Interview: John Nye
Scott Cohen, Interviewer
John Nye took early retirement from his career in computer marketing in 1989. He and his wife, Bettie, moved to Crossville, TN in 1992. He soon became a member of Friends of the Art Circle Public Library. He has served as a member of Art Circle’s board and president of the Friends. John has served at the state level on the Tennessee Advisory Council on Libraries (TACL) and as a member of Friends of Tennessee Libraries (FoTL) where he currently serves on its advisory committee. He is also a tutor for adults wishing to improve their reading skills.John says his retirement has been greatly enriched by his work in literacy and library advocacy. “I have met many interesting and highly motivated people engaged in a worthwhile cause. It doesn’t get much better than that!”
In your opinion, what is the role of a Friends of the Library group?
One Friends group explains its role as follows:
Friends are civic-minded citizens who know that any community becomes a better community when its libraries are improved.
They lobby for and help raise funds to support enhancement and expansion of public library services. They host book sales, literature programs, cultural gatherings and specialized workshops for the community.
Many Friends work directly with the library staff as volunteers, helping deliver library services on a personal, one-to-one basis. Others work to insure that all segments of the community get the maximum benefit from the public library by staging community and civic programs at the library. Still, other members of the Friends may wish to take on specific projects within the library depending on where there is a particular need.
The work (and play) of a Friends group is as varied as its membership, and the scope of its projects limited only by those members’ imaginations.
Most of all, though, Friends stand ready to volunteer their time, talents, funds, and influence when needed, to promote, improve and expand library services – and to improve the quality of their communities.”
A Friends group is not involved in the management or the policy making decisions of the library. Its role is support only.
Can you tell us of some of the experiences you have had as a Friend of the Library?
Shortly after joining the Friends I noticed that many senior patrons of the library were reluctant to use the newly installed public-use computers. Calling on my career experience with computers, I organized introductory computer classes for seniors only with the assistance of the library, the Friends and our local Tennessee Technology Center. Many seniors had little or no exposure to computers. Cumberland County has the largest percentage of retirees of any county in Tennessee.
I helped teach classes that totaled nearly three hundred seniors over several years. Members of our Friends group, who were computer savvy, served as mentors to the students and were available by phone when they had questions outside of class. This proved to be a very popular program and helped to increase our Friends membership as well as the number of library patrons. It has been one of my most satisfying life experiences.
You are on the advisory committee of the Friends of Tennessee Libraries organization. What does this organization do?
The Friends of Tennessee Libraries website (www.friendstnlib.org) outlines what it does under the label Why Friends as follows:
State Friends organizations are dedicated to supporting and strengthening library services and programs throughout the state. Support can come through strengthening efforts in advocacy, promotion of literacy programs, increasing library awareness, through providing support and encouragement for local groups and through awards programs. Specific reasons for forming our statewide organization include:
- To promote Friends of Library groups in all types of libraries within local communities.
- To facilitate the exchange of ideas and information among Friends groups within the state.
- To emphasize the role of Friends of Library groups for legislative action and financial support.
- To generate and support initiatives for improved library service.
- To identify and develop new non-professional leadership within the state.
- To promote wider knowledge of libraries’ functions, needs, resources and services.
- To publish and distribute resource material for use by local Friends.
- To publicize and reward outstanding Friends groups, projects and programs.
- To increase the general public’s awareness of the important role of Friends and the services they perform for the library.
- To facilitate participation in achieving national objectives in the support of library services.
- To strengthen the total state library program through the participation of Friends along with trustees in state library professional meetings.
- To publicize activities specifically available for Friends groups that will provide support for library development and enhance citizen advocacy wherever appropriate.
- You are invited to join Friends of Tennessee Libraries, to participate in Friends activities and to unite in support of our State’s activities.
What are the greatest challenges facing public libraries today?
I believe the greatest challenge facing libraries today is the need to make legislators and those who influence the funding of libraries aware of the value of library services to their communities. I further believe this message can best be spread by enthusiastic local users of library services.
In your opinion what are the benefits of a public library for a community?
Susan Chambers, current president of Friends of Tennessee Libraries, sums up my feelings on the benefits of public libraries to their communities as follows:
Libraries are the center of democracy. They serve the rich or poor, young or old, highly educated or those barely able to read. Libraries exist to serve the interests and needs of all who enter without regard to status or background. They are the true center of communities.
Scott Cohen, Library Director at Jackson State Community College, edits this regular column.
For more information on the column, see Contributor's Guidelines.