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Chocolate fest

Live music, free samples of local craft beer and wine, and all the chocolate you can stuff into — a box, this year. Plus the opportunity to support literacy through library materials and community programming.

Good things come in dozens this Valen-time of year, and there’s a lot to love about the Friends of the Oelwein Public Library 12th annual Chocolate Fest fundraiser, which is scheduled from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, “snow or shine.”

With no cover charge, the funds raised will come from sales of boxes of chocolate.

“It used to be you would come to the library, buy a ticket, buy a plate and all you can eat chocolate,” Library Director Susan Macken said, but that has changed in recent years. “Now you buy a box. You can eat some there if you want, or can take it home.”

And like life, you never know what you’re gonna get.

“We ask friends members to donate any item that has chocolate in it so they get a variety,” Macken said. “Anything from candy, cookies, cake, cake pops, we’ve even had chocolate-dipped strawberries and chocolate-dipped bacon.”

While taking in easy listening music from local singer-songwriter or “guitar man” Bruce Bearinger, attendees will also have a spread of local craft beer and wine to sample, such as from PIVO Brewery in Calmar. Macken anticipates there will be four categories, and samples will be less than an ounce, “one with a chocolate flair.”

Not only will participants go home with a music buzz and chocolate, but they will have the pride of supporting the Friends of the Library, the charitable arm that funds special programs and purchases at the cultural hub that was the brainchild of


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20th century influencer Andrew Carnegie — libraries.

The Friends have added to the DVD collection the last few years, including contributing $1,000 last fiscal year.

“Percentage-wise, [DVDs are] the highest circulating item at the library,” Macken said. Records show last fiscal year the library circulated over 12,714 DVDs, and since it only owns 2,602, that means each DVD was checked out nearly five times on average.

“It’s a high turnover rate for how many we have,” Macken said.

By contrast, the library’s 32,152 books were checked out 33,775 times in fiscal 2019, averaging a little over once for every book.

Some of the value of the Friends is literally immaterial — as it goes to programming. The library offered 197 events last year — which counts each instance of recurring programs, such as Story Time, separately — and 2,846 people participated, averaging over 14 people an event.

Up next is the mushroom program in which a group from Dubuque will discuss growing one’s own fungi on a nurse log, on Feb. 20 at 4 p.m.

“They have this technique, where you drill holes in a log, you inoculate it with the spores of a mushroom, and can grow your own gourmet mushroom that way,” Macken said. “A lot of people have said they are planning on coming, interested in seeing how it’s done.”

Sustainable gardening will also be discussed, such as hardwood mulch, stump, trenched and buried log cultivation, also techniques that break down lignin and cellulose, the basis of plant life, and how to improve plant life.

Space is unlimited — within fire code constraints — and she plans to draw names for the 10 logs that will be offered, again sponsored by the Friends.

The most popular program, as many know, is the themed summer reading program, which runs during June with tiers for all ages. Readers earn points toward prizes. The Friends also support that.

Related books are displayed during programs, so events also add value to circulation.