They could have been called “volunteers,” or “citizens” but they chose to be called “Friends.” The date was May 29, 1957 and the group had gathered to discuss a bond issue that would help finance a Cleveland Public Library expansion. Today, some 3,000 members later, they still meet to discuss bond issues, but the Friends of the Cleveland Public Library are doing so much more.
Over the years they became a nonprofit organization with a mission to “help in suitable ways to enable the Library to maintain its position as an outstanding library.” Now, nearly 50 years later, 80 percent of The Friends of the Cleveland Public Library’s membership live outside city limits. It generates dollars not only from its dues but also from the Cleveland Public Library bookshop, book sales and an annual fundraiser.
“Our goal has been to support the library in a variety of ways, typically what it can’t support with its own budget,” explains Anne Marie Warren, Friends of the Cleveland Public Library president. Since 2000, the organization has donated approximately $150,000 to the library, with the majority of funds earmarked for levy support, staff recognition and reading programs.
Its impact resounds throughout the Cleveland Public Library system. It is responsible for the implementation of Children’s Book Week and Teen Read Week, both bringing noted authors here to read to and interact with students. It also encourages child and young adult reading with its winter and summer reading club programs, which offer enticements through partnerships with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Western Reserve Historical Society, Dreamworks and Child First. More than 4,800 children ages youth to 18 participated in this year’s programs.
But the generosity of The Friends doesn’t stop there. Recognizing the importance of the library staff, the organization’s funds also help cover some administrative expenses and a staff holiday reception. Each branch also receives money to supplement funding of special projects and programs including the mobile library and youth services.