The Friends of the Sultan Library is more than just a nonprofit organization that raises money to support library programs and services; it’s an integral part of the Sultan Library’s history.
From its earliest days, the Sultan Library has enjoyed robust community support. It was opened in 1927 by a service group called the Women’s Improvement Club (WIC), which donated the space to house the books in its building at 515 Main Street, offering library membership cards for five cents a year.
Another important part of the library’s history is a woman named Muriel Bayspoole, a widow homesteader who strongly advocated for literacy and education.
The library was relocated once in those early years, but settled back in at 515 Main Street in 1972, as a standalone library facility. It was also around this time that the city began contracting with the Sno-Isle Libraries regional system, which continues to operate the library today.
The Friends of the Sultan Library (Friends) came into existence in 1985, in response to a community need. The group came together and began fundraising for a new, larger library facility, which was to be constructed onsite at 515 Main. The existing library was moved intact and relocated to First Street, so that it could remain open during the construction.
The building that’s now home to the Sultan Police Department was built in its place. Friends raised money to purchase furnishings for the new library, which was completed in 1986.
In 1998 and 1999 the group outdid itself, raising nearly $30,000 to provide furnishings, equipment and computer desks for the existing library, located here, at 4th and Main Street. Today, the Friends of the Sultan Library officers are President Angela Olson, Vice President Verline Swanson, Treasurer Lucy Hitchcock, Assistant Treasurer June Thomasson, Ongoing Book Sale Coordinator Jo Ann Douglas and Phone Tree Director Carolynn Thelen.
“The Sultan Library would be very much diminished without the support and encouragement from these extremely generous and warm-hearted Friends of the Sultan Library members,” said Sultan Library Manager Jackie Personeus. “Their dedication to literacy is truly inspiring.”
Friends raises funds primarily through book sale events, which are typically held at city hall. In addition to a selection of books spanning a wide variety of genres, the book sales offer delicious home-baked treats, including brownies, cookies and jam. Over the years, the group’s efforts have increased, going from one book sale a year to three. Book and bake sales raise anywhere from $1,500 to $1,800, which is used to fund library furnishings, special presentations and programming supplies.
The Friends is extremely generous to the library’s programmers, said Personeus, recently increasing its monetary support from $1,600 to $2,000 a year for children’s programs and programs for teens and adults.
“So that’s $4,000 a year that’s being raised by the Friends to support all the programming and supplies that we need,” Personeus said.
From a dynamic professional juggler hired to help kick off the summer reading program, to bags and art supplies for a tie-dye tote-bag making class, money raised by Friends helps make it all happen.
In recent years, Friends has increased its visibility in the community by participating in events, including the Return of the Salmon Celebration, Winterfest, Sultan Summer Shindig and Trunk or Treat on Main Street. Promoting literacy is the goal of that participation, along with giving away as many books as they can. During last year’s Trunk of Treat event, they gave away over 900 books, said Angela Olson.
Making sure that youth have access to books is a huge priority for Friends, who will work with teachers to ensure they have the books they need for their classes. Additionally, in years past, they’ve provided for Sultan School District students through a Friends of the Sultan Library scholarship opportunity.
Friends would like to grow its membership base, and is actively seeking new members. Anyone with a passion for books and a flair for promoting literacy can get involved.
In the future, Friends would like to increase its level of outreach by making books more accessible to those in underserved populations, including Startup and Gold Bar. They would love to see the “little free library” concept put to use in those communities, and would happily donate the books should a volunteer come forward to construct the small structures.
Friends typically meets semi-monthly with a break during the summer. To find out how to get involved, contact Angela Olson at 425-359-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org.