by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
Do you love the library? Do you come here and make use of our services? Are you maybe even a “power patron”, someone who is at the library at least once a week, who checks out more than one kind of thing, and who comes to our programs or uses our ebooks and other online resources? You, as a library user and community member, can have the biggest effect on supporting libraries.
This was one of the messages I came away with when I attended the Minnesota Library Association conference in St. Paul on Thursday, October 4th. I went to sessions on Friends groups, foundations, and boards of trustees, and on advocacy for libraries, among other topics.
Have you ever wondered what a Friend of the Library is? I used to see posters and newspaper listings asking people to join the local Friends of the Library group in towns where I lived, and I was puzzled about what that meant. I have always loved the library. But if I joined that group, what would I have to do? What benefit would it be to me or to my local library? What is a Friends group?
I think I finally have a clear answer on that. Library Friends groups support quality library service in their local communities through fund-raising, volunteerism, and advocacy for the library. I’m paraphrasing a Connecticut resource called the Model Friends’ Cooperative Network. In general, Friends groups raise money to benefit the library, sometimes they volunteer for the library, and most of all they just declare themselves as fans of the library. If they wish, they have a chance to communicate as a group of like-minded people with library management, with government officials, and with the public, both to learn about the library and to promote and improve it.
We have a Friends of the Litchfield Public Library group that is a nonprofit organization registered with the Minnesota Secretary of State. Membership costs $5 a year, or $1 a year for members under 18. A family can join for $15, and a business for $25. Another option is a lifetime membership for $100.
Our group was quite active around the time that our new building was built, but it is not holding meetings now, and we have few members. I learned in the seminar I attended on Friends groups that this is quite normal after a construction project is accomplished. But Friends groups can do great things even when a new building isn’t needed. Our group funds children’s programming, additions to the library collection, and other library needs. We need more Friends!
Our Friends group officially runs the book sale that the library has every month on the third Saturday. But we are currently relying on another club to be cashiers at the sale when they can, and we need volunteers to go through donations and set up the book sale carts on a regular basis. Would you be interested in volunteering to work on the book sale as a Friend of the Library?
Pam Dille is our current Friends president, but she would love to see new people come forward and become leaders in the organization. Would you like an opportunity to be a leader in a charitable organization in the community?
Do you just want to step up and show your support for your local library? A former president of the Minnesota Association of Library Friends said at the conference that some people just want to write a check and be able to say they’re a member of the Friends group. That’s great, too.
If you’d like to know more, come to an informational meeting on Tuesday, November 13, at 7 p.m. at the library, or talk to me or to Pam Dille. We’d love to welcome you as a new Friend.