By DENISE FEDOROW
A couple of years ago Milford Public Library Board members and administration had to make some tough decisions.
Those tough decisions included cutting some staff positions in order to operate within its budget. The budget was affected by the worsening economy and revamping of the state’s property tax system.
Because of those tough decisions then and some positive changes made afterward, today Library Director Julie Frew said the library’s budget shortfall is less than $100 this year.
“The last time our budget was cut was in 2009,” she said. “The 2013 budget was approved as requested, so that’s a lot better than some libraries.”
Frew said back in 2009 when those tough decisions had to be made they also brainstormed different ideas and two ideas that came out of those brainstorming sessions was creating a foundation and starting a Friends group.
The library partnered with the Kosciusko County Community Foundation and created a Milford Public Library Foundation, which collects donations year round. The idea is to generate enough money in the foundation to use the interest for what is needed.
Secondly, a Friends of the Milford Public Library group was created.
“There was definitely a need,” Frew said.
She’s been at the Milford Public Library since 2004 and she said there used to be a Friends group, back in the 1990s when the building was refurbished. But she said, “It kind of fell apart.”
Frew said it was a long process to re-establish the group. They had to apply for grants to pay for legal fees to establish the group as a non-profit organization and get by-laws written, and make and pay for applications to the state for approval.
“It took a good year,” she said, of the group meeting with its attorney and taking care of all the necessary paperwork. But she said they have a “very solid group” of about 20 active members.
The Friends of the Milford Public Library, which officially started in 2010, are all volunteers who believe in and work to support the library and raise funds to do the extras outside of the library’s budget.
Frew said the members help with things like paying for licensing fees to show movies for family movie days and they are a big supporter of the summer reading program. They also garner community support to help pay for the reading program prizes.
Frew said the members have chosen not to give away inexpensive toy prizes to the children and instead like to give T-shirts and paperback books.
“Last year we gave away a Kindle,” she said. “But we wouldn’t be able to do that without the great community support we receive.”
The Friends of the Milford Public Library just created a cookbook titled, “What’s Cooking in Milford” and had a lunch party on Feb. 9, where they sold more than 100 cookbooks that day. The group plans to sell the cookbooks at a community fish fry and at the upcoming Milford Fest in May, but the cookbooks are available for sale anytime at the library.
“We just ask that you have correct change,” Frew said.
She said the Friends group figured if all the cookbooks were sold, it would raise $5,000 for the Friends — money that would be used to support the library. The director said in the future they’d like to bring in speakers or if they need to replace equipment, those would be things they could go to the Friends for support.
Frew hopes the library continues to be supported by the state, the community and the Friends.
“We’re more than just a library — we’re a community center,” she said. “We have programs for patrons of all ages. I would stack our story times up against the larger libraries. If we can’t afford to put on a good program we wait until we can.”
For patrons in difficult economic times libraries are a source of not only free entertainment and information but, “if they can’t afford computers or Internet service, we’re the only source they have.”
“We’re very fortunate that we did what we did when we did it,” Frew said, noting that other libraries have had to cut weekend hours.
“It would be very sad for the state of Indiana if libraries were no longer supported,” she said.
But for now, people like the Friends of the Milford Public Library are working together to ensure patrons can enjoy quality library service for a long time.