In an effort to draw new members and raise cash for library programming, the Friends of the Portage Public Library group has decided to turn its annual meeting into one big party.
From 3:30 to 6 p.m. Oct. 14, the library will host Pizzazz! – a first-ever, Friends-sponsored event that will feature live music from the all-women a capella group Cheddar Chicks, as well as food and drinks and raffle items. Raffle items are now available for purchase at the library for $2 and can be purchased all the way up to 5 p.m. on the night of the event.
“We made an effort to get items that would please a variety of people,” said Friends President Jane Considine. Those items include $250 in cash, a 6-foot plush tiger, season tickets to Portage Center for the Arts, gift baskets, a Samsung tablet, a canoe and several other items. Participants do not need to be present to win.
After the party, Friends members will elect officers and vote on the group’s annual budget.
“They’ve really added quite a lot to this to make it a fun, open house – more so than just a meeting,” said Library Director Jessica Bergin.
Friends of the Portage Public Library, established in 1988, has 180 members. Individual membership requires an annual $10 donation, while families pay $20 and businesses pay $50.
The group’s annual budget averages about $12,000 – $7,000 of which is raised in the group’s annual July book sales. The rest of the money comes in donations, membership and miscellaneous efforts, such as its Hot Reads shelf located at the entrance of the library, where Friends donate books to be sold for $3.
Friends support the library in three programming categories: children, teen and adults. The group pays for performers and supplies, as well as a quarterly newsletter. The group in the summer received a donated spinet (a small piano), for which Friends paid for the moving and its tuning. The piano has been placed on a cart, allowing for easy movement between the teen and children’s areas.
“We’d like to increase membership because we do occasionally call on our members to help us with something that’s going on,” Considine said.
Bergin noted two new offerings coming up for the Portage library.
A walking program will be held through the end of the year, as weather permits, taking residents along the Levee Trail for stretches and aerobic exercises, all of which can be done “at your own pace,” Bergin said. The program occurs at 9 a.m. each Wednesday and Friday.
“Create at the Library” begins this week as an opportunity for people to meet with other patrons who are undertaking creative projects, whether they’re drawing, painting, knitting or anything else. “This is basically open studio time for people to work together,” Bergin said, “but it’s not a class, and there’s no fee. It’s just a time for creative people to get together and work on their projects.” The program will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of each month.
Bergin, who is from Kansas – hired as the director in June 2016 – said her time in Portage has so far been highlighted by the generosity of its residents. “I’ve just been so impressed with how much this community comes together for all kinds of causes and events.
Bergin said she was impressed by residents’ efforts to revitalize the downtown area and improve the appearance and use of the buildings.
“I’d say the library serves a lot of roles for a lot of different people,” Bergin said of her focus as director. “We do a lot of early childhood literacy education for kids – and we make it fun for kids and their families.
Bergin noted the importance of offering several recreational programs for adults and seniors.
“We try to have something for everybody and make it a destination for anyone – a place to socialize, a place to learn and really get help for resources, if you need them,” she said.