Kathy Upton looks through a book at the Cherryfield Public Library. She and other members of the library board are always looking for new fundraising ideas. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY JOHANNA S. BILLINGS

Library fundraisers help pay the bills

CHERRYFIELD Each year, the Cherryfield Public Library has to come up with more than $25,000 on its own.

The town of Cherryfield provides $12,000 annually in funding, but that represents only about a third of the library’s annual budget, said Kathy Upton, one of five members of the library board.

“We get the money from the town, and then it’s fundraise, fundraise, fundraise,” she said.

One of the library’s biggest fundraisers — the End of Summer Spectacular — is set for 2-7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, and noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25. The public is invited to enjoy a variety of activities, including a bounce house, games, food, face painting and vendors.

Hosting a successful fundraiser is more difficult than it might seem. For one thing, it’s best to try not to compete with other events.

“It’s hard to find a weekend when there isn’t something else big already going on,” said Upton.

Another challenge is coming up with “something others haven’t already done to death,” she said.

Last year was the library’s first End of Summer Spectacular. Upton is cautiously optimistic about this year.

“Things work well for us the first time, but the second time, not so much,” she said. “It’s getting harder to come up with new ideas.”

One year, library Director Cara Sawyer asked each patron to give $5. The campaign was a success that year, but less so the following year, Upton said.

Money raised pays for necessities such as heating and utilities, and salary for Sawyer, who is the library’s only paid staff person

The library used to have two employees, but the budget could not support the second employee due to mandated increases in minimum wage.

“They had no idea what they were doing when they wrote that law,” said Upton, adding she believes small nonprofits should have been exempt.

With only one person on staff, the workload — including fundraising activities — has increased. Library board members volunteer their time to assist, but all have other jobs and families.

“They can’t be constantly fundraising,” Upton said.

In addition to this weekend’s event, the library holds a book sale during Cherryfield Days in late June and other events such as bake sales whenever possible.

Sawyer and library board members are “constantly thinking and looking for something they can do [to fundraise] without exhausting themselves,” Upton said. Balancing the need to raise funds with the need to complete other tasks is a challenge.

“Until you do something, you don’t realize what goes into it.”

Other local organizations, including the Cherryfield-Narraguagus Historical Society and Cherryfield Academy Community Center, also are trying to raise money.

“They’re all worthy causes but there’s only so much money to go around,” Upton said.

People have suggested the library raise funds by charging for membership. But, Upton said, a library is designed to loan out materials at no charge and to serve as a safe gathering place, especially for children in summer.

“That’s the whole concept of a library. It’s a community center. It’s not just a repository of dusty old books,” she said.

Some also have suggested consolidating local libraries in order to cut costs. But, because many patrons don’t have transportation, doing so would make library services inaccessible.

Fortunately, many library patrons are financially supportive. Other community organizations help out as well. For example, the First Baptist Church of Cherryfield, located next door, shares the library parking lot and takes care of plowing in the winter.

“There’s a great partnership,” Upton said. “That’s the only way these small groups can function.”

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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