The mission of the Gulfport Library’s Circle of Friends, a non-profit group of volunteers, is to promote literacy and learning but they also make money.
You see they sell donated books.
Their fundraising mostly goes toward programs for children, but they also sponsor authors who speak to groups of all ages in addition to building specialty indoor and outdoor reading areas at the library, said Marilyn Field, manager for the friends.
The library is a part of the city of Gulfport and they provide them with an annual budget of about $1,500 for promotional events.
“When speakers cost about $500 each and events for children can be between $200 to $400 each, that money doesn’t go a long way,” said Library Director David Mather, who is a full-time employee of the city. “So, the friends provide extra funding for us.”
As of July 31, the friends had raised nearly $7,000. In all of 2016, they raised $9,500 and the year before the total was $5,900.
Both Field and Mather say the dramatic increase in fundraising is directly related to the location of the books that are for sale.
Walk in the front doors of the library at 5501 28th Avenue S. then look to the right. An entire wall is stocked with a variety of titles. This is the Book Shop.
The sales are mostly for small amounts, said Field. “Two books for a quarter or two for fifty cents.”
Said Mather, “It adds up!”
Through October 28, the friends are sponsoring a “two-for-one” sale of 25-cent and 50-cent books.
People regularly come in to make book or cash donations and also do so during special events, he said. The friends offer people tax-deductible receipts upon request.
“It’s essential for any library to constantly partner with their friends group,” said Mather. “They really come through for the events that people know and love.”
Other services provided by the friends include a free book cart in the library lobby and outreach partnerships with other Tampa Bay area groups. The friends stock shelves of books and DVDs for people to utilize without the need for a library card in locations like the city’s Municipal Marina, the Boca Ciega Center for nursing care, veteran’s centers and certain other charities. Paperback books are often donated to homeless shelters throughout Tampa Bay because they are easy for people to carry in backpacks, said Field.
“I also do personal shopping,” said Field. “When I know a person is looking for a specific book, I’ll take their name and telephone number. If one comes in, I’ll call.”
The Lunch & Learn programs sponsored by the friends and offered about every month are also popular.
“People often volunteer to speak, visitors bring their lunch and we provide the beverages,” said Field.
To find out about public book sales and literary events sponsored by the friends or how to become a volunteer member, visit mygulfport.us/gpl/circle-of-friends-of-the-gulfport-library or call Marilyn Field at 727-321-4035. Annual memberships are students, $5; individuals, $10; families, $20; and, businesses, $75. Individual lifetime memberships are $100.