May 18, 2008 — The Friends of the Florence Williams Public Library have been doing what friends do for each other — giving support, time and help when needed. This circle of friends shares a love of books and libraries and promotes reading in the community.
"The Friends' role is to help people to understand the importance of reading, what we offer and that the library is the center of culture," said Zoraida Jacobs, secretary for the group.
The Friends was organized in 1977 and has been very active through the years, providing events such as historical and cultural lectures and poetry reading.
"The goal has always been to support the staff and programs," said Sylvania Golphin, treasurer and one of the founding members.
Until recently, the membership had dwindled, said Maggie Mongeau, president of the Friends. But that seems to be turning around; the organization now has 63 members.
"Since Maggie took over last year it has been like a whirlwind, with increased membership and visibility," Jacobs said.
Membership dues — from $3 for junior members to $50 for corporate membership — help with outreach, promotion, programs, and refreshments at functions and staff appreciation luncheons. The Friends meet at the Library in Christiansted on the second Saturday of every month.
In November 2007, the group helped support the national traveling exhibit entitled "Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America." (See "Opening of Alexander Hamilton Exhibit Draws Crowd to Library.")
The Friends also help sponsor lectures by local scholars and experts on matters of regional interest.
They also represent the library and promote reading at community events such as Christmas is Spoken Here at the St. George Village Botanical Gardens, jump-ups and the Agricultural Fair. You can always find the Friends sponsoring a book sale with reasonably priced used books for everyone.
"Seeing children descend on the books at a sale is like kids in a candy store," Mongeau said.
They also help out by garnering funds from grants for book collections and programs that support the intellectual growth of the community. An extensive Spanish collection also was dedicated in October 2007 with their help. (See "Hispanic Collection Dedicated at Williams Library.")
During National Library Week in April, the Friends helped with a number of activities, including a "Teen Picks Review" with local youngsters reviewing books from the teen and young adult collection. The reviews will be posted on cards to help teens find books they might be interested in.
"We have an excellent teen and young adult literature section that we like to focus on," Mongeau said.
The Friends also collaborate with the St. Croix Library Association, the Department of Education's "Reading Campaign," the St. Croix Reading Council and the Professional Librarians of St. Croix.
"We want people in the community to know all that we offer," said Jacobs. "And that getting a library card is a passport to knowledge."
To find out more about the Friends of the Florence Williams Public Library call 773-5715 or 772-0315 for the Friends at Athalie Petersen Library in Frederiksted.
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