“Make sure your community knows that you’re here. And make sure your community knows what you offer.”

Local support is key to a strong library. The Bogart Library, a branch of the Athens Regional Library System, recognizes this and has worked for years to strengthen relationships and communication with its local funders.

“The strongest advice I’d say is get to know your town and your elected officials,” said Bogart Library branch manager Donna Butler. “But here’s the irony, I didn’t set out to do that. I just set out to do the best I could for the community.”

Butler learned more about the community’s need for diapers while visiting a local school to talk about volunteer opportunities. While waiting to speak to students, the speaker before her was the executive director and founder of the Athens Area Diaper Bank, Erin Campbell.

“You have to have them if you’re a working parent,” said Butler. “You cannot put your child in day care unless you have disposable diapers, and you can’t wash cloth diapers at a public laundromat. And I was just blown away by that information and said, ‘Why don’t we become a permanent location to collect diapers for those in need?’”

In addition to partnering with the Athens Area Diaper Bank, the library has also partnered with its local food bank, schools, senior centers, and other organizations. Even though Bogart Library only has two full-time library staff, Butler said the library is committed to making itself available to its community. “I’m proud of what we do, but we’re always looking to do more. The City Council and the mayor respect and respond to that with generous financial support,” said Butler.

Donna Butler and Mayor Jones sit at the library's children's area.

Donna Butler (left) and Mayor Janet Jones sit in the Bogart Library’s children area. The city recently purchased new furniture for the library. 

By going out into the community and attending city events, Butler is able to educate city officials and community members about what the library offers. “Make sure your community knows that you’re here. And make sure your community knows what you offer,” she said.

While the city of Bogart has a population of under 2,000, Mayor Jones recognizes that the library serves people in other communities. “It’s not just Bogart, it’s surrounding counties that come and use this library,” she said.

The library makes a deliberate effort to consistently recognize and meet the specific needs of Bogart, as well as the surrounding area, and this is key to the strong support the library receives.

With the financial support it receives from the city, Butler wants the library to be ready for the city’s growing population. “Bogart is a small town but it’s a growing town. We want to add another layer of service while we continue serving our seniors,” said Butler. Butler said she would like to offer programming to accommodate Bogart’s growing non-English population.

Each year, the Bogart City Council has continued to increase the Bogart Library Gift Fund, which is used for books, materials, programming, and more. The library’s branch manager, Donna Butler, said local support was strong even before she arrived in 2013.

As a result, when funding becomes available, the mayor often thinks about the library. This happened in 2022 with American Rescue Plan Act funds. City of Bogart Mayor Janet Jones contacted Butler directly to ask what the library needed. The library was able to purchase new computers, along with an additional computer designed specifically for children, to meet their patrons’ needs.

Recently, the city purchased new furniture for the library’s children’s area to support the growing attendance at its early literacy programming.

“The library is always present. Anything we have going on in the city, the library does. We all work together,” said Mayor Jones.

Valerie Bell, director of Athens Regional Library System, said the system’s branches are dedicated to fostering relationships within each of the local communities that they serve.

“Through strategic partnerships, tailored programming, and community engagement exemplified by dedicated staff like Donna, our 11 libraries continue to serve as a vital resource hub for each of the five counties served by the library system,” said Bell.