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Library counts on Friends for support

February 3, 2019 GMT

Avid readers came together to serve their community library after Hurricane Harvey.

The reorganized Friends of the Bear Creek Area Public Library provide support, raise funds and promote community awareness of the Katherine Tyra Branch Library at Bear Creek. Serving on the Friends library board is a new experience for Meg Philpot, vice president; and Delia Rodriguez and Linda Lynn, both who serve as fundraising chairs. Other board members include Betsy Irwin, president; Ashland Robertson, secretary; Carla Kaufman, book sale chair; and Linda St. Pierre, publicity chair.

The challenge of rebuilding faced the group.

“We lost a lot of books in the flood,” said Philpot. “It took a while to build it back up.

“It was important for the library to come back after Harvey,” said Philpot who also experienced the ravages of flooding as a Bear Creek resident.

“It’s such an important thing for people,” she added, noting that when Amy Campbell, branch manager, first opened the doors of the rebuilt library she was greeted by a group of people who cheered and applauded.

The library at 16719 Clay Road reopened April 30, 2018, after 9.5 inches of water flooded the building in August 2017 and caused $950,632 in damages. Pop-up libraries in a nearby church and restaurant allowed the branch to continue to provide services to the community.

The Friends group has a March book sale planned to coincide with an open house at the library and ironed out the details at a Jan. 14 meeting. Campbell said the book sale and open house will be Saturday, March 16, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will include activities for the whole family and refreshments, she added.

Early tasks tackled by the Friends included re-forming the board and updating bylaws. Lynn figures that their lack of knowledge about how a library board is supposed to operate led to creative thinking.

Rodriguez said the Friends group took part in the Cy-Fair Women’s Club Sept. 8 Shop Til You Drop Marketplace at the Berry Center to increase awareness of the group, the library and the services available.

Another example of creative thinking is themed Holiday Gift Baskets created in December. Philpot said the baskets contained books plus other small items. For example, the basket with romance novels also contained a candle. They plan to repeat the event this year.

“They have been very creative to come up with different ideas to raise funds,” said Campbell. “We been really fortunate to have them.”

As part of the 2019 fundraising calendar, Friends anticipate a silent auction in June.

Rodriguez said, “Our main goal is to fulfill library needs and we’re having fun, too.”

Campbell said those needs include the summer reading program. “One of the goals is to have additional support so we can do more community impact to counteract the summer reading slide that kids experience.”

Branches also participate in heritage programs through the Harris County Public Library. Lynn said last year the branch celebrated Hispanic Heritage. And, February focuses on African-American History. The branch will offer Feb. 6 and Feb. 13 programs.

At 1 p.m. Feb. 6, Dr. Donetta Goodall, vice president of the board of trustees of Prairie View A&M Foundation, will talk about the origins and historical importance of why African American History is spotlighted in February.

The Feb. 13 program, “Speak of Me as I Am”: A celebration of African-American contributions to Shakespeare will begin at 6:30 p.m.

“Friends try to help pay for performers, refreshments and activities to support that events,” said Campbell.

When Philpot moved to the Bear Creek area in 2014, being near a library was one of the criteria considered. “I was so impressed with all the activities provided,” she added. “I see a lot of people coming to the branch.”

Rodriguez and Lynn have been library patrons since their children were young.

The trio are avid readers with their interests ranging from “To Kill a Mockingbird” to “The Island of Lost Maps” and mysteries by P.D. James.

“I was one of those people you had to drag out of the library when it was closing,” said Philpot. “Our Dad used to read Sherlock Holmes to us.”

The Friends group also is looking for new members and interested readers can inquire at the customer service desk in the library. Philpot talked of grooming new volunteers so they can come in when the older volunteers move out. The trio agreed that it’s not good to have the same board for years because the group would get stale and forget to look for new opportunities.

“The Friends are also going to start a newsletter for members or anyone interested in finding out the happenings with the Friends,” said Campbell. “Interested people can email fobclboard@gmail.com to be added to the list or if they have general questions for the Friends.”

Rodriguez said people also can learn more about the Friends group on Facebook and through social media. “We’re there for people if they have any questions.”

Lynn said she’s encountered people who upon learning what the branch offers, say, “I didn’t know you did that.”

She also refers to a Baylor University study that says Americans are happier in states that spend more on libraries and other “public goods.” Researcher Patrick Flavin, associate professor of political science in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences,” wrote, in part, “Public goods spending makes communities ‘more livable, with more amenities.’” Visit https://tinyurl.com/ybp79yok for more information.

karen.zurawski@chron.com