If you walk around the Mt. Laurel Library, you may see a business group holding a conference, pre-school children learning on computers and high school students hanging out or studying, all in one trip.
These things would not happen if the library didn’t have a little help from its Friends.
In its 25th year, The Friends of the Mt. Laurel Library has been a big reason why residents of the township can enjoy the use of workstations, conferencing technology and early childhood literacy computers at the library.
“What we try to do is provide additional funds for the library above and beyond the funds that the township provides,” Friends President Bob Lazar said.
The funds that Friends has raised have helped Mt. Laurel Library make a turn into the 21st century.
Some of the big items that Friends has purchased in the last few years have been early literacy computers for children. The computers have color-coded keyboards and are designed so children as young as 3 years old can use them and participate in educational programs.
“Sometimes, I go in there to watch the kids,” Lazar said. “You see 3 and 4 year olds doing things that blow my mind, quite frankly.”
Enhancements to the children’s and teens’ experiences have been a focus of Friends’ in recent years. A playhouse for infants and toddlers was purchased in 2008. For teens, comfort items such as bean bag chairs, diner booths, sofas and video game carts with televisions were added.
“They come for reading sessions, but they also come to just play around,” Lazar said.
In addition to programs for groups such as seniors, Friends has helped fund programs for tweens and teens. Combined with some of the new features, Friends has tried to make the library a go-to place for kids outside school hours.
“We try to make sure we have publicity and funds for all of these special programs,” Lazar said.
Friends doesn’t just focus on the books and computers in the library. Lazar said one of the biggest additions donated by Friends was a ceiling-mounted projection and sound system that has allowed the library to host more than 400 lectures and meetings per year.
Some of the group’s funds have also been used for landscaping and beautification of the library outside its walls.
The funds provided by Friends for the library have come through a variety of fundraising efforts. A lot of funds come from the group’s quarterly book sales, one of which was recently held in late October.
In addition, other events, such as the annual yard sale, also help raise money that is needed to pay for extras.
The relationship between Friends and the library has been solid for more than two decades. Lazar said library personnel have made excellent use of the extra funds provided to the facility.
“We wait for the library to define what its special needs are,” he said. “What we attempt to do is provide the funds to allow the library to take the extra steps.”
Members of Friends are unpaid volunteers. Lazar said the group is always looking for more people to help run their book sales and other events.
“We welcome everyone,” he said. “The more, the merrier.”