Celebrating National Friends of Libraries Week

Our Friends of the Library make a big difference!

This week, October 21-27,  the Central Arkansas Library System is highlighting its Friends of the Library group (FOCAL) as part of the 13th annual celebration of National Friends of Libraries Week.

Over 600 community members belong to our Friends group. Several times a year, scores of volunteers staff our popular CALS used book sales that bring hundreds of people to the Main Library basement. Volunteers can also serve in many other capacities: at branches, at special events, as docents or ushers at our art galleries or at the Ron Robinson Theater.

All talents and abilities welcome

Almost any type of talent or ability from a volunteer may help the library system. Volunteers with a passion for community service may want to help with some of our food programs. Professionals donate their skills in fields as diverse as accounting, photography, or children’s entertainment.  Even pure brawn is helpful: local high schools sometimes send strong and willing students to help us move book boxes. And all year round, our Friends manage book donations and enjoy lots of fun conversation and camaraderie.

Friends of the Library also receive special preview access to book sales, and volunteers may also enjoy fun group rewards such as a free volunteer movie night at the Ron Robinson Theater.

Our book management crew recently had a potluck that proved there are lots of side perks to being a volunteer: mmm, chicken and dumplings! Most of all, though, volunteers say that they enjoy their volunteer friendships, supporting the library with their talents, and helping used books find new owners.

If you want to volunteer or learn more about becoming a Friend of the Library, click here.

Volunteer Spotlight: Janis C. Watson, Descendant of a Long Line of Reading Women

What book is on your nightstand right now?
The Fix by David Baldacci

Where did you grow up?
Boston, MA. In 1930, my mother’s great-grandma bought a house here in Little Rock on the corner of Olive Street, and the house has been passed from daughter to daughter ever since. My mother passed in 2009 when I was living in Atlanta, so at first I rented the house out to a tenant. But the tenant was tearing it up, and I realized that if I didn’t do something, I wasn’t going to have that house! So in 2016, I moved here and moved into the family house.

What brought you to volunteer as a Friend of the Library?
My friend Kay was gone out of town for one of the sales, and she asked me if I wanted to come in and manage her sections. I fell in love with volunteering! Gladys and I are BFFs at the library: she taught me a lot about going through the books, what to keep and what to thin out.

Which sections are your specialty for the book sale?
Medical, Humor, Self-Help and Writing

Where did you get your love of books and reading?
My mother’s mother! In the sixties, she used to visit and made everything an adventure. We went to the library every day—it was magical. She would ask us, “Who can read four books?” and we would all want to meet that challenge. My mother was also a reader, and all my sisters were readers. Now I’m concentrating on getting my grandchildren to read.

What other hobbies do you pursue in your spare time?
I play Mahjong and make quilts for my grandchildren. And I love jigsaw puzzles. If I start one I can stay up all night doing it! I’m also an aspiring writer. I’ve written four children’s books, but they’re not illustrated yet.

What’s the best thing about volunteering for the library?
I really enjoy the camaraderie. And I like being able to save books, as opposed to people getting rid of them.