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The nonprofit group, organized in 1980, helps support library programs and services.

COURTESY PHOTO: FRIENDS OF THE ST. HELENS PUBLIC LIBRARY - One of the Little Libraries is located at Walnut Tree Park in St. Helens.With an eye toward improving library services, Friends of the St. Helens Public Library, a nonprofit organization, is constantly on the go.

Friends of the St. Helens Public Library, organized in 1980, has the mission of supporting library programs and services through their book sales and book and monetary donations.

At the library bookstore, books sell for $1.50 apiece. These books cover many genres, including fiction, nonfiction, children's books, history and westerns.

"All those monies come back to the Friends group," said Lynne Pettit, group president. "We, in turn, support the library for any needs that they may have."

Friends of the Library gets proposals from the library director, and many times they can fulfill that request.

"We've given $20,000 for the makerspace to get that started," Pettit said. "We bought a laminating machine for the library. We have bought computers and supported the internet hubs that people can check out from the library."

Pettit noted that Friends of the Library also had a major role in establishing the current library building.

"The new building was built in 1995," she said. "We had a local business owner by the name of Diane Kem who wanted the new library built with extra space for more books and activities for the community, so she donated the first million dollars."

Pettit continued, "Another million dollars was still needed to complete the new library, and after a year of fundraising efforts and donations by the community, the building was fully funded."

Friends of the Library holds two book sales a year. The most recent, held in May, raised about $660, a bit below what they had raised at a typical sale before COVID-19. The next book sale is set for Oct. 21 and Oct. 22, a Friday and Saturday.

Friends of the St. Helens Public Library has also helped establish "Little Libraries" sprinkled throughout the area.

"We've been doing that for about a good eight to 10 years," Pettit said.

One Little Library is down by the entrance to the marina, behind the Columbia County Courthouse. Another one, put in by the Friends group about three years ago, is located at Walnut Tree Park.

Little Libraries use a take-a-book, leave-a-book system that Pettit says works very well.

"We're really proud of that," she said, noting that if the Little Libraries get low on books, the Friends will re-stock them.

A third Little Library will be transitioning from the old Columbia Pacific Food Bank to the food bank's new location on Columbia Boulevard.

"I'm going to try and get a brand new Little Library made up to look similar to what the structure is of the new food bank," Pettit said, adding that Friends of the Library hopes to add a couple of new Little Libraries in the future.

"We would like to get those libraries spread out a little bit more around town, and closer to where schools might be," Pettit said.

Pettit noted volunteers are needed both for the Friends committee and for library book sales that are held twice a year.

"I've been doing this since 2019, then COVID came," she said. "We lost a few people because of that. We're in the process of trying to get more volunteers, as many organizations are."

Despite the need for volunteers, Pettit said the future appears bright for the St. Helens Public Library.

"The future is looking great," she said. "I am very happy with our new director, Suzanne Bishop. She is very engaged. She has a lot of integrity and passion. She has foresight. She can envision a lot of new things for the library, as well as keeping what we have going strong."

Pettit continued, "The staff are professional, extremely helpful and dedicated to serving the community."

If you are interested in volunteering at the library, you can visit sthelensoregon.gov/library.


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