Judy Wetter champions volunteering as a way to create the kind of a community she wants to live in. Judy spent the last twenty years fostering Manatee County’s engagement with literacy, learning, and community connections through her work with the Friends of the Central Library Board and the Second Edition Bookstore.

While she was volunteering as a secretary for her church in 2000, a fellow volunteer suggested she attend a Friends Board meeting. Because of her talent and dedication to service, Judy quickly moved into positions of Board leadership. She served as President and Vice President before taking over as Treasurer, a position she has held for the last seventeen years. This vital position keeps the organization’s financial needs and records in order, including tracking thousands of dollars of revenue and expenditures per year, applying for grants, and handling IRS filings.

No matter what position she has held, Judy has been a stabilizing force on the Board, providing an unwavering commitment to ethics and service. Judy inherited a busy, successful Friends group twenty years ago. The Board not only funded library programs, but also organized their own programs, including visits from the local guide dog organization, drama productions, history lectures, and more.

In those early days the Friends’ main fundraiser was a community brunch. Judy suggested that they replace the brunch with book sales twice a year. Due to her vision and grit, the multi-day book sales were a great success. The Friends’ fundraising was so successful during those years that in 2009 they were able to completely fund a renovation of the Central Library Children’s Library with a contribution of $90,000. The renovation created separate areas for staff offices and children’s programming and installed entirely new shelving and display units.

Judy is always looking for better ways to support the growing needs of the Central Library. Because of how popular the book sales were with the local community, Judy worked with the Library to set aside space for an in-house Friends bookstore in 2012. Judy found a new mission with the Second Edition Bookstore. She researched best practices for library bookstores and found a Friends group in California that had written a manual to help other Friends groups set up a bookstore. Armed with this information to get her started, Judy proceeded to become an expert in all aspects of running a small retail bookstore. Although all books are donated, everything else was “retail” from sorting to displaying and rotating stock. She independently recruits, trains, and manages a roster of local volunteers with the mission of keeping the Bookstore open all forty-eight hours that the Library is open each week.

Management of the bookstore also entails depositing the proceeds, filing monthly taxes with the state of Florida, and balancing the checkbook, duties which dovetail nicely with her work as the Friends Board Treasurer. Selling books for as little as $.25, the Second Edition Bookstore brings in as much as $12,000 per year. Under Judy’s attentive management for the last nine years, it has been the primary source of the Friends’ donated funds to the Library.

The Friends’ primary purpose is to provide the Library with the supplemental funding it needs for excellent programming, new materials, staff development, building and grounds enhancements that the Library could not otherwise afford. Because the Friends’ funding has been so stable during Judy’s tenure, Library staff always receive the funding they request for a wide variety of programming and other needs. The Friends have funded many of the Library’s most successful programs and services, including the Betty Davis Miller Youth Services Award-winning Recycled Fashion Show, the FLA Innovation Award-winning 805 Lit + Art Journal, the Area 52 makerspace’s 3D printer and robotics equipment, baby massage classes, and annual summer reading programs. These initiatives strengthen the image of the library as an educational resource where the wonder of books is supplemented with hands-on learning opportunities for people of all ages.

Since the Bookstore has been closed for the last year due to the pandemic, the Friends’ funding source has run dry. The loss of a whole year’s worth of revenue is a huge strain for the small organization. Judy’s management of the Board’s investments ensures that staff can still get the funds needed for their online programs and grab & go activity bags during this unusual time. Since patrons still come in to check on the Bookstore every day, there is little doubt that it will recoup the revenue as soon as it’s able to open its doors again. Judy hasn’t allowed her customers to leave empty-handed in the meantime. 

Since the Library reopened in June, Judy has graciously provided books from the store for patrons to take for free. She knows how much those books mean to her customers. During the last year, Judy not only endured the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic, but she also suffered a personal loss. Nevertheless, she remained committed to her work with the Friends of the Central Library Board, processing programming payments, keeping in touch with her volunteers, and continuing to sort through books for the store.

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