[Photo above: Southport Woman’s Club president Roxie Smith (left) with FOLSOI president Carol Brolley.] While much has changed in our lives over the past 18 months due to the pandemic, one thing hasn’t changed for the Friends of the Library Southport & Oak Island: We believe in and are still advocating for our branch libraries in Brunswick County—now serving the fastest growing county in North Carolina and the seventh-fastest-growing county in the nation!

That urgent mission has brought us to many key groups to thank them for their support and encourage even greater involvement. Recently we came to the County commissioners, Southport Woman’s Club and others with some fresh information—the results of our focus groups of library patrons, and other new research findings.

Deputy county manager Haynes Brigman (left) and FOLSOI past president Diana Fotinatos discuss potential funding impact of the American Rescue Plan.

FOLSOI’s board of directors and strategic planning sub-committee worked tirelessly to pull statistics from the North Carolina State Library, engage the services of a library consultant, conduct focus groups, and survey our library users. Our goal was to hear the voice of our customers. We did, and we learned a lot!

Some of what our county residents are asking for from their libraries include:

  • More hands-on interactive children’s programming
  • Support for the home school community
  • Technology programs for seniors
  • Reduced wait times for books and updated collections
  • Use of OverDrive as an ebook platform
  • Evening and weekend hours; larger and more inviting spaces and meeting rooms in the libraries, and more parking.

None of this was surprising given Brunswick County’s rocketing growth. The challenge is that our library system ranks only 74th out of 83 libraries in the state in terms of library materials expenditures for print and non-print items per capita. Certainly we need to help them keep pace with the rising demand for services.

We compiled our findings and presented them to the county library director, the county manager, the deputy county manager responsible for the library system, the county library trustees, the county commissioners, our survey and focus group participants, community partners, Friends of the Library members, and library patrons. Our message; a well-funded, well-run library is a smart investment that transforms a community.

We believe our findings demonstrate that libraries are critical to education, literacy and life-long learning in Brunswick County. It is clear we are not alone. Carol Brolley, FOLSOI President, recently shared our findings with the Southport Woman’s Club whose members have been dedicated supporters of the library in Southport since 1912.

Their enthusiastic support, along with other community partners like the Southport Lions Club, Oak Island Elks Lodge, Southport-Oak Island Kiwanis, Rotary Club continue to inspire our advocacy on behalf of all Brunswick County residents. We remain hopeful our message will be heard and we will all see an increase in library funding from the county in the next budget cycle.