SHERIDAN — The Friends of the Library annual auction held Nov. 16 helped push the group to a milestone in its fundraising efforts: The $1 million mark.
“It took 31 years to make that much money, but we did it!” said Friends of the Library Board Member Nancy Elliott.
According to Elliott, The Friends of the Library is a group of 12 volunteers who fundraise for the library, primarily through the auction, but also through other smaller fundraisers such as sale of used books at the library’s entryway. All of the funds raised through the year are formally donated to the library in April, usually in conjunction with National Library Week.
Elliott said the 12 board members are committed to the library and to enhancing its services and that they spent many hours in the two months leading up to the auction, soliciting donors and arranging logistics. She said every board member participates because of their belief in the importance of a community’s library. “It’s one entity in the community that everyone uses, no matter your age or social economic status. It doesn’t make any difference,” she said. This year’s auction was held Nov. 16 and raised approximately $55,000, bringing the group’s total to $1,015,000. “It’s a huge milestone,” said Cameron Duff, library director. “It’s been a very successful event over the years.”
Duff said the money raised by Friends of the Library has been instrumental in building the library’s collection. Although the library is supported with some county funds, additional money has been needed to purchase materials, particularly during the past several years.
“Over the last few years the county has had less revenue because of a decrease in valuation which corresponds to a decrease in funding they provide to the library,” explained Duff. “So we have used the Friends money to augment our books and materials budget. The Friends money we put in each year works out to about one-third of our materials budget. On the flip side, if we didn’t have the Friends here we would see less materials on the shelves.”
For instance, he noted that this year’s budget for materials was $157,000, with $50,000 of that coming from the Friends donation.
The first Friends of the Library Auction was held Oct. 20, 1983. That initial event raised $4,017.50 from the sale of items ranging from a billfold, which sold for $12.50, to a sculpture donated by Bunny Connell, which brought in $500.
The next year’s event actually made the news in Anchorage, San Francisco, Omaha and Minneapolis, as well as a broadcast of Paul Harvey on Oct. 23, due to a $105 auction item. The item was a Beach Boys album signed by former Secretary of the Interior James Watt. Watt had made headlines the year before by banning the Beach Boys from performing at a Washington D.C. Fourth of July celebration for fear of attracting ‘undesirable elements’ to the city.
When he was in Sheridan on Oct. 3, 1984 for a Reagan-Bush campaign rally, he signed a Beach Boys album with the inscription “I have been assured that the library will champion the right causes and the GOP.”
A local representative of the Sierra Club with whom Watt had had an antagonistic relationship for several years purchased the album. As for the ‘right cause’, the money ended up being put towards the purchase of a new Vision Van, which was used to deliver books and materials to homebound individuals.