by Laraine Weschler
NAUGATUCK — The formal old building in the center of the borough has been getting a bit more casual lately.
Staff at the Howard Whittemore Memorial Library have been wearing blue jeans to work on Fridays to raise money for books.
Library Director Jocelyn Miller started the program Oct. 28, but it has only run four weeks so far because of interruptions for Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. The first three weeks have brought in $49, enough to buy about two hard-cover best-sellers, depending on the book.
Staff members pay $1 for the privilege of wearing jeans, and they’re encouraging patrons to contribute to “Blue Jeans for Books,” whether or not they’re wearing jeans.
“The more people who know what we’re doing the better,” Miller said.
Six full-time staff and three part-timers work on Fridays.
Miller said she plans to keep the fundraiser going indefinitely, although the staff may decide to allocate the money to other purposes in the future. She said staff also considered wearing red for the rotunda or purple for programs.
Miller said she got the idea from other libraries, which usually donate the funds they raise to other organizations.
“We’re so desperate for money for the library that we’re doing it for the library,” Miller said.
Unlike most other libraries in Connecticut, the Whittemore is a private nonprofit association run by a board of directors rather than a branch of town government.
The borough contributes 80 percent of the library’s operating budget and the rest of its budget comes from endowments.
This year, the borough allocated $577,000 to the library, which Miller said is a tremendous help, but still less than the Whittemore received three and four years ago and equal to what the municipal government gave last year.
Meanwhile, costs for things like heating and insurance are going up, Miller said.
The library’s book budget is $16,000 this year. Over the last few years, there was no budget for books.
Fundraisers from the Friends of the Whittemore Library pay for museum passes and the DVD and audio collections, Miller said.
She said patrons often come in looking for the latest best-sellers, but the library can’t borrow them from other libraries until they’re no longer categorized as new.
Miller said she just wants to serve patrons as best she can.
Any funds raised through “Blue Jeans for Books” will most likely go towards purchasing fiction best-sellers, the most popular type of books the library offers.
Anyone who wishes to contribute can stop by the library on Fridays and deposit money in the designated collection containers.