Focus on Friends - Southwest Regional Friends of the Library
In 2000, the Southwest Regional Library opened its doors to a very appreciative and excited community in Pembroke Pines. As part of the vision planning for the new libraries built with 1999 bond dollars, this 78,000 square foot building was designed with space off the lobby set aside for a gift shop and Friends office.
A new Friends group had to be formed. Within a month or so of opening the library, information sheets on the Friends of the Library in English and Spanish were available and placed at various locations throughout the building. The challenge was identifying people who wanted to become involved in forming this new group and supporting the activities of the library through the Friends.
Southwest Regional Library was a new library in a new community, with a large multi-cultural population. It was created to be the library for the Pembroke Pines Charter High School. The Academic Village on which the library is located also includes a Broward College Pines Center and FIU classes on campus.
With a huge demand for service in this geographic area, the library could not wait to begin programming. At this time, the generosity of other Friends groups provided the Regional Library with startup funding to allow the library to plan programs for children and youth, and to host meetings.
The library staff tried holding informational meetings at various times and on various days, including morning, afternoon, evenings, weekdays and Saturdays. After nearly a year of experimenting with days and times, the group settled into a weekday morning meeting.
During this time, the founding members were given information on the mission of the library, the role of its various programs and services. Staff and representatives from the umbrella group provided direction on the design of the bylaws and after a year, the bylaws were passed, nominations were made and the first officers were elected to serve the Southwest Regional Friends of the Library. The bylaws provided for representation on the Friends board from the Charter High School and Broward Community College.
The Southwest Regional Friends of the Library have ongoing book fairs and two larger fairs, one held during the Storybook Festival in the fall, which they also help to support, and the other during the month of March. The money raised by dues, fairs, the coffee shop, donations and other events help to support programming, advocacy and staff development.
The Southwest Regional Friends of the Library host a Holiday Appreciation Luncheon with entertainment for Friends and volunteers and an employee appreciation luncheon annually. They also support a Family Movie of the Month, Cinemateque, a film club which meets to view and discuss a film every month, and ongoing youth, teen, and literacy programs, as well as programs focused on health, books, authors, and finance. They have supported special programs such as the Human Rights Video Project, The Sixties, a Film History of America's Decade of Crisis and Change, and the Da Vinci Code Symposium.
This group also operates a coffee and snack shop, which is truly appreciated by the hundreds of teenagers who come into the library each day after school from the Pembroke Pines Charter High School.
The group has purchased equipment and furniture for the library such as a DVD player for the Cinemateque program, a flat screen TV for the teen room, a moveable audiovisual display rack, and patio furniture for the outside balconies.
The Southwest Regional Friends of the Library recognize the important mission of the library to reach out to all members of the community to provide a place where anyone can come for free programs and information. They support the English Café, a weekly program for individuals wanting to improve or practice English. They have gone to English Café classes and invited the students to become involved in the Friends group. In addition, they support Citizenship classes and El Club, a program for individuals who wish to improve their conversational Spanish.
The Friends play an advocacy role. They send staff to the American Library Association, Public Library Association and Florida Library Association conferences. They have joined FOLUSA. Libraries in Broward are as successful as they are today thanks to the efforts of the Friends, from 1963, until the present. The Southwest Regional Friends of the Library group has made a significant contribution over the past 10 plus years that they have been operational.
Opportunities for involvement in Friends groups exist at most Broward County Library branches. For information about other Friends groups, contact the Friends of the Broward County Library at 954-357-7771.
Remember: Good Friends make Great Libraries!