Mill Valley Library.

Let’s just say it out loud: the Mill Valley Public Library is such an awe-inspiring institution that it has not one, but two, nonprofit organizations dedicated to its sustainability.

Those two entities – the Mill Valley Library Foundation and the Friends of the Mill Valley Library – operate with the same goals in mind but do so in very different ways.

As we’ve reported widely in recent years, the Mill Valley Library Foundation is a powerhouse, announcing in 2019 a unique public-private partnership between the foundation and City of Mill Valley allowing the foundation’s board to reach a capital base sufficient to initiate an endowment starting at $2.3 million. 

While the foundation has historically coalesced around large projects like the endowment, the Friends of the Mill Valley Library has a similar but distinct mission. The Friends is a membership organization that focuses more on the day-to-day.

Membership dues raise thousands of dollars to that end, and the Friends generates much of its revenue from its monthly book sale on the third Saturday of each month. The organization has been unable to host those events through much of the pandemic, so, like the library team they support, they’ve innovated, launching the Mill Valley Online Bookstore, a shop that rivals any of its commercial counterparts and allowing customers to order and pay online in a safe and efficient way and be notified that their order is waiting to be picked up at the Library. The bookstore also welcomes book, CD and DVD donations, which can be dropped off at the donation tables outside the Library during open hours, generally from 12-5pm.

In April, the Friends of the Mill Valley Library , a 501(c)3 charitable organization, is launching a Spring Membership Campaign to increase the size of its organization and its support for the library.  Several generous anonymous donors have offered a match of new membership funds raised by April 30. Annual membership fees and donations to the Book Sale are tax deductible.

Friends of Mill Valley Library’s Monthly Book Sale.

“We are avid readers and believe strongly in the core values of libraries: literacy for all ages; free and equitable access; a place for lifelong learning and cultural experience; and a place where people can find community,” says Erica Posner, a board member of the Friends.  “Membership makes us feel like we are part of the greater good. Membership dues, financial gifts, and book donations help maintain one of the cultural gems of our community.  

Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, scores of Friends of the Library volunteers would sort through thousands of new donations each week, including, best sellers, book club favorites, serious works of biography, history, philosophy, high-technology reference manuals, art and coffee table books, and children’s books, as well as popular CDs, DVDs, and audio books.  These items were sorted into 60 different genres, priced, and then placed for sale at a monthly Sale Day, where a crowd of patrons would queue up at the side door of the library, while waiting their turn to peruse the stacks of donated books, buying thousands of items at each monthly sale.

All of this philanthropic heavy lifting allows the library to churn out award-winning programming before the pandemic and continuing to innovate throughout the crisis, hosting myriad virtual workshops and book clubs, engaging deeply on racial equity issues, offering curbside pickup and even launching “Wi-Fi in the Garden,” an invaluable resource allowing people to get online even if they aren’t able to be inside the library due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Now’s your chance to so support the library via Friends of the Mill Valley Library!


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