Friends of the Library

Volunteer group supports FD library, offers programs to public

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Dennis Milefchik, treasurer for the Friends of the Fort Dodge Library board, looks through books that are available for sale on a cart outside the Friends bookstore recently.

For a dedicated group of people, supporting the Fort Dodge Public Library doesn’t just involve visiting the building and checking out books.

To them, it’s about volunteering and raising money for the library.

The Friends of the Fort Dodge Public Library is an all-volunteer group who raises money that helps to support the library and its operations.

Between individuals and businesses, Linda Whiting, co-president of the Friends of the Fort Dodge Public Library board, said there are upwards of 150 to 170 members.

“If you join and pay dues, you are automatically a member of the Friends of the Library,” Whiting said. “Then there is also a Friends board.”

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Linda Whiting, co-president of the Friends of the Fort Dodge Library board, looks through some DVDs that were donated to the library’s bookstore recently.

She said the board is an active, working board that has several committees.

Dennis Milefchik, treasurer for the Friends board, said all the money the Friends of the Library raises goes directly towards the library. The only expense Friends pays is the operational costs of the bookstore, located in the front lobby of the Fort Dodge Public Library.

There are a number of events that Friends supports throughout the year, Whiting said.

“Two times a year, we have a used book sale down in our big conference room that goes for four days,” she said. “And then we run our bookstore, so that’s another activity we do.”

The Friends of the Library also has a shelf at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport that provides books for travelers if they are interested in reading while on their flight.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Pat Milefchik, co-manager of the Friends of the Fort Dodge Library bookstore, places some books on the shelves.

They can also leave donations there as well.

“In April and October, we have our Brown Bag activities,” Whiting said. “Those are speakers that we bring in over the noon hour, from 12 to 1:00. It’s a variety of different kinds of speakers.”

Four events are scheduled for this April, including programs on the Fort Museum and Frontier Village, Citizen’s Central, Soldier Creek Winery and the Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center.

These programs are all open to the public, and Whiting said they are welcome to bring their own lunch.

The Friends’ primary sources of income are membership, book sales, the bookstore, as well as donations from the public.

She said sometimes people will even leave money to the Friends of the Library in their wills, and others will make donations in the name of someone they know who has died, “which is a really nice way to remember them, especially if they’re readers.”

The Friends’ board of directors is charged with overseeing the Friends of the Library. Whiting said members are elected to three-year terms, and they are allowed to serve for a second term after that, meaning someone could spend up to six years in a single office.

Milefchik said there are a couple ways to join the board.

“If somebody wants to be a board member, all they need to do is contact another board member or someone in the bookstore and say, ‘Hey, I’d like to be on your board,'” he said. “We have openings every year.”

They also have openings in the bookstore if people are interested in volunteering for that.

“All they need to do is tell someone in there they would like to volunteer to work at the bookstore,” Milefchik said.

Whiting added that there are different levels of Friends memberships. People can join for just $10 a year, or they can join for up to $500 a year.

The membership period lasts from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

She added that members vary in their involvement with Friends.

“We have a lot of people who are members that just simply financially support the Friends,” she said. “But then we have other people on the Friends board and others who are working Friends.”

Both Milefchik and Whiting have been involved with the Friends of the Library for years.

Milefchik said he joined around 2000, shortly after he retired as Fort Dodge’s city clerk and finance director.

His wife, Pat, who is currently the co-manager of the bookstore, was the one who led him to decide to join.

“When she got associated with it (the board), I retired,” Milefchik said. “And I worked in the bookstore, helped in the bookstore, and started that way.”

Eventually, board members approached him and asked if he was interested in joining.

He ended up becoming the treasurer, a position he has held for six years.

Milefchik enjoys being the treasurer, especially since it’s similar to the work he did for the city.

“I crunched numbers for the city for a number of years, and I got this treasurer’s position,” he said. “So I was able to keep crunching more numbers, which I enjoy to do.”

Whiting is a retired teacher from the Fort Dodge Community School District who began volunteering with friends in 2008.

She spent six years on the board, left for a little while, and is now back on the board.

Whiting said she joined because she loves the library.

“It’s an interest in supporting the library, encouraging reading,” she said. “And one of the things I like, especially about our bookstore, is people can come in and purchase books that are new publications for $1 or $2. It really allows all socioeconomic levels access to books, and that’s what we want. We want to put books in the hands of people.”

Both added that they really enjoy interacting with the public.

“I was a very public person, because I was right inside the front door of City Hall,” Milefchik said. “I enjoyed seeing people, greeting, talking to people, and this gives me the chance to do that.”

Whiting said she frequently sees people she knows when volunteering.

“I’m amazed at how many people come in and out of the library in a day,” she said. “We know so many of them from our public lives. I see former students, I see former parents.”

She added that many of the Friends volunteers are retired teachers like her.

“I think it’s just our love of reading and our enthusiasm for a library,” she said, then added with a laugh, “And we all know our alphabet, so therefore, they’ll let us come in and work in the bookstore and alphabetize the books.”