2016 Baker & Taylor Award winner: Friends of Smyrna (Tenn.) Library

The mission of Friends of Smyrna (Tenn.) Library is to focus public attention on the library and to stimulate the use of the library’s resources and services. Public libraries are the ultimate destination for learning, information, and fun for children and adults as well. Our goal is to support and cooperate with the library in promoting literacy, developing special library programs, and providing library materials beyond the regular resources of the library. It is the Friends’ purpose to promote the interest and welfare of Smyrna Public Library as a cultural, educational, and recreational asset to the town of Smyrna and Rutherford County. In keeping with the strategic plan for the library system, the Friends seek to provide a safe, comfortable, and engaging environment for the patrons of Smyrna Public Library.

Smyrna Public Library has now been open in its present location almost 18 years, in which time the population it serves has more than doubled. Wear and tear have taken their toll. In the summer of 2014, the board of Friends of Smyrna Library established a committee to investigate the scope and cost of revitalization. As a result, the Spruce Up Campaign began in April 2015 with two prominent community leaders, Ginny Williams and Kenneth Victory, as honorary co-chairs. The goal was to raise $100,000 to begin the refurbishment.

The kickoff event was on April 24, 2015 — planting a tree in the park adjacent to the library. Well attended by library board and Foundation members, library staff, Friends volunteers, local dignitaries, and interested citizens, the event set the tone for a collaborative effort. The Friends found support from the local government, businesses, and civic organizations, as well as individuals and patrons of the library. What followed was a series of informative meetings led by members of the Spruce Up committee with a PowerPoint presentation designed by one of the Friends’ committee members. The community rallied. From a birthday party where the requested gift was a donation to the Spruce Up campaign, to fish fries, to friendly challenges between businesses, the local community saw the need and stepped up to help. A committee member fashioned a five-gallon water bottle into a “wise old tree,” encouraging people to drop in coins to help recarpet the library. It sat at the check-out desk and was very popular, especially with children.

The local newspaper did a couple of articles about the campaign. It was one of these articles that caught the eye of a local real estate agent. Her firm, Keller Williams, has a R.E.D. Day each year (Renew, Energize, and Donate). They choose a local nonprofit to help. The Spruce Up Campaign was submitted for consideration and eventually selected. Of course the full project, which we knew was going to be in two, three maybe even four stages, was far too large for their one-day commitment, but phase I, the children’s library and the program room seemed the place to start.

The real estate firm involved their contractors to provide the expertise, much of the materials, and the skilled labor. R.E.D. Day turned into a four-day marathon of moving, painting, cleaning, and reassembling. The library was closed to the public. Volunteers from Keller Williams and the Friends worked together to remove everything from the children’s library, including the circulation desk and the office/storage room, and the community room; paint; reassemble shelving and reshelve books; and reestablish order to main desk and office areas. When it was finished, the area was totally repainted; there was new tile in the community room and new carpet in the children’s library. The library had a new office and a charming storytime/play area for the children. It was a herculean task, but proudly everyone showed up for the grand reopening the following Monday.

By June 15, 2016, the Friends had met our fundraising goal for phase I and had completed most of the remodel for that area. Phase II will be to repaint the remaining library areas. Phase III, recarpeting the main library, will require additional fundraising, as the library will need to be closed and all materials, books, computers, shelving, furniture, etc. will be removed from the premises. The Friends are striving toward complying with our strategic plan goal of providing a safe, comfortable, and inviting environment in our library. This project was, and still is, an ambitious one. It is the Friends’ major project at this time. However, it is only one of the many projects that the Friends help to sponsor, which include an ongoing used book sale, a movie license, adult winter reading program, summer children’s program, summer reading program, staff appreciation gift cards, Scholastic Book sale, and special events throughout the year.

Because of the Friends efforts, the enthusiasm of volunteers, and the dedication of members, Friends of Smyrna Library were chosen as Tennessee Friends of the Library for 2017. This honor goes to the volunteers, of course, but reflects the attitude, cooperation, and support of the library staff and administration.