Friends of Largo Library celebrating 40 years

Mayor Woody Brown and Largo Public Library Director Casey McPhee, center, present Iris Shalit, longtime president of the Friends of Largo Library, with a proclamation naming Oct. 20-26 National Friends of Libraries Week. The Friends are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year.

LARGO — The Largo Public Library has a long and storied history in the community. But its story wouldn’t be nearly as successful without the volunteers and benefactors that work each day to make it one of the most acclaimed libraries in the entire state.

This past month was a chance to recognize some of those people, including the Friends of the Largo Library, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. 

The city proclaimed Oct. 20-26 National Friends of Libraries Week, honoring the group's hard work and dedication to the library. 

Since 1979, the Friends have raised more than $2 million for the library through book sales and other fundraisers, Library Director Casey McPhee said recently. The group’s support, she added, enabled the library to enhance programs and services that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Additions such as the bookmobile led it to being named the 2018 library of the year by the Florida Library Association. In fact, when McPhee learned about the honor last year, the Friends were one of the first phone calls she made.

“Any time that we have ideas or something that we feel like is too much for the city budget, the Friends always come through for us,” she said. “And we’re so pleased to celebrate their hard work and their diligence and their commitment to the library.”

They certainly came through in 2003-2006, when they donated $185,000 to the capital campaign for the new library building. 

And that was one of just many donations, including $225,000 in 2013 when they sponsored the new Radio Frequency Identification System and automated materials handler, or in 2018 when they raised $50,000 for the new bookmobile.

One of the major sources of those funds, the bookstore at the library that raises close to $100,000 annually for the Friends, will host the group’s Winter Book Sale on Jan. 22-25.

“When we came calling and asked them to support the new library they were a major donor and so many things in between,” McPhee said. “And when we said we want to have a bookmobile, they came running and said please let us be the first to donate.”

The group is seeking new members to join in their mission to support the library. Memberships start at $10 each year. For information, stop by the library bookstore, call 727-586-7392 or email LPLFriends@gmail.com.