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Binding a Community Together

Updated: Apr 23, 2019

Friends of the Library help us reduce waste AND have fun

Friends of the Albert Lea Public Library book sales are held twice a year

Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year; about 680 pounds per person, according to the 'Paper Recycling Facts,' on the University of Indiana web page. With all that paper use, how do we keep from drowning in it? By recycling one ton of paper, we save 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water and 463 gallons of oil, according to the EPA (Earth 911, 2016). However, it is different with books, because books cannot be as easily recycled. The glue used in binding books contaminates the process, causing many of them to end up in landfills.

With two billion books published each year, Michael Ricci, the CEO of Discover Books, says the need to conserve [books] has never been greater (Earthfix, 2012). A great way to conserve them, is to share them; this is what the Friends of the Albert Lea Public Library has been doing with their used bookstore since 2008.

The Friends of the Library Bookstore is located in the lower level of the City of Albert Lea building - below the AL Public Library. According to FOTL board co-chairperson, Jen Vogt-Erickson:

"FOTL puts in about 2,850 volunteer hours a year with our book operations. We sort library discards and donated books from community members and put out the "like new" and current books for sale in the Fountain Lake Bookstore (open M-Th, 9 am to 3 pm). Most of these sell for $.50 to $2."

More Than A Library

This program started as a way, " assist with the library activities and to promote community interest in the library," according to Freeborn County Heritage (1988, pg 107). September 1968, as noted in the book, was the first organizational meeting for Friends of the Library. Soon after, they elected the first officers: Mrs. Lloyd Petersen (president), Maclay Lyon (vice-president), Mrs. John Peterson (secretary-treasurer), with Tom Allen, Dr. Robert Voight and William Bryson (directors-at-large). A big Thank-You to Linda Evenson at the Freeborn County Historical Museum for providing information on the formation of the Friends of the Library.

FOTL has blossomed into a volunteer supported bookstore that continues serving our community today. Karol Held, Grace Haukoos, and Jane Hofkamp started the first Fountain Lake Bookstore in 2008. Today it has a board of 12 members who plan, organize and lead a legion of local volunteers in the project. They use money from the bookstore and membership dues to offer help to the library in many forms. Another way they raise money is thru the biannual book sale.

It is amazing to watch people show up with empty bags at the book sale twice a year to load up on great deals! I fill several bags myself, because it provides some variety to share in my Little Free Library, near my home (more on that in another post). The book sale proceeds go to support AL Public Library programs, including: funding for special performers for National Library Week and the Summer Reading Program, craft supplies for the Children’s Library, and puppets and the puppet theater enjoyed by many of the library’s youngest users. The FOTL also supply bookmarks for the children (ALPL webpage). The next book sale is scheduled for May 17-18, 2019; you will want to be a member to shop one day early, on the 16th, and get the really good stuff!

If you are interested in volunteering with the Friends of the Library, or wish to become a member ($5 cost gives you early access to the book sale!), stop by the Fountain Lake Bookstore (in the basement of city hall) during hours when volunteers are present, or send a message to

Please support Friends of the Library - it is a great way to help your community, but also makes us more See-stainable!


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