October 2022
Learning and Exploration for All
Friends of the Library working toward new local branch

I would argue that after water, a public library is the most valuable resource a town can have. Libraries provide access to all kinds of information, in many formats, with trained librarians available to help you find what you seek, with direct access to the internet, and all of this at no cost, ensuring that everyone has access.

One might think the internet is making libraries obsolete, but it’s actually making libraries even more valuable. Lots of information is available on the internet, but libraries help you zero in on exactly what you need. Neil Gaiman said, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” Moreover, libraries are increasingly becoming much more than just rows of books and laptops. Already our local library has a seed library for growers and birding backpacks with binoculars and bird guides, to name just two of the more recent offerings. Bill Arnold, a longtime member of Friends of the Prescott Public Library, points to a future where the library will be seen as not so much about books as a kind of public living room.

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.” — Sidney Sheldon

Bill has traveled to many libraries around the world and seen some exciting innovations. He has been involved with the Friends for many years, and describes the group’s mission as fundraising, volunteerism and advocacy. Ten individuals serve on the board in three-year terms. If you have been in the library and purchased a used book, you can thank the Friends for creating the book shop, which brings $100K to the library annually. Friends of the Library raises around the same amount in gifts every year as well, supplementing the operating budget from the City and providing for new programs and upgrades. With the rapidly changing nature of libraries, gifts from foundations and private donors make it possible for them to dream big.

The Arizona Community Foundation recognized Luanne Leeson as a Legacy Philanthropist for her gift to the library.

Many Prescottonians make annual donations to help the library in its mission to serve the public and continue developing new services. Bill met every year with local donor Luanne Leeson, who loved quilting, Dalmatians and world travel. Her donations were generous and received with much gratitude, but also with great surprise when in 2020 Bill got a call that Luanne had died and left over $5 million to the library in her will. Her wish was to either provide for a major expansion of the downtown library or to build a new branch. Recently Luanne Leeson was recognized as a Legacy Philanthropist by the Arizona Community Foundation of Yavapai County.

As the existing downtown library is on a fairly small footprint, the Friends began work with the City looking for a site for construction of a new branch, a process that should soon reach a decision. Six open meetings have been held where library staff, early childhood educators, Council members, community members and youth groups all had opportunities to share what they would like to see offered in a new library.

Suggestions included a kitchen for cooking classes, musical instruments that patrons can check out, gardening tools, sewing machines, a woodshop, even an amphitheater for outdoor talks and concerts. This envisioning process is the fun part. The group has brought in a consulting firm that specializes in libraries. Many decisions have yet to be made, but the wheels are rolling for Prescott to have a new library branch.

There are so many great quotes about libraries; I’ll leave you with this one:

“Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.” — R. David Lankes

Abby Brill is Associate Editor of 5enses.

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