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Washington County Library supporters start fundraising push

A group of Washington County Library supporters have kicked-off an effort to raise funds that they hope will bolster the countywide system's book collection.

The new nonprofit Washington County Library Partners has formally started their push to raise $20,000 in 2012 to purchase 2,012 new books for the county's six libraries. And it's off to decent start, too: if the group can raise $10,000 by Sept. 30, an anonymous donor has already committed to providing a matching $10,000 grant.

"We want to make a good library great," said Ken Stone, of Woodbury, the Partners' president and the husband of a former Washington County librarian.

Last week, the group launched its new website,, where supporters can find more information on the "2012 in 2012" campaign, as well as kick in a donation.

Stone said the five-member Library Partners - modeled after the successful Minneapolis-based Friends of the Hennepin County Library - have been meeting for roughly two years, working out how to tackle its goal of supporting Washington County's libraries and looking to double the size of the group's governing board.

Though the system has more than 600,000 items in circulation, the Partners' efforts come at a time when budget reductions have limited the number of new library materials that have been purchased.

Almost a half-million dollars in cuts from this year's budget forced the closure of two small branch libraries - in Newport and Marine-on-St. Croix (Lake Elmo also elected to leave the system) - reduced hours at the remaining branches and staff cuts. It also meant fewer new hardcovers, paperbacks and e-books for patrons to check out, Library Director Patricia Conley said. She called the Library Partners "a very good thing."

"It'll help us raise money," Conley said in a recent interview. "But, equally as important ... we need people to care about the library, to support us, to talk to their [elected] officials about us. So, there's money and there's also good will."

The Library Partners could eventually open opportunities to the library to support - and possibly expand - its program offerings, Conley said, independent of budget fluctuations. Stone said a long-term goal of the group is to create an endowment that can provide annual support to the library.

"We desperately need to invest in our library systems and library services," Stone said.