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Friends of the Library dances into 70th year

Group sets its fundraising sights on expanded children’s room

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Friends of the Lebanon Library celebrated its 70th anniversary Saturday, March 4, giving a $20,000 check to library director Kendra Antila to kick off a capital campaign to expand the children’s meeting room.
Corvallis’ Fionngahl Celtic Trio entertained the crowd, even spurring one young lassie to dance. FOL president Vandy Roadifer distributed handmade bookmarks to volunteers before presenting the check.
Antila expressed her gratitude with a John Lennon/Paul McCartney lyric: “We get by with a little help from our friends.”
And that’s been true since the beginning.
Friends of the Lebanon Library formed March 4, 1953, to connect civic and fraternal groups with the library’s needs, according to its vice president, Kristine Hunt. However, in the 1960s, it became an effort among individuals more than organizations.
“The Friends became a little more quiet during that period,” Hunt said, “but they were still supporting the library financially.”
FOL also helped paint the library’s interior and maintain its outdoor gardening at that time.
Supportive activities increased over the next two decades with a push to increase literacy. Then, in the 1990s, FOL was “really instrumental in off-setting really large budget cuts,” Hunt said.

Vandy Roadifer presents an oversized $20,000 check to Kendra Antila, who’s at right.

In 1990, the group became a nonprofit, then moved into the Senior Center in 2005 and contributed to the current library’s construction in 2009.
Since its inception, Friends has funded or provided books, shelving, a TV and VCR, carpeting, tables, chairs, a card catalog, magazine racks and more.
Now it’s aiming for the children’s room.
Antila told the Lebanon City Council in February 2019 that its existing space was too small for the children’s storytime event, which attracted 50 or more participants, along with parents, strollers and other childcare “paraphernalia.”
The council agreed at the meeting to spend $63,000 from the city’s contingency fund to help pay for the expansion plans, which included connecting the current room to the outside patio, which would be enclosed, effectively expanding the usable space from about 350 to 500 square feet.
Antila said the cost estimate for the expansion was $616,000, and, with the Friends’ sizable donation, the library now has $25,020 for the project. It took the group less than a year to raise the $20,000, according to Roadifer.
“They need lots more money,” she said. “This is just a drop in the bucket.”
The nonprofit has dealt with its own struggles. The COVID-19 pandemic nearly prompted its disbandment over the forced closures of its fundraising events. However, it has since persevered.

FOL Vice President Kristine Hunt gives an overview of the organization’s 70-year history. On the screen in the background can be seen Vandy Roadifer with some of her Reader’s Digest books carved into letters.

Roadifer, who joined the organization in 2019, introduced the sale of vintage Reader’s Digest hardcover books carved into decorative designs and other unique revenue-fueling methods. Since 2021, FOL has sold more than 650 carved books and, in just the past year, more than 10,000 books at its monthly sales.
“We came back and have gone stronger than ever,” she said. “We diversified our fundraising quite a bit, attracted new active members, forged strong reciprocal relationships with local bookstores and other Friends groups, modernized our marketing and started accepting credit cards.”
“People still love books,” she added.
And the library still loves its biggest champion.
“Throughout (the Friends’) history, the names and faces have changed, but their mission has stayed the same: to support the library to make it better for everyone,” Antila said. “We just can’t thank them enough.”