The Coast News Group
Started in 1971, the Friends of OPL works to enhance the library’s facilities and services. Courtesy photo

Friends of Oceanside Public Library turns 50

OCEANSIDE — The Friends of the Oceanside Public Library is celebrating 50 years as a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the city’s libraries.

Started in 1971, the Friends of OPL works to enhance the library’s facilities and services.

The Friends sponsors programs like the annual summer reading programs, cultural events, technology support and author meet-and-greets. The organization also puts on annual fundraisers and runs volunteer-led bookstores in the Civic Center and Mission Branch libraries to raise funds that all go back to the library.

When the library first started offering computers for public use, the Friends collaborated with the Oceanside Public Library Foundation, another nonprofit organization dedicated to the library, to fund some of those computers.

The two organizations also worked together to provide renovations and updated furniture in the library.

“We help to keep things modernized and in good repair,” said Chris Wilson, president of the Friends Board of Directors.

The Friends raises money through its membership program, which has annual fees as low as $10 for individual members and as high as $1,000 for businesses.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Friends of OPL have introduced its 50/50 Club membership to entice more businesses to join the Friends.

“We’re encouraging businesses in the Oceanside area to join us as members,” Wilson said. “Those memberships start at $50.”

The Friends of OPL has grown tremendously over the last 50 years, starting with a small budget to giving back about $100,000 per year for at least the last decade.

Since its founding, the Friends has raised more than $2.1 million to help fund library operations. Its members volunteer on average more than 9,500 hours each year for the library.

To honor the 50th anniversary of the Friends of OPL, Mayor Esther Sanchez read a proclamation of honor for the organization at the very first City Council meeting of 2021.

“The work of the friends highlights on an on-going basis the fact that our Library is the cultural heart of the community providing opportunities for all to engage in the joy of life-long learning and connect with the thoughts and ideas of others,” the proclamation signed by Sanchez reads.

The mayor’s proclamation urges everyone to join the Friends of the Oceanside Public Library.

In addition to providing access to information, libraries like Oceanside’s also serve as cultural hubs. Wilson said the Oceanside Public Library is a “key part” of the city’s Downtown Cultural Arts District.

“Libraries foster a sense of community,” Wilson said.

Libraries also help people determine whether or not information they have received is reliable.

“One of the key things that a library offers is guidance in discerning the quality of information people have,” Wilson said. “Libraries also give them the tools necessary to evaluate where they’re getting their information.”