Fun and fund-raising: That’s what friends are for

Cassey Kavars, left, and Faith Blaskovich show some of the items they’ve packed into totes that are nearly ready for check out at the Elkader Public Library.

Believing that a library should be more than a place to check out books, Cassey Kavars joined Friends of the Elkader Public Library several years ago, hoping to help the group expand its programming. She soon was elected president of the group, a volunteer position she’s capably managed for six or seven years.

“I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been president,” she recently admitted. “That’s not important anyway. Here’s what’s important: The Friends have worked hard to make the library a place for information and fun, and I believe we’ve succeeded.”

Attendance numbers support Kavars claim: More than 60 attended a first-ever girls’ tea last spring, exceeding the projected attendance of 20 guests. Numbers of youngsters in the summer reading program has hit record levels. The annual Chocolate Fest continues to draw ever-growing crowds. Speakers are giving presentations to standing-room-only crowds.

“When (Chad Lewis) spoke here a few years ago, over 100 people came to hear him,” Kavars said. “It’s great to see that sort of turn-out.”

Lewis name will be back at the library on October 4, talking about haunted places in Iowa. His presentation begins at insert time.

The Friends of the Elkader Public Library was incorporated in 2005 with the goal of raising funds to library programs and needs that weren’t getting funded. The group is open to anyone, Individual memberships are $15 and family memberships are $25.

Friends meet monthly to assess current efforts and to do brainstorm new ones. Members aren’t generous just with their time, either; they often donate whatever’s needed to make an upcoming event successful. For example, they provided the food for a city employee appreciation brunch held last spring and donated food, decorations and table favors for the girls’ tea.

“Everybody knows that you come to the library to get books, and that’s important, of course,” Kavars said. “But we want people to know that they can come here to meet friends, have fun and maybe find something really useful that they never expected to find at the library or anywhere, for that matter.”

The Friends latest project was brought forward by one of their newest members, Faith Blaskovich, a former librarian and recent Clayton County transplant. She suggested filling plastic tote tubs with a variety of items centered on a theme. For example, Kavars has filled two tubs with dress-up clothes—one of boys and another for girls. Blaskovich has filled a “farm and garden” tote with packets of seeds, small toys and a puzzle. She’s finishing a bibliography on farm and garden books. Her tote, along with six or seven others that are being filled by Friends, soon will be available for checkout.

“These are ideal for grandparents or others who have young visitors and need some age-appropriate items,” Blaskovich explained. She added that some of the items in the tote are to be used while others need to be returned. An inventory on the inside lid of each tote provides directions. Totes are designed for toddlers and youngsters through grades three of four.

Information on Friends is available at the library. Kavars urged anyone interested in literacy, information or fun to join.

“Our library is such an important part of the community, and this group is important to the library,” she said. “It’s one of the best groups I’ve been involved with.”

By Pam Reinig, Register Editor

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