A more than $17,000 donation made to the Statesboro Regional Library will allow the facility to purchase new computers and fund future programs for area children.
A check in the amount of $17,750 exchanged hands Feb. 9, when board members of Friends of the Library presented funds to Sharon Rowe, executive director of the regional library.
"Friends of the Library has always been about funding programs that did not have the money needed to function," said Lynn Lilly, program chair for the organization. "But in times like this, when financing is so short, the group could not be more important. We have more patrons at the library than ever before."
The contribution, Lilly said, would be used to "fund eight new computer stations, children's summer reading programs, books, materials, literacy and other community programs."
About $10,000 of the donation will be spent on the computer stations, which "are now as crucial for our community as books," according to Walt Strickland, president of the Friends of the Library.
"Every day a librarian is helping someone go online to look for jobs with Georgia Southern, Walmart or some other place. A lot of people looking for positions can not afford an Internet connection at home," Strickland said. "The computer stations usually have lines waiting for them and time is limited to approximately 20 minutes. With new computers, we will not have to limit access."
"Just about anytime you come to the library, you'll see people waiting at the computers. They are full most of the hours that we are open," Rowe said.
With the funds, "the Friends of the Library are taking care of a critical need that has never been fulfilled by taxpayer dollars," she said.
Also, approximately $4,000 of the donated money will support "Reading Is FUNdamental", a national literacy program for children. The remaining $2,000 will be used to buy books for 2,000 pre-school students, according to Lilly.
The contribution increases the organization's donation-tally to nearly $20,000 for the fiscal year, at a time when much of the library's funding is being lost.
"We have lost all of our material funding from the state for books and other items, Rowe said. (Staff salaries are paid through state funds.) "We've lost thousands of dollars of funding throughout the system. We have lost, easily, around $100,000 each year for the past few years."
"What has happened with the library is that everyone has cut back funds," said Strickland. "[The library] is getting fewer funds from the board of education and the city."
"The Friends of the Library are trying to make up that difference," he said. "Our primary goal is to help provide a service to the community."
According to Strickland, the Friends accumulate funds to support the library through membership dues, donations and book sales.
The organization holds book sales twice each year. The next sale will be in April, he said.
"We just started something called ‘the never-ending book sale,'" Lilly said. "Books are set-up in the library for purchase all of the time."
Hard-copy books sell for $1 and paperbacks 50 cents, she said.
According to Lilly, sales have increased, which help the Friends of the Library continue its mission.
"People who love their community need to support their library," she said.
The Friends of the Library was awarded the Friends of Georgia Libraries "Fabulous Friends" Award for its support of the Statesboro Library, according to Strickland, and the group would be recognized in the state organization's April 29 meeting.
Anyone interested in supporting or joining the organization, can do so by contacting the Statesboro Library at 764-1329, he said.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454.