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The Friends is a membership organization. We invite members of our community to join us to support and advocate for the Boca Raton Public Library.

 

Our Board is made up of dedicated members of our community who oversee and vote on the distribution of funding in support of Library major projects and programming.

 

The Board also plans and presents Friends cultural programs at the Library, provides special educational events to our members, promotes community outreach and advocacy, engages volunteers for Friends activities, prepares email newsletters to subscribers, and consults on the management and operation of our bookstore.

Would you like to become a board member?  Directors must be a Friends member, assume a responsibility with the Board (such as serving on a committee), and demonstrate a commitment to the Friends mission and objectives.

Fill out and return the application. Applications may be turned in any time of year. The Nominating Committee submits a slate of nominees to be voted on by the Friends membership at the Annual Meeting in October or November. Occasionally vacancies are available to be filled mid-year. The Nominating Committee will contact applicants to interview and answer questions.

Our Board of Directors

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Tracy Wasserman
President

Library Work: I  joined the Friends Board as Board Secretary in 2014, the year I obtained my Masters in Library Science.  As Board President since 2020, I started the Friends online bookstore and am spearheading  incentives for Friends membership and business partnerships.

Occupation: I am employed as a legal assistant for the Boyd, Richards law firm in Fort Lauderdale.  

Family:  My husband, Steve, and I have two daughters and four grandchildren.  Our eldest daughter and her family live in Charlotte, NC, and our other daughter lives in Philadelphia, PA where she works as a digital marketing analyst for Penn Medicine.

Activities:  I play the piano and have been teaching myself the guitar. I also like to cook and enjoy trying new recipes for weeknight dinners.

Why I Volunteer: Volunteering allows me the opportunity to acquire valuable skills that at the same time benefit people who engage with us.  For example, I developed the Friends social media channels and website, which bring more awareness of us and our mission, the library and our outstanding bookstore.

Book Recommendations:  The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates; Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking; Paradise by Toni Morrison.

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Dr. Manjunath Pendakur
Vice President

Library Work: I was Dean of a faculty at the University of Western Ontario which included the graduate School in Library Science.  I have also served four years on the City of Boca Raton Library Board.

Occupation: I retired from the faculty at Florida Atlantic University in 2018. 

Family:  My wife, Roja, and I have two children and four grandkids.  Our daughter lives in Burbank, CA and our son lives in Ithaca, NY. 

Activities: After my retirement, I didn't have to struggle to find something useful and meaningful to do. I'd already served on the Palm Beach County ACLU Board and also was chosen to be on the Board of Trustees of Friends of Gumbo Limbo.

Why I Volunteer: Volunteering is a fabulous way to stay engaged with the community at large and contribute in some small way to enrich life in our area.

Book Recommendations:  A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn;  The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger;  Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling by Carole Satyamurti; Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela.

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Cyndi Bloom
Treasurer

Library Work: I have always loved libraries since I was a small child, and worked at Penn State Libraries while an undergraduate there. I have been on the Friends Board since 2012 and served as President of the Board from November 2013 - May 2020.  In addition to being the Friends acting Treasurer, I am also Chair of Community Outreach.

Occupation: I previously worked in the high tech industry in Massachusetts and was on the adjunct faculty of Cambridge College in Cambridge, MA.  I have been retired since 2010. 

Family:  I have a sister who lives in Fort Myers, and other close family in Maine and Massachusetts.

Activities:  While my husband was alive, we loved to travel the world, eat at restaurants with diverse ethnic cuisines, go the movies, read and be with friends.  I am also trying out my cooking skills, Zooming around and catching up on some good reading.

Why I Volunteer:  I always like to be active and give back to the community.  I like to meet new people and to be where I am needed.

Book Recommendations:  Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens; Educated by Tara Westover.  Classics I recommend: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith; The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.

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Pat Moran
Secretary/ Bookstore manager

Library Work: In my career in fundraising, I worked at the Columbia University Libraries and especially liked working with the librarians and donors in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  Since October 2020, I have volunteered at the Friends Bookstore working with others to prepare the bookstore to reopen to the public.

       

Occupation:  I retired in 2018 after a career in higher education fundraising.  I served as the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Hunter College in New York City and was a clinical assistant professor at New York University Heyman Center for Philanthropy & Fundraising.

Family:  My husband, Steve Silverman, is Dean of the College of Education at Florida Atlantic University. 

Activities:  I enjoy snorkeling and am certified as a scuba diver.  I have volunteered for the Association of Fundraising Professionals for many years and mentor young women in the profession.

            

Why I Volunteer:  My husband and I moved to south Florida in July 2019 and our townhome is in Library Commons next to the downtown library.  One of my first stops was to the library.  Being newly retired and new to the community, I thought volunteering would be a good way to meet friends and neighbors and help an important organization that serves the community.

Book Recommendations: 

The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash and A Gentleman from Moscow by Amor Towles.

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Krista Maki
Programming Chair

Library Work: I have been a board member and chair of Friends Programs since 2005.  Programs include the Sunday Speaker Series, The Sunday Matinee Music Series, the Friends Art Gallery, and a Book Club meeting in each library building.

Occupation: I retired from IBM where I was employed for 31 years, starting in a marketing office in Detroit, providing technical support for customers such as General Motors.  I moved to Boca Raton in 1983, working in Development and Product Management for IBM. 

Family:  I love spending time with my grand niece triplets in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Activities:  Photography - I photograph Friends events and activities, as well as friends and family events.

Why I Volunteer:  I have been lucky in my life, and I feel that we who have been lucky have a duty to give back.

Book Recommendations:  We Have No Idea: A Guild to the Unknown Universe by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson.

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Marilyn Spechler
Co-chair, Ambassadors

Library Work: I manage attendance and the volunteer organizers at Friends events with Victor Martinez, as co-chair of the Ambassador Program. 

Occupation: I retired as a Marriage and Family Therapist, and Director of Social Work at several hospitals.  I also taught at two universities and lectured internationally with my husband.  I still consult occasionally.

Family:  Married 60 years to Col. Jay Spechler, Ph.D., author, economist, engineer and educator.  Our son, Lee, is a pilot at American Airlines after 21 years as an Air Force fighter pilot.

Activities:  I have always volunteered for such organizations as Rusk Institute/ NY Hospital, MHA, hospice and charity organizations, and teen assistance programs.  I also volunteer currently at the Nyack Public Library in Nyack, NY. 

Why I Volunteer:   I like being busy and feeling useful. It feels right to be sharing and giving in a way that really matters. 

Book Recommendations:  Love or  Perish by Smiley Blanton.

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Victor Martinez
Co-chair, Ambassadors

Library Work:  I joined the Friends of the Boca Raton Public Library in 2014 and became a member of the Board in 2016 as Chair of the Ambassadors Program.                    

Occupation:  I am retired from civil and structural engineering,  having            
worked for various companies across the United States and South America.

Family:  My late wife, Ann Martinez, volunteered for many years at the Friends bookstore. I also have family in Kentucky where we lived before moving to Boca Raton.

                   

Activities:  I like to travel.  I keep busy with family and friends activities. As a hobby, I like to do my own home maintenance.

            

Why I Volunteer:  I love to read and have attended many classes                    
sponsored by the Boca Raton Public Library.  To get more involved, I joined the Friends organization to participate in their interesting and educational activities.                    

Book Recommendations: 

I like authorized biographies. I'm always reading so it is hard to make a specific recommendation.  Just keep reading.

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Joanne Toulantis Marketing/ Special Events Chair

Library Work: I have been volunteering with The Friends of the Boca Raton Library since 2015 as Marketing Consultant and Event Planning Manager.                

Occupation:  I retired from a 40-year career in Direct Marketing, planning and buying national cable, broadcast and radio media commercial time

Family:  My husband, Philip, and I raised our daughter, Jenna, in Brooklyn, NY.  I volunteered at my daughter’s school for 10 years from pre-K through 8th Grade, raising funds for the school.

                 

Activities:  I enjoy water aerobics, walking on the beach and reading.  My husband and I also love barbequing with friends at our condo.

            

Why I Volunteer:  I volunteer because I want to give back in honor of my sister’s memory. My sister was a NY librarian for over 35 years and died after only one year of retirement. Being able to bring my work/life skills to such a wonderful organization is a pleasure and fun.

The Friends of the Boca Raton Library support so many programs that everyone can enjoy.  We also have a wonderful bookstore at the Downtown Library that sells all types of books at incredibly low prices with high value.

Book Recommendations:  City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

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Ilena Alvarez
Speaker Series Manager

Library Work: I joined the Friends Board in 2021. I teach Legal Research at Broward College and have for a number of years. My students have to familiarize themselves with library resources. This has opened avenues to work closely with librarians to ensure up-to-date and pertinent resources are available for my students as the school library is unique in that it also serves as the public library for Broward County.

 

Occupation:  I am employed as a solo practitioner. I opened my practice in 2013 and serve the public by practicing in the areas of estate planning (Wills, Trusts, etc.), Probate (the court administration of a deceased’s estate), and Adult Guardianship (the court process of stripping a person’s right due to mental or physical incapacity).

​Family:  I am not married, nor have kids, but my 13-year-old niece gives me a run for my money, and I spoil her beyond belief. My father, mother, and sister are my best friends. They exemplify unconditional love, and nothing beats that blessing.

 

Activities:  I am working on a novel.  This is the 5th one I’ve written because it took me this long to teach myself to write fiction. I play guitar and the ukulele, and am a voracious reader.

 

 

Why I Volunteer:  Serving the public is a huge passion of mine. I am able to utilize my professional skills and my personal interests and combine them in a way that’s gratifying. Maybe it’s also why I teach. But I love the library, my first childhood love, and what better way to offer my time than to serve on a Board whose work makes a definitive impact on the library community.

 

Book Recommendations:  The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel, Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover, On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves, and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

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Alexis Johnson
Membership chair

Library Work: I joined the Friends as Director of Membership Development in 2020. My role is to help establish business donations and sponsorship opportunities within our community, as well as recruit new individual members to our organization. I was elected to the board in 2021. I also currently work in the Friends bookstore.

 

Occupation:  I am Chief Administrative Officer at Bergen Asset Management, LLC. I have worked with this company for over 5 years, most of which was in New York City. We relocated our office down to Boca Raton in the summer of 2019.

 

​Family:  My parents and most of my siblings live in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. Every winter they make every excuse to escape the snow and visit me in sunny Florida! I am lucky enough to have my oldest brother living with me down here. I’m also a proud mom to my Yorkie and tabby cat.

Activities:  I am an active volunteer with Boca Helping Hands in their food pantry distribution division. I also am attending University of Central Florida’s Graduate Online Certificate program for Nonprofit Management.

 

Why I Volunteer:  My mother and father spent their entire careers in public service, in education and the medical field. I always looked up to them for giving all they have to help people in need. I always wanted to help others and make a difference. I am also a voracious reader, and the library is my second home, so this was a perfect fit.

 

 

Book Recommendations:  City of Light by Lauren Belfer, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah and anything written by Karin Slaughter!

 

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Farah Nerette
Community Engagement

Library Work: In my previous employment role, I worked as assistant city attorney for a large municipality handling a myriad of transactions to support its public library's operation.

 

Occupation:  I work full-time as in-house legal counsel for a global technology company.

 

​Family:  My husband, Wesley, and I reside in east Boca Raton with our two young daughters. 

Activities:  I am active with various local bar associations. I currently sit on the board of the Palm Beach County chapter of the YWCA. I ran 9 half-marathons from 2009 until 2015 after which time, I went into a running hiatus. When I am not busy with my girls' activities, I have been making time to train for races again and re-learn how to play the piano.

 

Why I Volunteer:  Since I was a little girl, the importance of giving back and being of service to my community were instilled in me by my parents and my Catholic school. Volunteering is one of the core pillars of a life fully and well lived.

 

 

Book Recommendations: 

 

The two most recent ones I read: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson; 28000 Days, Make Yours Count by Kara Vaval Ferrier.