Friends of the Menlo Park Library
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Menlo Park
Friends of the Library
800 Alma Street
Menlo Park, CA 94025
650.330.2521

info@friendsmpl.org


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Friends of the Library
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History
Overview
The First Beginning
The Second Beginning
The Recent Years
A Search for a True History
Overview
Like Caesar's Gaul, the history of the Menlo Park Friends of the Library is divided into three parts:

"The First Beginning" started about 1952, the year of the first book fair. The Menlo Park Friends of the Library was begun by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

"The Second Beginning" of the Friends was fostered by the AAUW in November 1957. During this period, the Friends instituted community book programs.

"The Recent Years" began in 1985. This period includes construction of the present library, the creation of a Friends Bookstore, the expansion of the Annual Book Fair, and the start of "Kepler's-Menlo Park Library Day."
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The First Beginning
With a photo of rain-drenched book shoppers on the front page, the May 26, 1956 Menlo Park Recorder described the fifth annual Menlo Park Book Fair. Accordingly, the first Book Fair would have been in 1952. It seems likely that the Friends were already active in 1951.

Given the efforts of the AAUW, the Friends became a vital force in the upcoming bond measure to build the first permanent public library building in Menlo Park. At that time, they created community support for the Library, which has become the hallmark of the Friends. They also created the tradition of a book fair steeped in local character.

The impact of the first group of Friends was evident in the success of the Annual Book Fairs and the passage of the initial bond to build the first Library building.
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The Second Beginning
After the completion of the construction of the Menlo Park Library, the AAUW reactivated the Friends. They began a monthly Friends' newsletter in December of 1958. Also, they instituted book programs in conjunction with the Kiwanis Club. The programs included popular panel discussions, and the Friends' membership grew.

The Friends recorded their first Annual Book Fair in 1960, with an offering of 8,500 books. This Book Fair was the first major library book fair on the Peninsula.

The discovery of the May 26, 1956 Menlo Park Recorder article on the "5th Annual Menlo Park Book Fair" was unexpected proof that the Friends had previously hosted at least five Book Fairs.
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The Recent Years
By 1985, the Friends had successfully passed on a strong community tradition of an annual book fair, with a distinctive Menlo Park character, outdoors near the Menlo Park Library. When the new library expansion was under way, the Friends commissioned a beautiful stained glass window. Now above the Library entrance, it was designed to welcome patrons and represent what libraries offer.
Also, the Friends presented the Library with the wall mural which depicts the hills to the west.

The Annual Book Fair was expanded to include an auction of selected books, which is very popular.

The magic of having books for sale, priced and catalogued by subject, began with dedicated groups of Friends. This group screens and stores book donations from the Library patrons. Because they work in the window-less Library basement, they came to be known as "The Moles." They continue the tradition of picking up book donations on request, a practice that is unique on the Peninsula.

In the early 80's the Friends began selling donated books daily in the library with the help of the Library staff. In 1993 our present Friends' Bookstore, across from the circulation desk, was established. It is now the Friends' main fund raiser to support Library services.
The secret of the Bookstore's popularity has two components: the daily restocking of books, and the arrangement that whenever the Library is open, so is the Bookstore... because the Library staff collects and records the purchase of all Bookstore purchases.

Returning to an early tradition, the Friends in 1994 created a community-based event to promote the Library: "Kepler's-Menlo Park Library Day." This annual event has been dubbed the "Celebration of the Magic of Reading." It is now a music extravaganza with local school bands--fourth grade through high school. Kepler's donates a percentage of the day's sales. The major beneficiary of this event is the Belle Haven School Library, a rare public school-public library venture.
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A Search for a True History
Despite the years of the Friends’ dedicated activity, our available information has huge gaps for the years 1952-1957 and 1970-1985.

With the community's help, the organization wishes to complete a history that would shed light on the legacy of the Friends. We encourage people to share old newsletters, newspaper articles, notes of early meetings, photos and memories of the Friends' activities and projects.

The complete history of the Menlo Park Friends of the Library is still a work in progress!
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