Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
While we are firmly rooted in the Digital Age, the same could be said for books. A recent Gallup poll found that 35 percent of Americans say they read more than 11 books in the past year. What may be even more surprising is that 53 percent of young adults read between one and ten books in the past year. But what might just blow your mind altogether is that 73 percent of those polled stated that they prefer printed books to e-readers or audio book. Friends, it seems that the written word is alive and kicking in the age of mindlessly surfing YouTube channels and binging all night on Netflix.
Unlike passively watching videos and staring at smartphones like zombies, reading requires us to be actively engaged with the words on the paper, or on the screen. In fact, according to a recent Psychology Today article, reading is to the brain like working out is to the body, especially when it comes to fiction: “Researchers found that becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function. Reading fiction was found to improve the reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex the imagination in a way that is similar to the visualization of a muscle memory in sports.”
More than just friends
One group that is helping to ensure that words and books are there to help people improve their brains and promote a lifetime of learning is the Friends of the Keller Library. The 100 percent volunteer group not only helps put on library events, but its members also raise funds for the Keller Public Library through operating the Friends of the Keller Library Bookstore. But while the Friends volunteers all share a common love of books, they come from many different walks of life.
“There is no common denominator other than wanting to contribute to the well-being of our community,” says Friends of the Keller Library member Frank “Paco” Peterson. “We have some members who do not read a lot of books but have talents that we put to good use in running the bookstore. Our bookstore manager is an excellent example. She does so much running the bookstore she has little time to read. She receives donations, sorts them, prices them, categorizes them, directs the volunteers in the store to get books properly shelved, and secures volunteers.”
While the bookstore is the main resource that the Friends use to raise funds for the Keller Public Library, it’s also a great place for residents to hang out and maybe even light the “reading spark” in the next generation.
“The Friends’ Bookstore is a great place to spend time with friends, family, and especially with your children — encouraging them to read. It’s great to be able to buy books at an extremely low price,” says Friends of the Keller Library member Karen S. Martin. “We are always searching for new members for the Friends and for volunteers at the bookstore. It’s great to get involved in your community, to make it a better place to live.”
Besides getting involved in the community, becoming a Friend is a great way to meet like-minded people as well. “There is a group of us that meet on Thursday mornings at 10 am just for fun and it would be great if people would like to join us. Sometimes we meet at the bookstore and sometimes we meet at the Snooty Pig [in Keller] for breakfast,” Martin says.
But besides touting their own bookstore building, which is owned by the City of Keller and is the envy of many other Friends groups across Texas, Peterson also explains that the Friends other message is that libraries are more than just a place that houses books and magazines.
“Libraries are NOT a thing of the past! The world is already digital and libraries are at the forefront. Digital books are available at the library and have been for several years. Many reference books however do not lend themselves to digitization so they are available in hard copy. There is also a bank of computers for patron use as well as WiFi hardware that can be checked out. In addition, there is meeting space available for various community groups,” Peterson says.
Read, Baby, Read!
Besides the bookstore, the Friends also help with the City of Keller’s unique One Book/One City project. “The project encourages people to read a selected book and meet the author at either a free event at the library or at a dinner with the author where they discuss the book. The book is selected by a committee that includes members of the Friends of the Library, City of Keller Library Board, and library staff,” says Peterson.
Whether they’re there to help the community, or there to make more friends, one thing’s for sure, members of the Friends of the Keller Public Library like books. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s one big book club where members are all reading the same title at the same time. “For every member of the Friends, there is a different genre,” Peterson says. “I am currently reading the Killing of England and the entire Killing series.”
The Friends of the Library meets on the 4th Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m., usually at the Keller Public Library. The Friends Bookstore is located at 137 Taylor Street and is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.kellerfriends.org.