1974 - Line for the first Friends of the Library book sale.
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Friends Established 1972
“This year will be remembered as the year of the budget cut.”
So begins the 1972-1973 “Report of the President” in the Annual Report of the Library Association of Portland (LAP), the governing body of Multnomah County Library from 1864 to 1990. LAP President Warren W. Braley was referring to a threatened $800,000 cut to the library’s operating budget, which would have forced 12 neighborhood libraries to close.
Citizens strongly protested. They formed two organizations to work for improved support for the library - Keep Our Books Open (KOBO) and Friends of the Library.
That budget cut was averted after the Federal Revenue Sharing Act was implemented in October 1972, and KOBO and the Friends successfully lobbied the county commission to use the funds for library support. Since then, the Friends have lobbied for support for the library countless other times, and particularly during subsequent levy campaigns.
The First Book Sale
The support from the Friends has played a vital role in the library’s well-being. The Friends first book sale, held at Central Library on Aug. 3, 1974, raised $1,500, part of which was donated to help fund the May 1976 three-year serial levy. That levy passed by 69.76 percent.
Supporting the Library
In addition to providing funding for levy campaigns, Friends of the Library has consistently supported the library in other ways. In 1979, the Friends, together with the Library Advisory Board and county commissioners Gladys McCoy and Earl Blumenauer, successfully lobbied the state legislature to pass Senate Bill 31, which provided--for the first time in state history--direct per capita support for libraries through the state’s general fund. This was probably the most important library legislation approved since 1901, when the first library law was enacted to authorize the establishment and maintenance of public libraries, and to provide for their control and protection. Multnomah County Library currently gets about $90,000 each year from state per capita funding.
Friends of the Library has also long been involved in supporting special programs and events that publicize library services. The Friends provided funding and/or volunteer help during the 1974 Chautauqua system wide celebration, the 1980 Library Week Check Out program, many Check It Out celebrations in the early 1990s, and many new and renovated library opening celebrations from 1996 through 2004. These events have helped keep the library in the public eye.
Helping Start New Services
Friends support has also helped the library begin a number of new services. Money from the Friends funded records for the first children’s record collection (1978), film projectors for branch programs (1978), and the first collection of videos for circulation to the public (1985). That same year, the Friends provided funding for the purchase of equipment for the Dialog online information system - the library’s first electronic reference service. The library’s first DVD collections debuted in all library agencies in 2000, another Friends gift. More recently, Friends of the Library has sponsored Pageturners, providing funds for multiple copies of the books featured in library book discussion groups.
A Vital Role
Throughout its history, Friends of the Library has played a vital role in the well-being of Multnomah County Library It has funded enhanced services, helped spread the message that libraries are important, and provided financial and volunteer support during nine levy elections. The Friends signed up to be the first to provide financial support to the political action committee for the tenth library levy election and plan to continue their support in future campaigns for the library.