Friends of EPL support programs and facilities while advocating for ‘intellectual freedom’

The mission of the Friends of the Elkhart Public Library is simple: to educate, enlighten and entertain the communities they serve.

finished-for-fepl_page_5This non-profit organization works to support the library through donations, grants and promotions. Sometimes they’re writing grant proposals to secure money for community programs or they’re fundraising to purchase equipment to donate to the library.

One of the main ways they raise funds is through the monthly book sale they hold in their room in the lower lever of the downtown library on the first Saturday of each month.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, the book sale will be in full swing with somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 books available for purchase. This month’s special is “buy one science fiction, true crime or children’s book, get one free.”

Whenever the library retires books, they are donated to the Friends. Volunteers identify whether Better World Books or other outlets will choose to purchase it; if not, it goes into the book sale.

“We do have a really nice area in the basement of the downtown library where we actually now have our book sales set up,” says Ken Clayborn, president of the Friends. “Since the renovation, we have an easier time. We don’t have to drag the books out every time.”

The funds raised from the book sale get donated back to the library in some form, whether it’s equipment that’s been purchased by the Friends or grants for new programs.

We also advocate for intellectual freedom,” Clayborn says, “and we make sure that libraries are as free to people as possible.”

While the book sales are the main fundraisers, the Friends have other ways of raising funds for the library. Last fall, they held a trivia night at the Knights of Columbus / Elkhart Columbus Club, and they’re hoping to do something similar this fall, though no plans have been finalized.

But beyond those physical fundraisers, the Friends are looking for other ways to get funds. They’re looking outside of the box, Clayborn says, and one of those newer ways is through writing grant proposals to send to different organizations with money to give.

At least we’re trying to think outside of the box,” Clayborn said. “Those are the kinds of things we look forward to down the road, and we’ve got a group that I think is willing to do things outside of the box in order to generate funds.”

Aside from supporting the library in the day to day functions, the Friends are also looking toward the future. As the library is in the process of redeveloping their 3-5 year plan, the Friends want to make sure they’re on the same page.

“I want to make sure that the Friends are well positioned to maintain themselves for a long time,” Clayborn said. “One of the things I feel good about is I think we’ll be able to position ourselves to work with the library to make sure our goals are congruent with their goals.”

Clayborn is hopeful about a long-term future for the Friends of the Elkhart Public Library.

“I hope,” he says, “that I can get them to where they need to be and point them in the right direction.”

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