Library Friends Groups: A Case Study

Library Friends and Public Libraries

I love libraries. I’m an avid public library user. I have spent my career bettering libraries. This summer I was excited to learn about the importance that library friends groups hold for public libraries.  My purpose in writing this to inspire library friends groups to increase both community engagement and funding for their local libraries.

Library Friends and Capital Campaigns

My best friend from college, Jennifer White Farrar, is Vice President of the Friends of the Millis Public Library (FMPL). The really remarkable thing about this library friends group is their involvement in a recent capital campaign.  By offering naming rights to rooms and book shelves in the newly constructed facility FMPL raised over $150,000 which paid for the computers, the TV system, the furniture, throw rugs, desks, and Friends room furnishings.

Library Friends Groups

Friends of the Millis Public Library raised funds to pay for furniture for the new library building.

Getting local businesses to sponsor projects is one of FMPL’s most successful endeavors.  They arranged for a local business owner to sponsor the automatic door opening system for disabled user and a local electrician to install it. They arranged for the donation and sponsorship of the landscaping and a volunteer to maintain it.

During preparation for the move, an historic quilt was discovered in the old library building. The fabric had not been properly stored and this town treasure was in danger of deterioration. Jen wrote a grant to the Massachusetts Community Preservation Committee to frame and preserve the quilt, which now is a showpiece of the new library building.

Library Friends and Community Engagement

Library friends groups are not just about fundraising. They are also about community involvement.  Not every fund raiser is a huge money-maker but that’s ok.  Every activity a library friends group undertakes is an opportunity for community engagement. The FMPL organized an opportunity for town citizens to decorate a tile.  This project only netted only a couple thousand dollars, mainly because the cost of hanging the heavy tiles in custom frames was expensive. But the tiles serve as community-created art work decorating the walls of the town’s treasured library.  More importantly, the community got involved. And Millis has an unbelievably committed community. Writing the grant to fund a preserving display for the quilt for instance helps to leverage town pride. Town pride translates to an investment in the library’s well being.

Library Friends Groups

Framed tiles, a Friends of the Millis Public Library fundraiser, now decorate the children’s room.

FMPL not only worked to raise funds to furnish the new library building, they also work on ongoing support initiatives.  FMPL has about 50 dues paying members and raises about $8,000 annually through dues and events.  They use this money to  buy museum passes, support a book delivery program to home-bound library users and most of all sponsor programming, which is where the lion’s share of the budget is spent.

Library Friends Groups:  More Information

ALA offers resources for starting or reinvigorating library friends groups, both through their United for Libraries section and their I Love Libraries initiative. These are great resources if you are looking to form or reinvigorate a friends group at your library!



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