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Friends group gives library vital support
book sale pic
Dozens of people browse tables stacked with books at the annual Friends of the Turlock Library book sale. The 2014 book sale will be held Jan. 30 and 31 and Feb. 1. - photo by Journal file photo

The Turlock Library holds special memories for many area residents. From first trips to the library for story time and getting that first library card, to finding the perfect resources for a finals paper or SAT test prep, the library often plays an important role in the literary development in a person's life.

While funding cuts over the past 20 years have threatened to severely diminish the services offered at the library, a group of dedicated community members are doing everything possible to make sure the public library is a resource for generations to come. The Friends of the Turlock Public Library has been supporting the library with funding and volunteers since the group's founding in 1993.

"Our very first project was to restore a half-time position for a children's librarian," said Hanna Renning.

Hanna and her husband, Dieter Renning, are both past presidents of the Friends of the Turlock Library, and have been members since almost the start of the organization. Dieter Renning is retired from teaching at California State University, Stanislaus as an economics professor. Hanna Renning worked at both the CSU Stanislaus library and the Turlock Public Library.

"We were very attracted to helping the library in any way we could," said Hanna Renning. "We were book people."

Over the years, the Friends of the Turlock Library have purchased items to make the library accessible to all, like an automatic door opener and bean bag chairs in the teen books area. The group also funds all the children's programs.

"We step in since the county doesn't really budget everything the library needs, such as children's programs," said Hanna Renning.

In the future, the group hopes to help fund an expansion of the Turlock Library or the building of a whole new facility. Being a regional library that provides services to the county's south and westside residents, the Turlock site has long been in need of improvement. The economic downturn has put any plans of library expansion on the back burner, for now.

"We have set aside funds for the day when a project of that kind becomes reality," said Dieter Renning.

The nonprofit group raises funds to help supplement the library's budget year-round by selling books at Ritzy Rags consignment shop in downtown Turlock and at the Friends used bookstore inside the library.  The organization's most successful fundraising event, however, is its annual book sale. More than 10,000 books will be for sale at this year's event, set for Jan. 30 and 31 and Feb. 1.

Helping with the club's year-round and annual used book sales is how Patricia Portwood got involved with the Friends of the Turlock Public Library. As a recent retiree, she was looking for something to fill her time. As an avid reader, the library was a perfect cause for her to take up.

"I started volunteering a couple of hours at the book store, and then they asked me to lead Turlock's Measure T campaign (a 1/8 cent sales tax initiative to fund all county libraries)," said Portwood. "It was an easy area for me to give my passion, my energy, my time."

Portwood not only belongs to the Friends of the Turlock Public Library she also is serving as president of the Stanislaus Library Foundation, raising funds for all the local branches.

"Anywhere you go, Friends (of libraries) members are all passionate about the library. We supplement and try to make exemplary programs," she said.