While working alongside one another to help improve Columbia County's three libraries, members of Friends of the Columbia County Libraries organization form close friendships.
"It's like an extended family," said Barbara Williams, president of the non-profit organization. "You really enjoy being with them. You really are making friends as you are working with the Friends."
Although it wasn't officially recognized until 1984, the organization started in 1982 with a book sale at the former Warren C. Gibbs Library, said group treasurer Elige Hickman.
"What they had to do was be in existence for a while and have a book sale," he said. "That day, they sold $42 worth of books."
Throughout the years, the periodic book sales have become so successful that the Friends began holding daily sales, he said.
There is now a discount bookstore in the Columbia County Library. An assortment of books are priced between 25 cents and $7, with all proceeds donated to the county's library system.
Some 500 to 600 books are sold each week, raising about $1,000 for the library, Hickman said.
"We are just here to support the library in any way we can," Williams said. "Everything we do is strictly about helping the library."
The Friends also raise money through membership donations and revenue from the gift shop. That money helps fund summer and children's reading programs, computer programs, guest author visits and library equipment, among other things.
Hickman said $6,200 recently was raised to pay for electronic books at the library.
"They do so much for us," said Mary-Lin Maner, the county's library director.
The group consists of about 215 people and additional members are being sought. A membership drive will be held during October, and current members are encouraged to invite a friend to join. A socializing event for "old Friends to meet new Friends" will be held Nov. 7.
Members perform a variety of tasks, including volunteering in the gift shop and storage room at the Columbia County Library.
The Friends also played a role in the construction of the Evans library branch. Hickman said members visited Georgia and South Carolina libraries and gave their input on design plans.
Williams and Hickman, who have education backgrounds, said they enjoy helping others learn.
"Our goal is to get children to read," Hickman said.
Those wanting to join or learn more about the Friends of the Columbia County Libraries can call Williams at (706) 863-8760 or pick up an application at the bookstore area. Yearly dues are listed on the application.
Anyone wishing to volunteer with the Columbia County Library can pick up an application at the circulation desk.
"We're only giving back what was given to us at one time," Williams said. "We're glad to be able to help give back."
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