Why I Love Friends
Most public libraries were established by folks who appreciate the value of a public library in their community and the reality that libraries need community support to survive. It is this symbiotic relationship that makes public libraries in Canada unique, envied by other community services, and sustainable. Libraries need friends.
Although the origin of the first Friends of the Library group is lost in the annals of time, it is known that business man and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was a big believer. He is quoted as saying “the man who dies rich dies disgraced.” Lucky for us, Carnegie spent his considerable fortune on establishing 2,500 + public libraries in Scotland and North America. However, he required community support as part of his agreement to build a library in a community. He really was our first Friend’s group.
Today Friends groups are people like Carnegie who believe that a public library is a necessary and valuable institution and are ready to contribute their time and skills to make a great library even better.
►What do Friends groups do?
□ They provide financial support through fundraising i.e. book sales or events, encourage financial donations i.e. establishing Foundations, and as an external community partner as the library applies for grants
□ Keeps the library “front of mind” by organizing high profile programs and events i.e. candidate’s forums, author and book events
□ Advocates on behalf of the library.
►So who are these Friends?
□ They are retired teachers, librarians, book club members, library board members, staff, customers and of course spouses but they are also
□ Teens learning about volunteering, young professionals looking for a way to connect with the community, neighbours, community leaders and readers who just like to be with fellow geeks.
There are some great resources available for folks who want to organize, share or learn more about Friends groups. No one organizes or shares better than a group of librarians!
□ The huge American Library Association resource ALA Friends portal
□ The Friends of Canadian Libraries portal FOCAL (currently under construction)
There are some excellent examples of very successful friends groups (but I maybe a bit biased with this list)
► Friends of the Guelph Public Library In the last 8 years this group of 200 dedicated members has raised over $150,000 from their annual book sale and events. In 2014 they made the founding $10,000 donation to establish an endowment fund for GPL and sponsored events including Guelph Reads and the $1,000 Munsch Award. Their long term fundraising goal is to furnish and equip the teen area of the new Main Library. All libraries could be so lucky as to have Friends like these folks!
►Friends of the Toronto Public Library The north and south chapters of the TPL Friends have raised over $1 million in support of their library. They operate a bookstore and fundraise to support the TPL shut-in service and summer reading program.
►Friends of the St. Paul Public Library. Since 1945 and with over 3,000 members this Friends group is the “gold standard’, they are simple awesome! They have sponsored library events, book purchases, bought bookmobiles, they even operate a consulting service …you name it they have done it!
So why am I such a big fan for library Friends groups?
Let me count the ways…
- They regularly remind me of why public libraries are great and being a librarian is the best job in the world.
- They are courageous, ready to defend public libraries at all levels of government, take on any newspaper editor or letter writer and defend the library like only a Friend can.
- They are creative; just look at the vast array of programs and events they have initiated from crossword tournaments to masked balls.
- They are willing to put their time and skills to work to make their community a better place to live, work and play.
- They know how to have fun. If you have ever been to a Friends book sale, you know exactly what I mean. They love working with books, they are passionate about reading and it shows!
The more I work in library land, the more I appreciate library Friends.
Kitty Pope #38 October 2014