FOLSOI President Carol Brolley (in picture above) addressed the Southport–Oak Island Kiwanis Club this week to explain how the Friends serve our community libraries and their patrons, and to explore how the two volunteer groups might collaborate.

After all, we have much in common: The mission of the Kiwanis organization is “Improving the world – one child and one community at a time,” and children are also the focus of much of FOLSOI’s efforts. That’s good, said Carol, because there is clearly much to be done for children in Brunswick County.

She cited some sobering statistics. The Brunswick County library system, which consist of branches in Southport, Oak Island, Leland, Shallotte, and Carolina Shores, ranks 78th of 83 counties in North Carolina in terms of full-time-equivalent staff, with 17 staff serving county libraries. We rank 82nd of 83 counties in total operational expenditures per capita, and 75th out of 83 in terms of children’s circulation.

What is FOLSOI doing to address this daunting challenge? Plenty, said Carol. She explained that FOLSOI raises money through memberships and donations, book sales, and grants, and that this money funds everything from books for the library collections, to furniture and shelving to library programs. While COVID has curtailed our book sales until recently, the community’s generosity in donations and new memberships–including lifetime memberships–has made up for the shortfall in revenue.

Carol explained that FOLSOI believes that well-funded public libraries are integral to the community, as a gathering space with resources for everyone from preschoolers to senior citizens. FOLSOI is currently holding focus groups to gather “voice of the customer” input on how library users feel about library hours, accessibility, collections, programs, and resources. This information will be summarized in a report with recommendations for bringing our libraries more into line with patron expectations.

Members of the Southport Oak Island Kiwanis Club are active in child literacy and reading programs, including a program where their members read books aloud on their YouTube channel. In the animated question and answer session after Carol’s presentation, it was readily apparent that there are several great opportunities for our two organizations to partner on children’s initiatives, and we look forward to working with our Kiwanis friends on our shared commitment to the children of Southport and Oak Island.