Drew Burgin remembers when he joined Friends of the Public Library.
“I was in high school,” he said. “And the dues were $5 a year.”
Flash forward 50-something years. The membership dues have doubled — to a whopping $10 a year — and Burgin is still involved with the organization, holding a seat on the board of directors.
“I’m the group’s walking history,” he joked.
Since its incorporation in 1961, Friends has played a vital role in the success of the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County.
Bonnie Seymour, who served as the library’s director from 1984 to 2010, recalls the support she received from the group when she first joined the staff.
“Colonel Doug Wilson was the Friends’ board president back then,” she said. “There were many active members and they were all so wonderful to me.”
Other board presidents with whom Seymour enjoyed working were Betsy Babb and Virginia Hopkins.
Seymour was encouraged to apply for federal grants to fund an assortment of library programs. For extra incentive, Friends offered a 20- to 25-percent match for any grants received, she said.
Today, Friends continue to offer the same strong support to Teresa Kiser, the library’s current director.
“I don’t know how the library could exist without Friends,” Kiser said at the most recent board meeting. Once a year, Kiser presents the group with a “wish list” that includes everything from library books — both paper and audio — to staff training sessions, subscription services and community classes on a variety of topics from cooking to legal matters.
The all-volunteer organization, led by current president Martha Merrill, devotes itself to raising money to grant those wishes as well as to hosting an annual staff appreciation luncheon.
The group’s other officers include Art Gould, 1st vice president; Janice Reaves, 2nd vice president; Tom Burgess, treasurer; and Patricia Patty, secretary.
Membership dues and donations make up a significant portion of the group’s budget, but it is the quarterly blowout used book sale, overseen by Marilyn Reynolds, that is the most popular among patrons.
Friends board members Barbara Walters, Virginia Parker, Scott Burleson, Patricia Propst, Sarah Sloan, Ron Miller, Joyce Morrow, Jim Klinefelter and Holley Kennedy all pitch in on those days, working shifts to help ring up customers and bag their goods.
Many hands are needed because stacks upon stacks of shelves are filled to overflowing with donated or discarded books of every genre, and the prices can’t be beat. Hardback books cost $2; paperbacks $1. For dues-paying members of Friends, those prices are cut in half.
And if shoppers are not yet members of Friends, membership chair Lindie Brown has a sign-up table at the entrance to fix that. Dues begin at $10 for individual members. In addition to the generous discount at the quarterly book sales, members receive 10 percent off all purchases at the used book store inside the library, as well as a subscription to “Serendipity,” the organization’s quarterly newsletter.