Notes from IHA
Several months ago there was a discussion on a library listserv about library friends groups. Comments ranged from describing successful fund-raisers to bringing up some of the challenges in maintaining a viable group. The latter included the increase in aging members, difficulty in recruiting, investment of staff time, declining volunteer pools, and the need for better organization.
Most friends groups focus on used book sales or other fund raisers, such as cookie walks, Easter egg hunts, Scholastic book fairs, and silent auctions. The money generated from selling donated used books can greatly enhance the operations of the library and can provide important materials and services that are beyond the library’s regular budget. Successful friends groups in Illinois have enabled their libraries to purchase print books, e-books, and e-magazines, but they have also been involved in other activities. They have supported community-wide reading programs; assisted in early literacy initiatives; participated in reading programs in local schools during the school year and special programs for kids during the summer; helped with teen events; delivered library books to shut-ins; helped with lifelong learners programs; and supported concerts and lectures in the library, the latter often tied in with particular books.
Beyond their fund-raising activities, friends groups are also the focus of organizational considerations, including becoming a separately incorporated body and the amount of autonomy the friends group might have. There are also questions about dues, regular friends meetings and their frequency, the composition of the friends board, and the details of raising and spending money.
The listserv discussion about friends groups sparked our interest at IHA and we are working to gather more information to form the basis for a technical insert on the topic. We have created a brief questionnaire, with six questions to elicit some basic information, and we would like to follow up with some telephone interviews. We are interested in talking to both library staff and officers of friends groups. Identities of the participants will remain private.
If you are associated with a library that has a friends group and would be willing to take our survey or talk to someone from the Illinois Heritage Association, please contact our office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 217-359-5600. Feel free to pass this information on to officers in your friends organization. We would be happy to talk with them, as well.