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Friends Group Looking To Expand Circle
Down to a precious few members, the Friends of the Escalon Library is looking for some new volunteers. The goal of the group is to support the library and help it put on special programs for the community, but membership has dwindled to the point that it's hard for the group to continue.

"We need more members," Escalon librarian Bill Walker said simply.

The only officer still active in the organization is treasurer Lorraine Vasconcellos, so Walker said they are looking for a President and Vice President to lead the group and a few others to help with the small workload.

"They need help with the book sale, brainstorming some ideas to make money," he said.

Membership in The Friends of the Escalon Library organization is $10 for an individual membership, $25 for a family and $30 for an organization or business. Monetary donations of any kind are also accepted from the community.

The 'buck a bag' book sale in the lobby and the more official ongoing sale of books in the Ekholm meeting room at the library are a primary source of funds. Also, some books or collections of books are sold, either on craigslist or Amazon websites and that brings in much-needed cash.

Walker said what the group needs is someone willing to take charge.

"We need someone to step forward, be ambitious enough to take over some of the organizational details," he said.

The Friends group helps the library with purchases when able and also puts on the popular Summer Reading Program for children and teens, bringing a wide variety of shows, from magicians to musicians, to the library on a regular basis during the summer months.

Throughout the year, special programs are offered as well. Preschool Storytime, every Thursday at 11 a.m., is funded through the Friends of the Escalon Library group and typically includes stories, music and simple crafts.

All About Baby, overseen by staff member - and musician - Michael Saul, is another program offered both Tuesdays at 11 a.m. and Wednesdays at 1 p.m., and is an early literacy program designed for children up to 18 months of age.

With the aid of a parent or caregiver, the babies are introduced to music, movement, stories and learn about the library. Special bell bracelets that the children use during the music portion of the program were purchased by the Friends.

"Our budget is so strapped," Walker admitted of cuts to the library program throughout San Joaquin County. "But people in Escalon have come forward with donations."

Much of that has been in the form of books, some of which can be put into circulation for the library and others that can be sold as a fundraiser or put into the book sale.

Library staffers Pam Reisler and Nancy Snipes serve as the 'screeners' for the book donations, Walker said, determining how best to use them.

Friends meetings are held quarterly, with the annual meeting coming up in May. The group had a meeting earlier this month and will gather for a 9 a.m. meeting on May 13 for the annual session. Additional meetings in 2010 will be in August and November.

"We're just kind of hoping we'll have more people by then," Walker said of the May annual meeting.

Anyone with an interest in the library and a few hours a week to spare is encouraged to join the group.

"Thursday is generally the day we use to do the stocking," Walker said of getting books organized and ready for sale. "It's a slow enough branch that we don't have a lot of volunteer work but that's (book sale) the prime source of funding ... they've (Friends) paid for virtually every program we've ever had."

Walker said youngsters especially appreciate the summer entertainment.

"All the summer reading and the handicraft programs are gangbusters here," Walker said. "Kids just love making stuff, those always generate a crowd."

Anyone interested in helping out the library by becoming a member of the Friends can stop by the library at 1540 Second Street and pick up an application.