For immediate release: May 7, 2013
Contact: Alicen Kikkert, Martin County Library System, Public Relations, 772-463-3205
(STUART, FL) – The Martin County Library System (MCLS) is proud to congratulate Sheila Leach, winner of the 2013 Friends, Foundations and Boards Outstanding Member Award as announced by the Florida Library Association (FLA). Leach was recognized May 1 at FLA’s 2013 annual conference held in Orlando.
“Ms. Leach’s commitment to the Friends of the Martin County Library System, Inc., is extraordinary and we are grateful for her dedication,” said Sarah Heard, Chair of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). “She is most worthy of the Florida Library Association’s distinguished 2013 Friends, Foundations and Boards Outstanding Member Award.”
Leach began her leadership with MCLS in 2008 as membership chairperson for the Friends of the Blake Library, the largest of the then-six Friends groups. While reorganizing membership data, she noticed issues the organization was facing. The downturn in the economy had led to decreased county funds for library services and placed even greater importance on the role the Friends needed to play as advocates and fundraisers.
In 2009, as president of the Friends of the Blake Library, Leach realized that the existing model of the six separate Friends groups was unsustainable. Not only were there not enough volunteers to maintain six unique, incorporated charitable groups, but the public was confused about the role of each group and their relationship to the Library Foundation, a separate organization which supports library enhancements and programming. She demonstrated that the model which was serving the community was lacking from a fiscal, advocacy and volunteer standpoint. Her active cooperation with Terry Dick, MCLS Volunteer Coordinator, aided volunteer recruitment and recognition. “We worked together to make volunteer recognition and recruitment meaningful,” said Dick. “Sheila’s presence at events included rolling up her sleeves to pitch in whenever needed. It gives her perspective on the needs and challenges of filling volunteer roles.”
Realizing a unified advocacy was needed to address the BOCC, Leach’s sights were set. With her at the helm in 2010, library supporters were appearing at public forums and county commission meetings wearing turquoise shirts to visually represent the strength of their presence. Additionally, Leach championed efforts to generate state legislative support of library funding, bringing a greater awareness to library programming. The dependence on funds raised by the Friends, for support of library events and materials for the collection, continues as the economic recovery has not kept pace with the demand for library services.
Using her networking abilities to bring the library system’s message to community events, Leach partnered with the other MCLS Friends groups to further demonstrate that if they worked together the synergy would result in increased library benefits. Two of these large-scale events included supporting BookMania! as sponsors in 2011 and working comedian Paula Poundstone’s event at the Lyric Theatre selling CDs and t-shirts and sharing in the profits. Poundstone helps raise awareness for Friends of the Library groups as national spokesperson for United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association that supports citizens who govern, promote, advocate and fundraise for libraries.
Sheila Leach became the first president of the Friends of the Martin County Library System, Inc., on October 1, 2012. For the first time in many years, there is a single Friends membership form, standardized levels of membership and a new logo which symbolically reflects the six unified groups. Under Leach’s leadership, this is just the beginning of more milestones for the revitalized and reimagined Friends of the Martin County Library System.
“I am thrilled to have been selected for this award, and not just for myself, but for the entire Martin County Library System and the acknowledgement it brings,” said Leach. “I am so thankful to the staff and volunteers. We still have a long way to go, and I am excited for what the future holds!”
Congratulations, Sheila Leach, president of the Friends of the Martin County Library System, Inc., and winner of the 2013 Florida Library Association’s Friends, Foundations and Boards Outstanding Member Award!
To learn more on the Martin County Library System, call 772-221-1403 or visit the website at www.library.martin.fl.us.