By Scott Simmons
With Betty Grinnan, her voice says it all.
It is at once authoritative and humorous. Focused, but sweetened with the honeyed accent of her native Virginia.
And Grinnan uses that voice to get things done.
As a member of the Friends of the Boca Raton Library and as liaison between the Friends and the Library Advisory Board, Grinnan helped prod the City Council into agreeing to build a larger library a few blocks north of the current location on Boca Raton Boulevard.
The City Council agreed on Sept. 13 to go forward with the 35,000- to 40,000-square-foot project, after more than a dozen citizens spoke in favor of the $9.8 million project, to be built at Fourth Street and Boca Raton Boulevard.
It is a move that would allow the existing library to remain open during construction.
Grinnan was there, with a large chart, and asked, “Why are we here?”
She drew applause from the audience for her presentation, and Mayor Susan Whelchel jokingly admonished the crowd by saying, “Do not give that woman any more encouragement,” and later said, “Betty knows I’m teasing her because we’ve known each other for about 40 years.”
But Grinnan is modest, and insists that she is just one of about 120 people who volunteer with the Friends of the Library.
The Friends’ store on the library’s second floor is packed with books, CDs and DVDs. Annual sales are upward of $40,000, said Janet Klingler, president of the Friends.
The group receives upward of $70,000 in requests each year from the library staff, and money it raises through book sales helps provide lectures and music programs.
“They really are incredible,” Grinnan says of the Friends, who she says also donate more than 1,500 books monthly that cannot be sold in the book shop to area nursing homes, hospitals and senior centers.
Grinnan comes by her library activities naturally.
She and her husband, Tucker, who live in coastal Boca Raton, moved to the area in 1977, with their four children. Tucker Grinnan, a business consultant, had accepted a job in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.
Grinnan had a graduate degree in English, and had planned to teach, but one of her children’s schools offered her the job of school librarian. She accepted the job and worked for 24 years as librarian for the North Broward School, now called North Broward Preparatory School. She later got a degree in library/information science from the University of South Florida.
“My main goal in that job was to get kids to love reading,” Grinnan says. “I am passionate about that, especially in today’s digital world.”
And she still is passionate about getting kids to read.
After her retirement, Grinnan became a volunteer librarian for the Florence Fuller Child Development Center.
“It is a wonderful venue for me to help children love books, and to encourage parents and teachers to read to them,” she says of the Florence Fuller center, where she reads to the children.
Grinnan’s love of books extends to her 10 grandsons and two granddaughters — three live in Hong Kong — who come to visit their grandparents in Boca Raton. The children tend to enjoy reading such fantasy material as the Harry Potter series and books by C.S. Lewis.
As for Grinnan, she reads The New York Times and biographies of people both contemporary and historical, but concedes that she loves Jane Austen: “I’m one of those Pride and Prejudice nuts.”
Well, one of those Pride and Prejudice nuts who sees the library as a gathering place for the community.
“Every time I go in the library I see people working at the computer, possibly researching jobs. I see mothers and kids with bags of books. I see retirees siting in chairs reading. I see young people using the computers for research,” she wrote in an e-mail. “We have to keep the library open. The library
is an essential service.”