BEMIDJI -- The backbone of the Red Door Bookstore and a key contributor to the Bemidji Public Library as a whole is joining a national celebration this week.

Through Saturday, the Friends of the Bemidji Public Library is participating in the 14th annual National Friends of Libraries Week. Created by the America Library Association, the promotional week is a way to raise awareness in communities about the work library friend groups do across the country.

"Right now we're on an education campaign," said Friends President Terry Thomas. " We're trying to let people know how we support the library and how our memberships work. That's why we have a display case at the entrance to show what we do."

In Bemidji, the organization was established in 1983 and has raised more than $195,000 for the library. According to Thomas, there are more than 235 community members contributing to the library and about 50 of them also actively volunteer their time.

Volunteer efforts and financial contributions over the years have been directed toward a variety of programs, including:

  • The Children's Summer Reading Program.
  • The Adult Winter Reading Program.
  • 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Program.
  • The Books for Babies Project.
  • The Mary Harding Literacy Grant Program.

Additionally, Nov. 3 will mark the 16th year the Friends have operated the Red Door Bookstore, which is located in the library and open five days per week. Thomas said the store generates about $8,000 per year and in total, the Friends are able to donate about $10,000 annually.

As libraries have evolved, though, the Friends have had to become more accustomed to changes with technology.

"I think we've certainly recognized digital is the way of the future," said LaVon Dennistoun, Friends vice president. "In our conversations with library staff, they're conscientious about that and they've been talking to us about how we can support those programs more. One small way we've tried to address that is building our presence online. We now have a Facebook page and try to maintain our publicity there."

In another new approach, Thomas said the Friends have funded a subscription to a magazine, "BookPage." The monthly book review publication includes articles on upcoming literature and will be available at the library in November.

"I think nationwide, the Friends groups have always been looked at as very critical partners in keeping library doors open," Dennistoun said.