Friends of the Library
Friends of the Library may sound like a loosely organized group, but in most cases it is a very carefully run non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. This article provides an overview of typical Friends of the Library activities.
“Friends of the Library” with an appended place name or library is the name of many, many groups across the United States who support the public library system by providing time, expertise, fund-raising, and many other valuable contributions to individual libraries and libraries as a group through Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (FOLUSA).
The first thing that might come to mind when combining the idea of advocacy and libraries is encouraging people to use and support their local libraries. But the role of Friends of the Library can go far beyond that. At various Friends of the Library groups throughout the United States, members work to:
- encourage people to become librarians
- encourage local authors
- purchase library materials
- support other local cultural and educational programs
- support reading
- provide grants to people pursuing a degree in library science
- donate books to local school libraries
- promote public involvement in the library
- publicize library services through word of mouth, advertisements, flyers, and newsletters
- campaign for library funding during elections
- participate in budget processes when library funding is involved
- soliciting donations of books; audio recordings including CDs, LPs, and cassettes; video recordings including VHS tapes, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs; computer software; console games; vintage printed materials
- volunteer time and expertise to keep the organization’s office running smoothly
- conduct surveys to gain a better understanding of library use
Fundraising for libraries may take many forms. Probably the most common is the book sale. Many, many libraries host an annual, twice yearly, or more frequent booksale, organized and staffed by Friends of the Library volunteers to raise money for the library.
Book sales often form a substantial part of a library’s revenue. Some libraries have incorporated an ongoing minor sale for remainders of the major event sales. Book sales may also include other materials, such as magazines, audio tapes and CDs, VHS tapes and DVDs, and games, toys, and puzzles. Book sales may offer all types of books, or focus on a particular genre (e.g., science fiction or mysteries) or age (kids’ books).
Some Friends of the Library put a twist in their book sales by:
- offering coupons to children so that each child may get a free book
- combining book sales with sales of gifts and crafts
- offering baked goods
- offering a search service that (for a small fee) notifies the patron when a book is donated to the library. The particular title is then held for the patron to buy.
- offering pick-up service for donations
- combining a book sale with a silent auction
But there are other ways in which funds are raised as well:
- a Friends of the Library store, which may offer a variety of items including goods with the library logo, writing materials, books by local authors, gifts, etc.
- bake sales
- silent auctions
- soliciting donations
- assisting in planned giving
- grant writing
- capital campaigns
- membership and annual giving campaigns
The Friends of the Library may also be responsible for initiating and/or supporting library programs, including:
- guest speakers
- art exhibits
- slide shows
- book signings
- book talks
- book groups
Friends of the Library groups often use affiliations to keep in touch with other local and national groups with similar interests and concerns. Besides FOLUSA, other likely connections include the American Library Association (ALA) and Americans for Libraries Council/Libraries for the Future, as well as state, county, and local agencies related to libraries, culture, and non-profits.
National Friends of Libraries Week
In October, National Friends of Libraries week is celebrated. This celebration, begun in 2006, is meant to draw attention to the role of Friends of Libraries in supporting libraries and to encourage new members to join.