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What are friends for?: In this case, about $100,000, or the amount the Red Door Bookstore has donated to Bemidji Public Library

Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer Lila Bruun, vice president of the Friends of the Bemidji Public Library, discusses the 30-year history of the organization, which formed to support the Bemidji library.

BEMIDJI — The Red Door Bookstore has donated nearly $100,000 to the Bemidji Public Library in its decade-long existence.

And as the Red Door celebrates its 10th birthday this fall, the group that started it also is celebrating its 30th anniversary of supporting the local library.

Lila Bruun was one of about 50 initial founding members of the Friends of Bemidji Public Library. She is now the vice president of its board and said the goal has always been to provide supplemental funds to the library to increase materials, technology and programming.

“It always has been a way to support the library,” said Bruun, who in addition to being a longtime Friends member also was a paid library employee for 43 years.

This week marks National Friends of Libraries Week, when organizations such as the local Friends celebrate their existence by promoting activities and benefits.

In Bemidji, the Friends are celebrating by holding daily drawings for gift certificates to local businesses. To sign up, visit the Red Door Bookstore inside the Bemidji library during regular business hours.

“I think that the Friends of the Bemidji Library are the most dedicated and generous Friends group that I have had occasion to work with,” said librarian Paul Ericsson. “Their dedication to the Bemidji Public Library and to literacy in our community is to be applauded. They have sustained the Red Door Bookstore for 10 years, which is an incredible accomplishment.”

Additional library support

Before establishing the Red Door Bookstore, funds from the Friends came primarily through membership dues.

“We held events, but it wasn’t that they were money-making events,” Bruun recalled, noting the events were more about just bringing people into the library.

The Red Door Bookstore was founded in 2003 as a way to better generate funds.

The bookstore was made possible in large part to gifts from two longtime library supporters — Hazel Shimmin and Bertha Christensen — who died and left funds to the Friends.

“It was a meeting room,” Bruun said, recalling how space was reassigned within the library for the Red Door Bookstore. “The city of Bemidji gave it to the Friends. We had looked at buildings downtown but we couldn’t afford to rent a building.”

The name of the bookstore came from Mary Ellen Johnson, who won a contest.

The Red Door’s stock is constantly changing, thanks to a simple yet effective method of marking materials with colored stickers.

All materials come from donations.

Sales and discounts are available on certain items, but even at “full price,” books are a bargain: $3 for hardcovers, $1 or $2 for paperbacks.

Through September of this year, the bookstore has sold 15,627 items, including more than 9,400 paperbacks, 4,200 hardcovers and 1,200 VHS tapes and DVDs.

Combined with sales on audio books, puzzles/games and more, the bookstore has had more than $11,000 in sales this year.

Each quarter, funds generated from the bookstore are given to the Bemidji library with specific expenses in mind.

First-quarter sales go toward children’s materials, second-quarter sales toward audio books and DVDs, third-quarter to young adult and general literature books; and fourth-quarter sales to adult nonfiction, adult fiction and adult reference materials.

 Additionally, $1,600 a year is slated for computer upgrades and replacement.

More than just material

But the Friends’ financial support goes well beyond materials, paying for programming such as the children’s summer reading program and the adult winter reading program.

Additionally, funds support the Friends’ Gardening 101 series, a lunchtime summer program featuring Beltrami County Master Gardeners; the Books for Babies program, which provides free books to new mothers and their newborns to encourage early literacy; the Taste for Travel series, which features local residents sharing their travel experiences; and the holiday gift tree, which provides the public suggestions for gifts that would promote the library’s mission.

“Many, many thanks to the Friends of the Bemidji Public Library and the Friends volunteers for all that they do for the Library and for the community,” Ericsson said.

Red Door Bookstore hours

The Red Door Bookstore is located within the Bemidji Public Library, 509 America Ave. NW.

— 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

—  12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays

—  10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays

The Friends’ purpose is summed up in its name:

—  Focus attention on library services, facilities and needs.

—  Rely on community involvement and support to promote new ideas.

—  Intensify public awareness and use of the library.

—  Encourage gifts nad memorials for the library.

—  Nurture and explore ideas for new programs and services.

—  Develop ways to provide financial assistance and special items needed but not included in the library budget.

—  Sponsor programs designed to add to the cultural life of the community.