Editor’s note: This series will run weekly throughout 2016 to highlight Bartlett’s history in honor of its 150th anniversary this year. This is the third in a group of articles about the Bartlett Library.
For decades a group of citizens has existed in some form to ensure the growth and welfare of the Bartlett Library and to provide funding supplemental to that provided by governmental entities. Earliest available financial records indicate that in May 1981 the name of the organization was changed from the Bartlett Library Council to Bartlett Friends of the Library.
From 1981 until mid-2003, it appears that the primary activity of the group was to maintain several shelves of donated used paperback books for sale within the library. Funds raised through the sale were used to support children’s programs; to purchase equipment, furniture, and books; and for staff support. During this period, the Bartlett Library was a branch library within the larger Memphis-Shelby County Library System, and Bartlett Friends functioned as a chapter of the Friends of the Memphis and Shelby County Public Libraries (chartered in 1962). The library system was funded jointly by the City of Memphis and Shelby County and was operated as a freestanding organization governed by a Board of Trustees.
As noted in last week’s article, the Bartlett Library assumed total responsibility for the library but stayed in the Memphis Public Library system. As the potential developed for a new paradigm for library management and funding, Ms. Gay Cain, Bartlett Library manager, realized that a revitalized Bartlett Friends could be proactive in promoting the library’s welfare and in raising funds to support essential library programs and facilities.
In mid-2003, the new Friends of the Bartlett Library formed at a public meeting. Officers wer elected, a membership drive was held, and the group began to expand its activities while continuing to operate as a branch or chapter of the Friends of the Memphis-Shelby County Public Libraries. The new Friends represented the library at community events such as Bartlett Celebration, conducted an annual two-day book sale and expanded the daily book sale in the library.
In 2006, the City of Bartlett appropriated funds to construct a new library. At that time, city officials, the Bartlett Library manager, and the Planning committee of Bartlett Friends determined that it would be in the best interests of the library and Bartlett Friends to establish an independent Bartlett Friends of the Library organization that would be able to conduct fundraising programs, to accept and retain donations, and to advocate specifically in support of the Bartlett Library and Bartlett citizens without the limitations of being a subordinate organization. On July 1, 2007, Friends of the Bartlett Public Library was chartered as a non-profit corporation in Tennessee. The next day, the interim Board of Directors adopted bylaws and resolutions. Then on July 16, 2007, the group held its first annual members’ meeting. They elected a permanent Board of Directors and officers. In April 2008, the Bartlett Library moved into its new building.
The original Planning Committee and board members/officers were Carolyn Lendermon, Caroline Forster, Richard Boda, Marla Simmons, Sue Maynard, Carol Huff and Gay Cain (ex officio). The current board is Vickie Simpson, Pat Sexton, Judy Teague, Janet Futrell, Joan Schrier, Sandy Hackett, Lynn Chambers, Carol Huff and Eldon “Chip” Holliday, Bartlett Library manager (ex officio).
Today, Friends boasts over 160 active members who volunteer hundreds of hours each year. Their primary fundraising effort is used book sales. Books of all varieties are sold year-round from shelves in the library – feature sales offer a different category of books each month. October will feature science fiction, fantasy and horror, as well as books of regional interest. Each April they hold a book sale with 15-20,000 items. Approximately 90 percent of the books sold are donated by the community. Donations are accepted at the library and are tax deductible as a gift to charity.
The Friends’ most visible contribution to the library has been the murals in the children’s areas. They have also sponsored the Read for Your School contest for the past three summers, giving a total of $12,000 to Bartlett City School Libraries. They sponsor all of the children’s and teen’s programs for the library.
In a new program this year, in partnership with the Bartlett Library, they will have a Pop-Up Library at the Bartlett Festival on Oct. 1. It will expand some library services beyond the physical walls of the library to interact with patrons where they are. The Pop-Up Library will be offering free books to readers of all ages to peruse and take home with them.
Since 2007, Friends has donated more than $120,000 in direct support to Bartlett Library programs and facilities and early childhood literacy. Friends regularly represents the Library at Bartlett Festival and the Bartlett Business EXPO as well as other venues as opportunities arise. Friends is a membership organization open to anyone who wants to support the Bartlett Library. Information is available at the library, on the library website, or on Facebook (search for “FriendsBartlett Library”).
Written by Suzanne Griffith Coleman, special to the Express.