Friends of the Exeter Public Library Endowment Fund

As of March 1999, the Town of Exeter had no full-service public library. Although the Town’s original free library moved from home to home for many years until finding a more permanent home in a room of the Town Hall, it was cram-packed, and relied on the honor system, with a sign out sheet to borrow books during Town Hall business hours.

In order to raise community awareness about the benefit and value of a public library, Helen Douglas, along with several enthusiastic residents, founded the Friends of the Exeter Public Library, a nonprofit organization committed to the growth and development of a public library in the town. Over the next five and a half years, Helen, now Friends President, and her new board members worked tirelessly to gain support. Funds were raised through mailings and phone campaigns, book and bake sales, and advocacy for their cause at the Town’s Financial meetings, seeking budget approval to build a new library.

As a result of the Friends’ dedicated efforts, the Exeter Public Library became a reality, and opening day ceremonies were held on September 25, 2004. The group purchased the library’s initial box of CLAN library cards, and has provided continued support to supplement programs, materials, and resources for the library over the last 18 years, most recently receiving the Rhode Island Library Association’s Meritorious Friends of the Library award for their outstanding contributions to quality library service. The group also conducts fund raising activities for the development of programs to improve library services, seeking gifts, endowments, bequests, and grants for the benefit of the library and its patrons.

With a strong desire to maintain financial support for the library in perpetuity, the Friends turned to the Rhode Island Foundation. Both Helen and David Zannelli, the organization’s Treasurer, learned a great deal from their informational meeting with the Foundation and appreciated the lower entry point into the organizational endowment fund. Says David, “This fund is a way that we can set ourselves up to keep going…a safe and secure place for our money that will support the library when we are no longer here.”