend, Marcia Gross, Dagmar Bubriski, Carol Thomas, library Board of Trustees Chair Jurgen Thomas, and Steering Committee member Lawrence Gross. A Constitution and By-Laws proposed by the Steering Committee was accepted and a slate of officers was requested. Trustee Chair Thomas heartily endorsed the formation of a Friends group, which he had suggested when he became a trustee 2½ years earlier.
Members of the first Board, elected April 4, 1989, were President Glenn Andrews, Vice President Helen Renzi, Secretary Norma Fox, and Treasurer Sam Cherubim. Initial goals of the Friends were to:
- Incorporate in order to have non-profit status
- Develop membership
- Develop a phone list until membership was established
- Volunteer as storytellers
- Sponsor play readings and book discussions
- Conduct a book sale
- Purchase a fax and/or photocopy machine for public use
The House of Local History made the first donation of $50. By August 1989, a phone list of supporters had brought in $755 and 62 members. Following the Book Sale, the treasury totaled $2,000. By December 1989, incorporation had been achieved thanks to the pro bono legal services of Tom McHugh.
1990: The Friends hosted a panel discussion on library expansion and prepared a membership brochure to be mailed in April. The response was tremendous, with a gain of 350 new members and $5,378 raised. First purchases included bookmarks with library hours, electric pencil sharpeners, a coffee maker, 3 benches for the outdoor reading area, a coin-operated copy machine, a VCR, and a video projector.
1991: With Meg Dodds as president, the Board voted to sponsor, produce, and mail the Biblio-File newsletter, which would continue to be written by the Trustees. In June, the board made a plan to commemorate the 50th year at 562 Main Street (the Botsford House) with a Community Quilt. Made by town residents, the quilt still hangs in the library today. In November, Librarian Jenks expressed to the Friends an interest in a computerized checkout system.
1992: By the end of 1992, the Friends had set aside $7,000 in certificates of deposit to contribute to the automation system, which was on hold. That year, the Friends also provided funds to keep the library open on Saturdays during the summer, sponsored a summer reading program, purchased 3 bookcases, a slide projector, the BBC Shakespeare series, and sponsored a series of 1993 Winter Wednesdays at the Clark Art Institute, with local professors discussing selected plays accompanied by video-taped play highlights.
1993-94: Next came a period of transition. Joyce Jack was hired to replace retiring Librarian Annette Jenks, and Midge Safford became Friends president. The Friends purchased more necessities and funded a summer reading program as well as a reading/study program led by Michael Belknap beginning in January 1994. Midge noted in May 1994 that, “with the cessation of the Smith College Book Sale, there is potential for the Friends to make use of the experience of these book sale veterans… exciting potential in the future for the Friends.”
By the end of 1994, the Friends had $23,000 in the treasury and had purchased a fax machine, vacuum cleaner, video display system, and posters for the American Dream series. Most importantly, the Friends had been instrumental in getting the town to vote in favor of accepting the gift of the former Pine Cobble School as a new library building.
1995: Linda Conway became president and the Friends held a fundraiser at Images Theater, showing the Maggie Renzi/John Sayles film, The Secret of Roan Inish. The timing of the Book Sale, which had been a summer event, was shifted earlier to April (the traditional Smith sale date) and was held in the future library, grossing $15,000. The Friends pledged $6,000/year for three years to offset the increased expenses of operating the library in the new building.
1996: The Book Sale moved to a new venue: the old Williamstown Elementary School gym. Beth Nesbitt created a Friends banner for parades and booths. Water Street Books started giving a 10% discount as an incentive/reward for becoming a member. To help with the move to the new building, the Friends paid for the circulation desk ($10,119) and put $7,000 toward Children’s Room furnishings. Volunteers helped clean and organize books at both the old and new libraries in preparation for the November move.
1997: During the first year in the library’s new location, Friends membership increased to 440 households. Linda Conway continued as president. Under Chairs Gay Klaus Scarborough, Patricia Siskind, and Judy Smith, and with the help of at least 400 volunteers, the Book Sale netted $15,900. To inaugurate the new library, the Friends funded three Saturday morning lectures by prominent children’s authors. Also funded that year: a typewriter, a computer printer, a large screen TV and cart, the children’s summer reading program, computer education, $1,500 toward purchase of videos, the final $6,000 payments to offset increased operating costs, $6,000 for computer upgrades, and a new garden hose and stands. The Friends began to videotape book discussions for Willinet and Bud Riley prepared a promotional video publicizing children’s literature.
1998: Pat McLeod was welcomed as Library Director. The Book Sale, chaired by Judy Smith and Patricia Siskind, raised $14,072 and membership grew to 539 families. Bud Riley updated and revised the Friends’ By-Laws. The Friends presented a substantial gift of $25,000 to the Board of Trustees to fund computerization of the catalog and circulation. Linda Conway reported that, since its founding in 1989, the Friends had given over $167,000 to the Library. In appreciation of Linda’s contributions to the Friends, a lectern was donated in her honor.
1999: Judy Weber took over the presidency. The Friends funded a course, “The Internet for Children and Parents,” raised $16,436 at the Book Sale, and sponsored Children’s Librarian Mindy Hackner’s attendance at a week-long summer program at the Radcliffe Institute. The Friends celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a party organized by Linda Conway and Barbara Lesser, featuring a raffle for a quilt made by Beth Nesbitt. The Friends donated a reference collection in honor of Helen Renzi, funded the entire summer program, and helped sponsor the elementary school reading festival, Words are Wonderful. Membership grew to 560.
2000: The Friends purchased a digital camera, a locking display case, benches in front of the circulation desk, and once again fully funded the summer reading program. Thanks to the Friends, the library became completely automated, hours were extended for the Young Adult librarian, and a series of evening lectures were offered. The Book Sale netted $17,665 and Jeanne Blake reported 676 members. Biblio-File was published and mailed with the help of editors Fran Buttenheim, Liz Costley, Kathleen Casey, and Mary Jo Carpenter. At the 2000 Annual Meeting, Mary Jo Carpenter was elected president of the Friends.