Friends: 30 years-plus of helping OCC Library get by

       For more than 30 years, the Old Colorado City Library has known what its friends are for.

Four long-time active members of the Friends of the Old Colorado City Library enjoy a mirthful moment, having noticed a book titled “Storage Solutions,” just when they were contemplating the need to reorganize the Friends storage closet in the library basement. From left are Flo Hagiwara, Lou Bassetti, Kevin Flynn and Dustie Flynn.
Westside Pioneer photo

       That's actually Friends with a capital F. They're the volunteers who are constantly looking for ways to support the historic facility at 2418 W. Pikes Peak Ave.
       Recent examples are the bench on the patio by the side door and the display case for brochures and announcements above the stairs. In an outreach effort, the group talked up the library and gave away ice cream cones during the Coronado High Homecoming Parade last September. Other Friends actions through the years have included restoring the library's antique furniture; buying shelving, chairs and tables; fundraising for the Carnegie building's multi-million-dollar centennial restoration project from 2004 to 2007, helping with the summer reading program and working with the Old Colorado City Historical Society to display framed photos from the region's past on the north interior wall.
       Plus, if you like the nutcracker decorations that go up at Christmas time, you can thank the Friends for that too.
       The group, currently headed by former Old Colorado City branch assistant Dustie Flynn (who retired in 2008), confers regularly with Library Manager Jocelyne Sansing to see what help might be needed.
       The group has a small but fairly steady source of income. Through a longstanding arrangement, any books that are donated to the library “become the property of the Friends,” Sansing pointed out. In return, Friends members sort through these books and decide on their disposition. Those not kept for the library collection are sold to the public. The very best are saved for the Friends group's twice-a-year “Better Book Sale,” while the other books are sold in an ongoing sale.
       The Better Book Sale raises several hundred dollars, with the most recent sale in August hitting $700 - “our most successful four-hour book sale ever,” according to Flynn.
       The ongoing sale averages $60 to $70 a week, she added.
       From these earnings, the Friends make $200 a quarter available to the library manager for miscellaneous needs. A common use for that stipend is covering expenses for “hospitality” niceties (such as food and drink) when the library hosts public events, Sansing said.
       She especially appreciates the Friends' efforts in processing donated materials, which takes a load off staff. The work can involve dozens of items at a time. “That's the biggest way they help,” Sansing said.

To raise funds for the 2004-07 restoration, the Old Colorado City Friends sold book spines, customized with donor names. Photo shows part of that display, above the magazines on the main floor.
Westside Pioneer photo

       In addition, the Old Colorado City Friends work with the Friends of the Pikes Peak Library District (which Flynn calls “The Big Friends”) to help fund projects benefitting the whole district. Examples are children's programming, book sales and new branches going in or old ones being renovated.
       At the Old Colorado City Library, a recent Friends expense was a new bench on the patio by the side entrance. Two benches had been there previously, but were stolen.
       The origins of the Old Colorado City Friends date back over 30 years. A co-founder was Dustie's husband, Kevin Flynn. He recalls it as 1978, about a dozen years before the two of them met. For the past 10 years, he's been a library security guard, but at that time Kevin was just a patron looking for ways to help out his favorite library.
       The library manager then was the late Eunice Watson. “She was a dynamite lady,” Kevin said. “You'd meet her and like her.”
       They started talking about how volunteers might be able to “pick up the slack,” as he put it. There wasn't a model to start with. The PPLD Friends have existed since 1955, but if such groups existed in 1979 at any PPLD branches, he didn't know about them.
       The way it evolved in Old Colorado City, he and Watson (who was in her second-to-last year at that time) got together with some like-minded people and the Friends group was born. “The good thing is that over the years, we had people join us,” he said.

Jack Beal


       Now there are Friends groups at all the district branches - technically called “community libraries,” under the latest nomenclature - and all coordinate with the Friends of PPLD organization.
       One of the local long-timers is another former staffer, Betsy Evans, who started at Old Colorado City in 1979. She helped build the group up after becoming its manager in 1981 and has stayed active with the Friends since retiring in 1997.
       In Evans' days on staff, the library was a smaller operation (with shorter hours and fewer employees), but, as she described it, there actually was more for the Friends to do because the budget provided by the PPLD didn't cover as much. “We were buying nuts and bolts items to keep the library afloat,” she recalled
       As an example, Friends purchases such as shelving, tables and chairs were commonplace. In the '90s, a furniture restoration project had to be spread out over several years. “Refinishing is expensive,” Evans observed. Nowadays, the district seeks to fund branch necessities, so “we look for fringe things that the library budget doesn't cover.”
       Two other long-time Friends members (going back to the 1980s) are Jack Beal and Flo Hagiwara. Both have an affection for books and libraries and both said they got involved from getting to know Betsy Evans.
       Tuesday mornings, Hagiwara additionally works as an Old Colorado City Library volunteer (which is separate from the Friends group), helping sort out materials that need to be shared throughout the district.
       Dustie and Kevin met at the Old Colorado City Library… no surprise. And after she retired in 2008, she too became a Friend. He has been president in the past, but can't be for now, because he is a PPLD employee.
       The local Friends group has more than 30 members - one of the allures of a $20 annual membership is 20 percent off at book sales - but has a core group of only about six people. “We welcome people who want to be involved,” Dustie said.
       The Old Colorado City Friends hold quarterly meetings. What they do is not all work, but “a lot of fun” too, she added.
       And the best part? Perhaps it is, as Kevin pointed out, that “we've made some good Friends over the years.”

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