Volunteers Are Best Friends of Public Library

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising Group: Friends of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Friends of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County has been around in its current form since about 2003. But volunteer groups supporting the system’s libraries have been around since the 1960s, says Deb Liptak, library development director.

“At that time, we probably had 20 Friends groups,” Liptak says.

Liptak points to a few factors that led to the change: the decisions to form a 501(c)3 and open a bookstore based at the Poland Branch, as well as offering each branch the chance to form its own committee.

Today the group has about 600 members. It typically raises between $25,000 and $45,000 annually, nominator Susan Berny says.

Each branch committee hosts its own fundraisers, Liptak says.

The Friends group also staffs the bookstore at Poland, which sells previously read and donated books. The group pays rent for the bookstore space. Individual branches also have carts stocked by the volunteer group where patrons can purchase books.

“It’s a big thing for the community that books are available and books they can afford,” says Marlene Valvus of Boardman, who joined the group a year ago.

Valvus tells how three sisters visiting from England recently stopped at the library and bought stacks of books on gardening and cooking for which they lacked access back home.

The Poland library bookstore also is the base for the group’s online operation.

“I’ve got over 2,000 listings online,” says volunteer Cathy Giorgetti, who oversees web sales.

Giorgetti, who lives in Canfield, has been with the volunteer group about 13 years, having moved to the area to be with family after retiring. “I needed something to do. I’m a reader,” she says.

Maria Bosio of Poland, another volunteer at the bookstore, has been with the Friends about 12 years. Although she has lived here 50 years, she didn’t realize the bookstore existed until a friend told her about it. Her main interest is books for children, she says.

“So many kids do not realize what they can learn from books. It’s so hard for me to understand why people don’t want to read,” Bosio says.

Most of the money raised by the Friends goes to support children and youth initiatives, Liptak says. Funds also have gone toward library capital projects.

Pictured at top: Friends of the library include Marie Bosio, seated, Cathy Giorgetti, Deb Liptak and Cathy Giorgetti.