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Library Friends Raise $20K for Expansion, Library Hours Reduced

Digital drawing of library expansion
A digital rendering shows what a planned expansion for the children’s section would look like. Courtesy of Lebanon Public Library

The Lebanon Friends of the Library saw record sales during their past three book sales, benefiting the Lebanon Public Library for its future children’s room expansion.

According to LFL President Vandy Roadifer, in March they donated $20,000 to the library, matching last year’s 70th anniversary donation of the same amount. The projected budget of the expansion is $600,000. The library needs to raise at least half of that in order to qualify for government grants, and the fundraising page currently sits at a little more than $45,000, just 7% of the goal.

“We have a long way to go,” Library Director Kendra Antila said. “But, you know, we’re just kind of playing the long game there. The Friends have really made a huge difference.”

Storytelling is currently held in the library’s children’s section but, said Roadifer, it’s open to the public. A “dedicated” area for children would not only provide more room for events, but would help separate that space, leaving the rest of the library peaceful for patrons seeking quiet time.

“It’s really important that we try to raise money and get this children’s room done,” Roadifer said. “The Bird Man (was) the big kickoff performer for the summer reading program. Yesterday, they had over 300 kids show up.”

Aside from the monthly book sales, Roadifer said LFL fundraises through other avenues, such as selling books online, donation portals, silent auctions, art contests and, more recently, a newly-introduced author fair and student art contest.

“We’re just giving the children an opportunity to create art and show their work for their library,” Roadifer explained. “We put those designs on RedBubble and T-Public to sell T-shirts or mugs or backpacks, all sorts of items.”

According to Roadifer, last year’s art contest winner, 9-year-old Autumn made art that has resulted in more than 30 sales. While they only had three artists enter the contest last year, Roadifer said she hopes they’ll have more this year. Winners receive an item of their choice with their design on it, and a $10 book sale certificate. The deadline to enter is Aug. 3.

LFL also sells carved books, which have raised more than $8,000 across 970 sales.

Antila credited Roadifer with “modernizing” the group, as well as coming up with the idea of the carved books, which repurposed old Reader’s Digest issues that were taking up space in the library.

“The Friends are amazing; they’ve been working hard doing some really, really fantastic fundraising efforts,” Antila said. “I’ve worked at the library for 22 years; we’ve always had a Friends group but, during COVID, a lot of the original members kind of stopped volunteering, and then over time, just never came back.”

According to Antila, Roadifer was a library volunteer before stepping up as LFL president, and has been a “driving force” ever since.

“Prior to (Roadifer), it was cash only; she got them set up so they could take cards,” Antila explained. “She introduced lots of other avenues as far as fundraising with the carved books. I don’t even know where she came across that idea.”

Antila said the carved books have been a family effort too, as Roadifer recruited her parents to help, with her dad carving the books with his saw.

“Now she’s got her friends and her parents officially volunteering as Friends,” Antila said, “but for quite some time they were just kind of in the background, silent helpers doing things for (Roadifer).”

Antila said that, in the middle of the Summer Reading Program, the library has plenty of fun things for families and kids to do despite budget cuts and upcoming reduced hours.

“The City of Lebanon is in the midst of a budget crunch, like many cities are, so (in July) we will be decreasing our hours of service to the public,” Antila explained. “We have had some staff positions cut, and decreasing hours, and that’s very cyclical.”

During her 20 years working with the library, Antila said she’s seen this cycle many times.

“We’ll be in kind of a down year coming up,” Antila said, “but our goal is to maintain children’s programming, especially since we get huge turnouts for (that) and not quite as much for adults.”

As of July, the library will close on Fridays – already their slowest and shortest day – as well as shaving off an evening hour on Wednesdays, bringing their weekly public-serving hours down from 43 to 37. While it would have been easier to close on Mondays instead, Antila said they tend to get a lot of Albany and Sweet Home library patrons that day, because those libraries are closed on that day.

“We have a really dedicated group of staff members here,” Antila said. “They care a lot about the public. I’m really fortunate to have worked with all these people for so many years. I value them and how much they care about the community. I’m really, really proud to work here, work for the city, to be a good organization.”