Friends of Sims raises library awareness and brings in funding


On Oct.30, Friends of Sims Library hosted the 7th annual “Wine with Friends” social. Eight years ago, Sims Memorial Library Director Eric Johnson and Janie Branham, Department Head of Serials started the organization in fall 2007. FOSL was established when Johnson and Branham wanted to create an organization to support the library. FOSL is an organization that supports the activities and collections of Sims Memorial Library. The organization purchases equipment and resources, as well as providing programs, lectures, author readings, book signings and other special events, according to library officials as stated in a FOSL brochure.
According to Branham, after budget cuts she and Johnson wanted to provide additional funds for the library  as well as creating more library awareness on campus.

“Prior to FOSL, people who purchased borrowing privileges through library cards supported the library,” said Johnson. “All of that money went to the university’s budget.”

According to Johnson, people who had previously purchased library cards, as well as key members of the community were invited to an informational meeting which consisted of about 25 to 30 people. Volunteers served as the first board members. Later, a special meeting was held to elect officers. Branham said that one of the challenges of the organization was selecting board members. “Getting the right board established took some time,” said Branham. Community leaders had so much to do, now some people have FOSL as their primary job. Board members were chosen based on their interest in supporting the library, said Branham.

“Community leaders and student representatives create a bridge between the library and students. Current and retired faculty members also serve on the board.”

English professor at Southeastern, Richard Cooper, and former Emeritus professor, C. Howard Nichols, both serve on the board. Nichols is the vice-chair of the executive board and Cooper is a member of the executive board. Currently FOSL has about 50 members who reside in the local area, as well as in Baton Rouge and other areas on the North Shore. Although FOSL is mostly composed of older leaders of the community, there are opportunities for younger members to join.

Graduate student and history major, Troy Norton, describes his decision to join FOSL.

“I thought it would be good to support the library and improve it so people can keep coming here,” said Norton. “It’s also a good experience for my future career as a history professor.”

According to Johnson and Branham, they had to create sample bylaws, constitutions, duties for officers and responsibilities of boards. It took about two years before the organization could host major events, like “Wine with Friends.” Although Branham and Johnson serve on the executive board of FOSL, the board functions independently.
“We are non-voting members,” said Branham. “We let our committee know what we need and they make a decision whether or not to approve things.”
According to Branham and Johnson, the board generously donates money to the library in order to fund renovations, equipment, lab tops, I-pads and software. The board not only donates money, but also cooks food for many of the events that they host, as well as volunteering their time, according to Johnson.

“Not only do they support us financially, they reach out to the community for vital links,” said Branham.

One of the ways FOSL raises money is by hosting annual fundraising events throughout the year including “Wine with Friends”, “Membership Author’s Tea” and the “Annual Book Sale.” Wine tastings and membership teas have proved to be successful, earning about $1,000 to $3,000 each year, according to Johnson and Branham.
“The wine tasting is educational,” said Johnson. “The ‘Membership Author’s Tea’ is more refined with a lecture of authors.”
The board keeps a running balance no higher than $5, 000,  said Branham. Typical events can cost between $200 to $1,000, based on changes in attendance and items volunteered by local businesses and board members.
The Hammond Regional Arts Center and the Contemporary Art Gallery are partners of FOSL and often provide venues for events such as the “Let’s Talk Art” lecture series.
“Working with another organization in the community, doing some things outside of the library, and being present at other venues is always a benefit,” said Johnson. New members are allowed to join during any time of the year. Members can join based on levels which consist of Individual, Associate, Patron and Lifetime. Individual membership includes one seat at the annual Member’s Tea for $25 to $74.
Associate membership includes two seats at the annual Member’s Tea for $75 to $199.
Patron membership includes a special gift and two seats at the annual Member’s Tea for $200 to $499.
Lifetime membership includes four seats at the annual Member’s Tea, a special gift and their name included on the lifetime friends plaque in the library, for $500 or more.
All membership levels consist of advance notice of FOSL and library activities, invitations to free lectures, author readings and programs.
According to Branham, there are no charges to members for cultural events like the Hammond Regional Art Center’s

“Literary Art Festival”, but events like the upcoming “Membership Drive and Valentine Cabaret” will require admission charges. The “Membership Drive and Valentine Cabaret” will be held at the Columbia Theatre in February 2016. All proceeds will benefit Sims Memorial Library.




For more information on FOSL call (985) 549-2186, or visit the Southeastern homepage.

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