Edith Wheeler Memorial Library gets by with a little help from its Friends

Friends of Edith Wheeler Memorial Library members sort books for a sale on Feb. 5. Pictured from left is Carolyn Aucello, Co-Treasurer John Fuller, Susan Koneff, President Lorraine Riedel and Linda Loud.

MONROE, CT — Five volunteers sorted through boxes of hard and soft cover books on a table inside a room off Edith Wheeler Memorial Library’s children’s library Tuesday morning, while preparing for a book sale on Saturday, Feb. 5.

The volunteers are members of Friends of Edith Wheeler Memorial Library, a nonprofit organization that enhances library programs and helps pay for equipment, furniture, and some facility improvements, outside the town’s budget.

“Libraries are the most important resource in a town that doesn’t cost anything,” said Susan Koneff, a member of Friends.

“The collections, presentations and activities at the library are available to a diverse public at no charge,” said Director Nicole Cignoli. “Although the library is funded by the town of Monroe, it is thanks to the support of and collaboration with the Friends of the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library that assists with funding collections, cultural passes, and programs as well as unexpected expenses.”

Aside from books, DVDs, music CDs and use of computers and equipment in the Makerspace, Lorraine Riedel, who has been the Friends’ president for the past 14 years, said Edith Wheeler Memorial Library serves as a warming center during major storms with power outages and as a place to recharge electronics and have access to wifi.

“Some people think a library is a waste of time, but any town that doesn’t have a library doesn’t have a soul in my opinion,” said John Fuller, co-treasurer of Friends.

Friends of Edith Wheeler Memorial Library raises money through membership fees, donations and creative fundraisers. For example, in November of 2019, the organization set up a mini golf course inside the library, raising funds from businesses, individuals and organizations like the Monroe Historical Society who sponsored holes.

Fuller estimates that Friends contributes an average of $20,000 per year to library programs for all ages.

Friends subsidizes the purchase of books, media materials and equipment, and even enabled the library to install new flooring one year. Its contributions allow library patrons free or reduced admission to area museums and attractions, and makes children’s book discussion groups and programming, family concerts and evening events possible.

The library has 53 computer stations, a baby grand piano, kitchen appliances, arts and crafts materials, yoga, food and beverages at its cafe, toys and furnishing in its children’s room, through the Friends of Edith Wheeler Memorial Library’s efforts.

Book sales year round

John Fuller, left, sorts through books with, from right, Lorraine Riedel and Susan Koneff.

Friends of Edith Wheeler Memorial Library runs book sales during all library hours, which are from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursdays and from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Collections of donated books, music CDs, DVDs and audio books, games and puzzles are on display in the Friend’s room (ask the children’s librarians to let you in) and on carts upstairs.

On Saturday, Feb. 5, a book sale will be held in the William J. Ehlers Meeting Room in the library’s lower level from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

“It’s geared toward teaching and learning,” Koneff said, adding the sale could attract teachers, para-educators and people who teach their children at home.

Though a wide variety of books and materials will be sold, Koneff said workbooks on all subjects for various grade levels will be included in the collection.

Fiction books will be $2 and up, nonfiction as marked, trade paperbacks will be $2 and up and mass market paperbacks will sell for four-for-a-dollar. Patrons can buy two CDs for a dollar and DVDs and audio books will be one dollar each.

Children’s hardcover books will be $1 or as marked and children’s paperback books will be 50 cents or as marked. Games and puzzles will be as marked.

Masks are mandatory at the book sale.

Friends needs new blood

Linda Loud, left, and Carolyn Aucello organize the collection for Friends of Edith Wheeler Memorial Library’s book sale.

Friends of Edith Wheeler Memorial Library needs new members to continue to thrive.

“We’re older. We’re in our seventies,” Riedel said. “We need new blood with new ideas to raise money and take over eventually.”

Of Friends’ 110 members, only around five or six are active, according to Riedel.

Membership forms can be picked up at the front desk of the library or downloaded on the library’s website, filled out and mailed with a check or brought to the library. Aside from paying an annual due, members are welcome to volunteer their time for events, come to the meetings and to become a committee member.

“The library depends on the support of the Friends to keep it running,” Cignoli said. “The Friends of The Edith Wheeler Memorial Library are always looking for volunteers to help with fundraising and the book sale. If you are interested in volunteering, leave your name and phone number with a library staff member at the circulation desk, and a member of the Friends will contact you.”

Members can be as active as they want to. Riedel said there is no pressure to commit to anything.

“We all have a love affair with books,” Fuller said of being a member. “At five years of age I remember reading the Doctor Dolittle series. In all the years I’ve lived, I never didn’t have a book in progress.”

Fuller said he likes how Friends gets children into books and reading through the library programs it supports.

“My mother took me to the library,” Koneff said of growing up on Long Island. “That was my highlight of the week.”

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