Community Library of Allegheny Valley looking for new ‘friends’
The Community Library of Allegheny Valley is looking for a new generation of volunteers.
For more than 20 years, the Friends of the Community Library of Allegheny Valley have helped support the library through events, activities and fundraisers.
They’ve been its face, its advocates — its champions.
But the nonprofit group that once had 35 to 50 members is now down to just three: its president, Delphine Maurer, 81; Anna Bazik, 90; and Bazik’s daughter, Deborah Larkin, 68. Maurer and Larkin live in Harrison; Bazik lives in Brackenridge.
Their love for the library and belief in its role in the community are as apparent as print on a page. But they’d like to find more people interested in supporting the library who can bring some new ideas.
“I’ve always been involved. I read constantly,” said Maurer, a mother of three and grandmother of five. Growing up, her kids could stay up a half hour later, but only if they were reading.
“I think that’s the best way to help young children in every aspect of their life,” she said. “Reading is the basis of all education.”
The group’s ranks started dwindling five or six years ago, Maurer said. “People died is one of the reasons,” she said.
“I guess younger people are so busy they don’t have time for the library.”
To find new members for the group, the library will be holding two open houses — from 1-3 p.m. on Friday and 9-11 a.m. May 4, both at the Harrison branch.
They’re open to anyone who’s interested in joining, who want to work on a project or have an idea for one.
”Whatever it is you feel you can help with, everyone is open for any ideas,” library Director Kathy Firestone said.
Firestone said the friends group is important to the library and its branches in Harrison and Tarentum.
“I wouldn’t want to see it go away,” she said of the group. “They help in so many ways. They’re people we can depend on for that help.
“They were the face of the library,” she said.
The library played a key role in Bazik’s life. She was 5 or 6 years old when her family came to Tarentum from Czechoslovakia.
“I would walk up to the library, and they’d give me books to read,” she said. “I had to learn the language all over again. It was very difficult. My parents didn’t speak English.”
She started volunteering at the library after her husband, Joseph Bazik, died in 1995, before the current friends group was created.
“Because I loved to read, I guess,” she said.
The group helped raise the money that built the library in Harrison, which opened in the fall of 1998. The group’s money built and equipped the library’s kitchen.
They bought an electric fireplace that warms an area of the library where people like to sit and read when it’s cold outside.
“Younger people don’t get involved with the libraries as much,” Larkin said. “It doesn’t mean as much to people as they did back then.”
Larkin is the group’s treasurer and its newest member, joining just six months ago. She sees the need for more members who can offer new ideas.
Card parties were once a popular event the group held; not as many show for them anymore.
“The old ones we depended on don’t work anymore,” Maurer said.
Besides fundraising, Firestone said members of the group can help the library with things like groundskeeping and painting, representing it in the community, and advocating on its behalf with lawmakers.
The library had more than 100,000 visits at both branches last year, and circulated more than 116,000 items. Of those, 85% were physical items and 15% electronically, Firestone said. She’s hopeful some of those who already use and know the library will consider helping.
Only a half-dozen people really willing to get to work would be a tremendous help, Firestone said.
“That’s what we’re looking for — the worker bees,” Firestone said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .