Is it possible for a local institution to be both a widely acclaimed treasure and an criminally underrated resource?

The Mill Valley Public Library might qualify if so, churning 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, 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.

The foundation of all of that creativity is City Librarian Anji Brenner and her team, which used the Library’s 100-year anniversary in 2011 as a springboard to even greater heights. But it’s also built on the fundraising power of having two dedication organizations propelling its success. 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 larger projects like the centennial campaign, the 1996 library renovation and the endowment, the Friends of the Mill Valley Library, has a similar but not duplicate mission and with a different strategy to attain it. The Friends is a membership organization that focuses more on the day-to-day role of the library. 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.


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