‘Friends of Natrona County Library’ Honored for 50 Years of Book Sales
The 'Friends of the Natrona County Library' Book Sale didn't start with Betty Ouderkirk and Wilma Bovie, but they certainly became the heart and soul of the sale, as did Kevin Anderson.
All three people spent countless hours in the basement of the Natrona County Public Library, sorting through books, setting them up, selling them, and more. The 'Friends of the Library' Book Sale is absolutely a labor of love, and it has been for the last 50 years.
On Wednesday, the Natrona County Library celebrated and honored Ouderkirk, Bovie, Anderson and other friends on the 50th Anniversary of the 'Friends of the Natrona County Library' Book Sale.
It started in 1973.
According to a brochure timeline provided by the NCPL, "In 1973, Kathleen Hemry and Kevin Anderson 'spent many hours sorting and categorizing books as they came in.' The records of that sale indicate that they ran out of paperbacks before the end of the sale. The early records also indicate that in 1974, the sale had over 1,800 attendees."
Throughout the following 50 years, that number continued to grow and grow - to the point that lines for the book sale went out the door and into the parking lot.
"If my recollection is correct, the library itself held a couple sales starting in something like 1969," Kevin Anderson told K2 Radio News. "It might have been as a result of those sales, or it might have been just a separate coincidence, but then they formed the 'Friends of the Library' and one of the big things has always been the sale. It's always been one of Casper's big cultural events. People don't necessarily think of it as cultural, but when you look at the lines that used to form when the sales were done that way, it was just amazing. Out the door and all the way around. They went out the back door and all the way around to the corner."
In short, they were a big deal.
And they've remained a big deal for the last 50 years.
"The Friends of the Natrona County Library is celebrating a milestone," the brochure read. "2022 is the 50th year of book sales for the organization. The first sale was held in the basement of the 'new' library and the sales still take place there today. Prior to that first sale, volunteers placed drop boxes in grocery stores to collect donated books. Those first volunteers, let by Barbara Gosman, borrowed 37 'heavy' tables and four picnic tables to display their books. Volunteers estimated that they had collected over 10,000 books and the sale raised $300 the first day with a final total of $1,730.82. The end of 2022 marks 90 successful sales!"
Throughout those 50 years, many volunteers, many friends, helped out with the book sales. But two people who really stood out, who really make the book sale a priority, who really gave their time, energy, heart and soul, were Betty Ouderkirk and Wilma Bovie.
"After several volunteer sale coordinators, Betty Ouderkirk began chairing the sale in 1979 and Wilma Bovie joined her as chair in 1982," the brochure stated. "These women spent several decades leading the book sale efforts. In 1984, the sale expanded into two rooms."
Both Ouderkirk and Bovie have since passed, but their legacies remain alive and in tact at the Natrona County Library.
On Wednesday, the library honored the relatives of both women, telling them how vital they both were to the success, and the future, of the Natrona County Public Library.
"She just jumped right into it and it just went from there and snowballed," said Betty's daughter, Diane Kowalski. "It got bigger and bigger and bigger, especially after she retired."
Kowalski said that her mom was so involved with the sales throughout the years, simply because "she loved books."
Kowlaski said that in addition to being one of the lead volunteers for the Natrona County Library book sales, she was also the first woman Landman with Gulf Oil. But when she wasn't trailblazing, she was at the library, sorting through books and organizing them by author.
"They were here probably four or five days a week," Kowalski said. "She liked doing it and she drafted a lot of us to come down, too."
One of those people was Betty's brother, Jerry Quinlan. Quinlan reflected on his sister's life, and offered a quick smile at her memory.
"She was always very kind to me" Quinlan said. "She took good care of me. I was the last of seven, and she was sixth. She always gave me a chance to get some good books down here."
Quinlan said that his sister very quickly established a book collection to be envied.
"She had a wonderful collection of books," he said. "I think they're almost all at Diane's now."
Betty loved books, and so did her friend, Wilma. That love for books, for education, revealed itself in Wilma's career as well.
"She was an ex-teacher," Wilma son, Robert Bovie shared. "She was an elementary school teacher. And she subbed a while. I once had her as a sub in high school. It wasn't fun. But we were a book family. I learned to read at a very young age. And the house is still full of books, 20 years later.
That love of books presented itself in both her career and in her pastime.
"I remember the first time we came to the library, when we first moved here in 1971," Bovie said. "The basement was like the children's area and it was rinky dink shelves like you'd see at the dollar store. It was pretty lackadaisical. But we were in the library a lot in whatever city we were in. I had gone on to college before she got fully invested with the Natrona County Library, but it became very, very important to her very quickly."
And so, for the next few decades, Wilma and Betty, Casper's own Flinstones, led the charge for the 'Friends of the Library' Book Sale.
"The books that she would get, I would help her sort," Bovie said. "SOmetimes on the weekends, I'd come down here and the variety we would receive; it was enormous. You wouldn't think that a smaller community like Casper would have such diveristy. But there's people here of all walks of life, and there's so much knowledge to be had. And people want to share it. The community wants to share it. That's why this is such a success."
And what a success it has been. According to the brochure passed out at the event:
- The Friends now host four sales annually.
- During the last sale, 25 volunteers worked over 210 hours.
- Currently, 42 volunteers volunteer well over 3,000 hours annually. The current volunteers have volunteered over 400 years of service to the Friends.
- In 2021, these volunteers worked over 3512 hours. Even with Covid, the last five years averaged 3066 volunteer hours annually.
- Income from sales currently fund over $25,000 of donations to the library each year, as monetary donations to the Wyoming Reads program.
- In addition to sales of books, hundreds and even thousands of books are donated annually to schools, programs, and groups in the area.
Lisa Scroggins, the Executive Director of the Natrona County Public Library, told K2 Radio News that the book sale has raised more than $1 million over the course of its history. Much of that success is due to Ouderkirk, Bovie, and Anderson.
"The money raised really allows us to go from being a library that's serving the people to a library that is embracing all of the awesome things that we do, all of the after school programs and events, and book clubs, and everything else. I wasn't here when Betty and Wilma were here, but I've heard so much about the dynamic duo that they were. But our current friends are just phenomenal people. They come in and support our staff and bring all this stuff in and help out so much. And you can tell it's done genuinely out of love and appreciation, and it just means so much to my staff when they do that. They make good things happen, and I can't speak highly enough of them."
The current 'Friends of the Library' are entering their 50th year and, throughout those years, they have proven that if it wasn't for them, the Natrona County Public Library would be nowhere near as successful as it is. The success that the Natrona County Public Library has seen is the direct result of the work of the Friends of the Library. It's the direct result of people like Betty Ouderkirk, Wilma Bovie, and Kevin Anderson. They're not just friends of the library; they're friends of the entire community.
The 'Friends of the Library' Book sale is happening December 1-3. More details can be found on their Facebook page.