Local Organization a Longtime Friend to the Santa Maria Community

For almost four decades, the Friends of the Santa Maria Library has been providing crucial funding and support to the Santa Maria Public library.

“Our community has many families in temporary housing situations, and sharing inadequate study and work space,” explained Jeni Newell, President of the Friends organization. “For them, the library is often the only place where they can use these free resources and find quiet space for homework.”

And it is thanks in part to the local non-profit that many of these services remain free and open to the public. The Friends of the Santa Maria Public Library is an independent, non-profit organization of volunteers dedicated to raising money to supplement the library’s annual budget, and to advocating for the library’s role in the community. Working continually since its founding in the early 1980’s, volunteers have made the Friends a force for improved literacy and education in Santa Maria.

In its nearly four-decade history, the Friends has met most of the city librarian’s requests for materials and programs, which last year totaled to an impressive $39,000.

Currently, funds raised come from a variety of efforts by the local non-profit, including:

The sale of books and gift items in our Library Shop, located off the lobby. Books donated to the library by the public will often be sold here, along with jewelry and other gift items made by local artisans. The Shop also offers a unique assortment of stationery and greeting cards.

On-line sales of rare or exceptionally attractive donated books offered nationally through Amazon.

Annual dues of $10 for an individual or $15 for a couple or family. Dues for businesses, always advertised quarterly in the Newsletter, is $50 per year.

The single largest Friends’ endeavor is the three-week long Painted Chair Raffle, held at the Town Center Mall.

“During the Sixth Annual Event last spring, the Friends netted more than $9,000,” explained Joyce Hall, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the Santa Maria Public Library.

The Painted Chair event is so successful because of the participation of the local community.  Local artists paint donated chairs and other small pieces of furniture they choose, each piece reflecting a special book or literary genre. Members of the business community, groups, families, and individuals donate $100 to sponsor these amazing, artistic chairs. And visitors to the Friends’ Painted Chair store at the Mall can buy tickets for $1 each to take a chance on winning that very special chair.

“Each year, between 40 and 50 items are entered,” Hall said. “Members of our organization and other supporters work tirelessly to welcome visitors to this event. And sponsors are put in the spotlight during this three-week fundraiser to acknowledge their support of the Santa Maria Public library.”

In addition to funding books, programs, films, technology, furniture, and services that the library budget can’t provide, the Friends have also worked to direct donated books to their highest possible purpose.

“The donated books that aren’t needed by the library for the public to use are redirected to the Library Shop,” explained Hall. “If they aren’t sold in our Amazon Store or the Shop itself, adult books are given to the V.A. Santa Maria Clinic or the Federal Correctional Institution in Lompoc. Children’s books are given to the Santa Maria Police Department to help the officers make friends with children who are accompanying their parents on police business.”

It is because of the efforts of the local organization that all of the local book donations get into the hands of someone who can get the most use out of them.

While funding library-sponsored programs is a main purpose of Friends of the Santa Maria Public Library, they also sponsor a variety of events. Free programs for the public have included musical groups, magicians, storytellers, naturalists, and historical presentations. “Activities like these help to draw more people to the library, and encourage residents to explore the unique benefits of this facility,” explained Hall.

Lastly, members of the Friends have written grants to secure funding for special needs for Youth Services and Adult Services at the Library.

“Over the past ten years, approximately $90,000 has been raised by grants,” Hall said. “And, thankfully, the Friends has been the charitable organization of choice for a number of generous gifts and bequests from members of this library-loving community.”

With 225 members, the Friends of the Santa Maria Library will still always welcome more. To join or learn more, your can visit the Library Shop, just off the Santa Maria Public Library lobby, at 421 S. McClelland St. You can also visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/The-Library-Shop-Santa-Maria-Public-Library-116676048377488/ or email the_library_shop@live.com.