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Meet Kim Laru of Skyline Hills Library Friends

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kim Laru.

Kim, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I received my Masters in Library & Information Science from San Jose State University and have worked in special and public libraries in New York and California.

When I retired from public service a few years ago, my neighborhood Skyline Hills branch library was in a small one-room building in a parking lot, and the Friends chapter had less than 10 members. I had been volunteering for Nonprofit Management Solutions (in Kearny Mesa), and was learning how NPs worked, so joined my local library Friends chapter.

It turns out the Skyline Hills community had been asking for a new library branch building for a decade, and in 2014 the City announced plans to build it! It came online in October 2016.

I continued my nonprofit education at RISE San Diego, and was elected the chapter’s Board co-president in 2016, and president in 2017. I also manage the bookstore, volunteer recruitment, and oversee the annual membership drive.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Finding new volunteers to serve on the Board of Directors for the Friends chapter has been a challenge. While our team of bookstore volunteers has grown since we moved into the new building, we continually need to recruit more reliable volunteers who will help with book sales and inventory management.

We would like to have more volunteers helping us with marketing our programs on social media. We just recently created a webpage – it feels like we’re forging into the ’90’s!

By expanding our marketing we’re getting better turnout for our programs, particularly our evening concerts. But the library is only open two evenings a week til 8pm, and only Saturday til 6pm on the weekends. It’s a predominantly working-class neighborhood, and hard to find times when people are free to come to events.

We’re a membership organization, and we’d love to have more support of local businesses.

Skyline Hills Library Friends – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The Skyline Hills Library Friends are a chapter of the larger Friends of the San Diego Public Library, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Skyline Hills chapter was founded in 1979. We are an all-volunteer membership organization dedicated to supporting the library through fundraising.

The Friends provide funding for books, craft supplies, printing – whatever the library itself cannot budget for. We also provide funding for community programmings such as classes, book discussions, and concerts. Finally, the Friends advocate for the library by working with our Councilmember, and by providing outreach into the community, advertising the wide variety of services available.

Friends memberships run Jan.-December and cost from $5-$100. We also accept cash donations.

In October 2016, the City of San Diego built the new Skyline Hills Library branch building, and our Friends chapter memberships have grown significantly as the community has embraced this new neighborhood jewel. Included in the new building is a bookstore, run by dedicated Friends volunteers. We sell used books that have been donated to us by the community. Most of our books are .50¢ or $1. We hold a large multi-day book sale 2-3x a year.

In 2016, our chapter won a $1000 grant from RISE San Diego for our first-ever Strategic Plan. I’m most proud that our chapter membership went from about 10 members in 2013 to over 70 in 2017, and in our first year of bookstore operation, the Friends raised over $5,000 to help support the library.

In 2017, the Skyline Hills Friends sponsored:
– 4 SCORE business classes
– 6 musical concerts
– 10 book discussions
– 5 gardening classes
– 2 educational lectures

There are no other services of this kind in Skyline Hills. The Library, supported by its Friends, is a cultural, educational and community centerpiece!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of my career with the Skyline Hills Library Friends was the opening of the new Skyline Hills Library on Oct.14, 2016.

– The library more than tripled its space (4,400sf to 15,000sf).
– The library went from 4 public computers to 52, including a large separate computer lab.
– There’s a special children’s area and a family story time room.
– There’s a beautiful public art installation inside and outside the building.
– There are 4 meeting rooms – the old library had none.
– There’s a dedicated teen space.
– There are two outdoor patios and lots and lots of natural light.
– There’s a community room that seats over 220 people.
– There’s a native plant garden out front.
– There’s a dedicated Friends bookstore.

While the Friends only played a small part in it, seeing over 3,000 neighbors and community members turn out to show their love for the new library was the BEST. It confirmed that the library is not only needed, but deeply appreciated, and the Friends support for libraries is time well spent.

Pricing:

  • Our annual memberships: student & senior $5 / individual $10 / family $20 / sponsor $50 / business $50
  • Book prices: kids & small paperbacks .50c / hardback & large paperbacks, DVDs & CDs $1 each

Contact Info:

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