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Caroline Berry helps bring books to the community with Dolly Parton Imagination Library

Caroline Berry discovered her love for local libraries while she was half a world away from her current home in Wilsonville, Oregon. Before joining First Tech as a Licensed Servicing Agent, Berry and her family had moved thousands of miles to the 3rd largest city in China, for what they first thought would be a six-month trial.

Thanks to some continuing work and evolving plans, it became their home for the next four years.

“In the city where we lived, there were fewer than one thousand English speakers, so we had to learn Mandarin,” Caroline said. “To get our hands on reading materials in English was expensive.”

The lack of resources drove home the importance of having access to a variety of books for learning, development and entertainment. This renewed Caroline’s appreciation for the library, and led her to apply to join the Board for the Wilsonville Public Library after moving back to the United States. The Board accepted her and eventually, Caroline was asked to serve on the Library Foundation and act as their Director—a position she still holds today.

“I have learned that the library has so much more than just books, they have lots of services to help people,” Caroline said.

While serving with the Library Foundation, Caroline was introduced to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library—and became a big fan of Parton herself.

“I have three daughters, and my youngest daughter loves country music,” she said. “After joining the foundation, when we really started working with the Imagination Library, I just learned so many benefits she has done for her community. The whole reason she started the Imagination Library was because her father couldn’t read, so she started it locally and it just took off.”

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a book giving program that helps foster the love of reading by putting high quality books in the hands of children. For all families, whether or not they have means or access to buy new books, the program sends each child a free book every month until they turn five.

The program has taken off within the Wilsonville Library Foundation, but its impact is not just limited to the Wilsonville area. The Imagination Library has grown throughout Oregon, as directors from Wilsonville have traveled across the state to introduce the program to numerous new communities. Now, the program is up and running in almost every county in the state. The Library Foundation is also working on a development plan to include the Little Free Libraries program—which places free book donation boxes in public and shared spaces around the community—in addition to the growing Dolly Parton Imagination Library program.

The Wilsonville Library Foundation would have celebrated their 5th annual Wine Tasting fundraising event in 2020—but COVID put those celebrations on hold. Now, they are hard at work planning more virtual events for 2021, and working with their community to expand the Little Free Libraries program.

Caroline keeps plenty busy with the library, but she plans on stepping down next year as the Foundation’s President--a position she has held since 2018.

“The Board asked me to do it one more year, and then I’ll probably pass the baton. It’s always good to have fresh ideas and new leadership come to the table.”