For thousands of years, libraries have been a staple community institution where people could gather and seek out information. Today, the Calvert County Library system continues the tradition, providing central hubs that provide not only books, but an endless list of programs and services as well. This week’s Friday Focus organization, the Calvert Library Foundation, plays a vital role in supporting the Library’s mission by providing additional funding. We spoke with Scott Deacon, Vice President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, who shared his thoughts on the many ways the Library benefits the local community.
Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)
A: Calvert Library Foundation is an enabling organization whose stated purpose is to improve public library services and facilities in Calvert County, Maryland. The Foundation accomplishes this purpose by securing non-government funding from residents of Calvert County and its surrounding counties in Maryland, businesses and private sources. These funds are used to purchase resources that will make significant improvements to libraries and their programs not otherwise obtainable through governmental or other institutional funding. In 2013, the Foundation provided needed funds to the Library for furnishings and for staff training to improve services for County residents. We also conducted a capital campaign and provided more than $225,000 for the outfitting of one branch. Funds provided by the Foundation help bridge the difference between the Calvert Library being good and being GREAT!
The Calvert Library is comprised of four separate branches throughout Calvert County, Maryland. In 2013, the library was able to provide the more than 88,500 county residents and residents of nearby counties with a complete range of library services and employed 54 full-time equivalent employees. They served nearly 600,000 customers in-person, circulated the 265,864 items in their physical collection 1,121,505 times and answered more than 145,954 reference questions. Their website saw 186,465 unique visitors and the webpage was viewed 904,867 times. The computers were used 141,507 times. Additionally, outside groups used the meeting rooms 3,471 times.
Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?
A: I do not think I have just one “moment”. Actually, every time I go into one of the library facilities I get a sense of satisfaction. You can almost feel the wonderment of those who are gaining from all the library has to offer. When I grew up, we lived in an area that was so rural we did not have a library facility. Rather, we had an old bus that served as a mobile library and brought books to our area once a week. So when I go into the library facilities, I look at all the patrons who are benefitting from its very presence and I appreciate all of those who made and continue to make that reality. For example, the Foundation provided a large flat-screen television in the meeting room which has become a mainstay for presentations, workshops, the cinema café movie nights, and is used extensively by community organizations on a daily basis. Also, the circulating video games the foundation provided are very popular. Finally, the Foundation has provided for children’s activity cubes, additional computers for patrons and staff, comfortable library furnishings and foreign language CDs and DVDs.
Q: Why is the Library important?
A: Calvert Library is a hub for members of our community to connect and interact across all demographic groups. The Library hosts a range of activities and social programs that engage our minds and provide opportunities to exchange ideas with other people. It has numerous partnering agencies (College of Southern Maryland, public schools, Head Start, Workforce Investment Board’s Mobile Job Center, etc.) where its programs complement and reinforce theirs. The library provides opportunities to bring diverse segments of the population together to have civil discourse about matters of importance. Their “Choose Civility” programming is just one of many the library offers to address needs in our community.
It is also an important economic equalizer, providing equal access to technology, information and lifelong learning opportunities to all who wish to develop both professionally and personally. It is a meeting place for those seeking to improve their English-speaking skills. Students and job seekers flock to the library to use computers for schoolwork, research, job searches and many other things.
It also makes green sense (environmental, not just dollars) to have reference materials, databases, literature and media in one place for people to access. Having hard copies to share across a community and online copies of documents shared by thousands of people in our county saves trees from being harvested and waters from being polluted. The Library provides timely, accurate responses to questions. Its inter-library loan system connects people to the information they seek – all these services are provided free of charge to everyone.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Managing technology. We need to assist the library in staying relevant to their patrons, young and old alike. We also need to help the library stay abreast of the emerging technology as it relates to providing access to entertainment and knowledge. There is a move toward having Maker-spaces in libraries where computers are programmed to manufacture 3D items. By providing cutting edge equipment such as this, the Library helps to ignite people’s imagination and foster the science, technology, engineering and math skills that make America competitive.
Q: Are there any upcoming events?
A: We have an awards dinner and fundraising event scheduled for the evening of February 22 at the Rod and Reel restaurant in Chesapeake Beach. The honoree is Kitty Hurrey, who was Director of Southern Maryland Regional Library Association from 1968-1995 and simultaneously the Director of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Libraries. She was a visionary in her field. Starting out on the bookmobile in 1963, Kitty led the Tri-County library system into automation in 1992. She was a community leader in numerous areas, pioneering as the first female President of Calvert County’s Board of Education, volunteering with the Scouts and serving on the Republican Central Committee.
Q: How can people get involved with your organization?
A: Please visit our website at http://calvertlibraryfoundation.com and look for activities and opportunities to join the foundation in its endeavors. I should point out that the Calvert Library Foundation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and as such, your contribution is tax–deductible to the extent allowed by law. Please contact us if you would like to become a member of the Library Foundation Board or if you would like to assist and/or participate in any of the Foundation events. Finally, there are few—if any—institutions that provide so many free services and programs for people. Your donation will help this great institution innovate and reach out to all segments of the population. Your dollars will enable people to achieve their potential. And, you will know that you are an important part of something larger than yourself.