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Lahaina Public Library benefit to highlight improvement needs

By Staff | Jun 24, 2010

Madeleine Buchanan hopes to see facility upgrades at Lahaina Public Library. Photo by Norm Bezane.

LAHAINA — Patrons and friends of the 55-year-old Lahaina Public Library — which badly needs refurbishing — will get a chance to show their support next month, when the Royal Lahaina Resort and Rotary Club of Lahaina host a first-of-its-kind fund-raiser.

Featuring a wine tasting, pupus and music, the event will be held on the Royal Lahaina’s oceanfront lawn from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 8.  

In its own way, “this is a first-class library,” said Librarian Madeleine Buchanan during a tour of the Front Street library last week.  

It has won praise from visiting librarians for its small town friendliness, ocean views and cool breezes. The facility has a decent collection of books, DVDs and audio tapes.

On duty at 7:30 a.m. (even though the library opens at 10:30), Buchanan, in charge of the library since 2006, described the library as “adequate, meaning neither good or bad.”

Termites are making meals of the furniture, upholstered chairs in front of ten-year-old computers are showing their wear and the library needs a paint job.

The state-funded library is short one full-time staff member and has had to close extra days of the week on orders from Hawaii State Public Library System administrators in Honolulu.  

Earlier this year, the state Board of Education said it would keep the library open and not close it or a sister library in Hana after a wave of protests.

Neil Abercrombie (D), candidate for governor and former college professor, told teachers in Wailuku last week that public libraries “make the difference for the ordinary person. We have to see that our libraries are well equipped. If you have no money, you can go there and open up the world for yourself.”

The Lahaina Library’s challenge is based more on cosmetics than materials. Buchanan chose to spend $23,000 of non-operating funds for library materials, not facility upgrades, in the last fiscal year.

She said she only bought books and other materials she knew would appeal most to library users.

The library collection comprises 35,000 books, including a large section for keiki, 3,000 DVDs and videotapes and 400 audio tapes.

In this period of high unemployment, Buchanan said some customers have dropped expensive cable TV service, because they can rent library DVDs at modest prices. Many also use library computers to type resumes.

Lahaina Public Library alone has more than 5,000 active borrowers, including visitors particularly interested in books on Hawaiian topics.

The library’s biggest need is another full-time staff member, which would have to be funded by the state, Buchanan said.

With support from the planned fund-raiser, perhaps supplemented by donations within the community, she hopes to replace furniture and add panels to the windows to keep temperatures down during hot Lahaina days.

Volunteerism at the library is down this year, Buchanan reported. Fewer people are volunteering to shelf or help check out books.

Two notable exceptions, she said, are couples from Washington State and Nebraska who regularly visit Maui in the summer and spend full days working on library projects.

To her knowledge, community organizations have never run a fund-raiser for the library. Some help is provided by Maui Friends of the Library, whose formation in 1912 makes it one of the islands’ oldest non-profits.

Rotarians’ focus on Lahaina Public Library began last fall, after Maui Friends of the Library spoke at the Lahaina Sunrise Rotary Club that meets Tuesdays at Pioneer Inn.

After the speech, library patron Sara Foley volunteered to join the Maui Friends of the Library’s board as the lone representative from West Maui.

This month, Carmen Karady, president-elect of the original Rotary Club of Lahaina in West Maui, learned about the library’s needs and felt it would be an ideal community project for Rotarians.

Selling for $35 in advance, tickets are available by calling the Royal Lahaina Resort at 661-3611, extension 2291, or AAAAA Rent A Space at 669-5200.

The benefit is cosponsored by the Royal Lahaina Resort and Better Brands.