By Brenda Owen

Daily Journal

Lee County Library gets by with a little help from its friends.

Organized in 1977, Friends of the Lee County Library is a group of volunteers who raise funds for the library. Marty Ramage, president of Friends, said with the recent allocation of $20,000 for a new computer system, Friends of the Lee County Library has donated almost $100,000 in funds to the library.

“We raise money to buy equipment and other items not in the library’s budget,” Ramage said.

Through the years, the group has donated money for such items as copying machines, microfilm readers, typewriters, projectors, a fire and security system and more.

Today, the organization is made up of about 450 members, a fact that delights Ann Walasek, first president of the organization and now a member of board, who remembers when the group was officially formed.

“It was one of those ideas whose time had come,” Walasek said. “Our first fundraiser was the book sale which continues today.”

The success of the annual book sale inspired group members to open a gift shop five years ago, with the library providing space, so that donated books could be sold year round.

Group treasurer Bill Lyle said the shop, possibly the first of its kind in the state, accepts donations of both paperback and hardback books, encyclopedias, magazines and other materials. The items are then sold at bargain prices ranging from 25 cents to $3 for most books and magazines, and occasionally up to $10 for “coffee table” books.

“Our prices are very reasonable,” Lyle said. “Some people come in and buy our books, read them and donate them back to the gift shop.”

About 50 volunteers work two-hour shifts every other week manning the gift shop, and Lyle said more volunteers are always needed.

Some of the things volunteers do: sort books, help with the annual book sale, shelve books, clerical work, cook for bake sale, make telephone calls, help with mailings, work in gift shop, present preschool story hour.

The Friends group also sponsors “Lunching With Books,” with a variety of book reviews featured, every fourth Wednesday. Attendees may purchase a catered lunch of sandwiches, dessert and drinks. Volunteers are needed to review books for the luncheons.

“We also need people to provide programs for elementary and teen-aged students, exhibit collections and whatever else we can do to support the library,” Lyle said.

Annual fees for individual membership in Friends of the Lee County Library range from $1 for students to $1,000 for grand benefactors. Fees for clubs are $10 per year and corporate memberships begin at $100 for a regular membership to $10,000 for grand benefactors.

For more information or to obtain a membership, write Friends of the Lee County Library, P. O. Box 1042, Tupelo, MS 38863, call 841-9027, or stop by the gift shop in the Lee County Library.

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