Who would have guessed, way back in 1946, that when Park Ridge resident Bessie Hayles convened several dedicated citizens and officially formed the Friends of the Library it was going to be the start of something really big! Now celebrating its 74th anniversary, the Friends of the Park Ridge Library group is one of the longest established, most active and enthusiastic Friends groups in Illinois, and the entire community of Park Ridge has benefited greatly from their many years of support.
Library Site Changes
Many things have changed in Park Ridge since the Friends of the Library held that first meeting. In 1946, the Library was housed in its original building on the corner of Prospect Avenue and Northwest Highway. The population of the town was approximately 15,000, and the Library's collection consisted almost entirely of books. Today, the Library in its current location serves patrons that call Park Ridge home, and in addition to books includes computers, DVDs, CDs, Playaways, digital books and video games (many of the newer collections were initiated with Friends' funding). But in these ever-changing times, one thing has not changed, and that is the strong support that the Library receives from its Friends.
Fulfilling Our Goals
The Friends of the Library play a vital role in the success of the Library. According to the original goals outlined by Mrs. Hayles, Dr. Orvis Jordan and Clyde Bedell, the Friends group was designed to "increase the facilities and services of the Library" and to make the Library a "cultural center of the Community." The Friends continue to achieve these goals in many different ways. Now boasting a membership of more than 800, the Friends have been very active over the years in raising funds for the Library, in sponsoring a variety of programs, and in continuing to support the Library in its efforts to meet the needs of the people of Park Ridge.
One of the main activities of the Friends is organizing and promoting two major book sales plus two paperback sales every year. These book sales have become extremely popular. Last year alone, coupled with a strong membership drive, they raised more than $25,000 for the Library. Hardworking Friends spend a lot of time and energy preparing for and working at the book sales. They handle an enormous number of hardcover books, paperbacks, CDs and other special items such as antique books and rare editions that are auctioned separately at the sale. The money raised enables the Library to purchase equipment and materials that would not otherwise be affordable. For example, using donations from the Friends, the Library has been able to purchase additional copies of popular books, DVDs, Playaways and furnishings for the Children's Department. Several programs are sponsored by the Friends each year and the Friends also help cover the cost of prizes for three popular summer reading clubs every year!
Ambassadors to the Community
Fundraising is not the only support the Friends give to the Library. The Friends were also instrumental in passing both the 1956 referendum, which provided funds to build the current Library building, and the 1975 referendum, which supported the building addition.
The Friends have always contributed to the wealth of Library programs provided through the years. Offerings from the 1940's include " I Remember," a presentation of old-time Park Ridge residents recalling the city's past and a lecture by prominent Chicago author Dr. Preston Bradley. Some of the most memorable programming has been the Friends' galas: the open house in 1979 to celebrate the new addition; the party honoring the return of the Preti painting (an oil masterpiece that had hung at the Art Institute of Chicago before coming home to the Library), and the musical gala highlighting the Library's 75th anniversary in 1988. The Friends hosted the installation of the "Williamsburg Parlor," a miniature room by E. J. Kupjack Associates, Inc. which was donated by Mrs. Robert G. Haselhuhn. "I'm very proud of our Library and its Friends' organization," commented Pat Thomas, secretary for the Friends. "It's a wonderful resource for the entire community."
Richard and Dorothy DuSold, co-presidents of the Friends of the Library and members for many years, remember how they first became interested in the organization. "Most of us who are active in the organization are great lovers of books and love spending time at the Library. We went to a book sale and got hooked! We've been involved ever since then." Join the fun yourself!