You might have seen bookmarks advertising their existence stacked neatly on the circulation desk at the library. Maybe they were included in the acknowledgements of a local literary event’s brochure. Perhaps their name was noted as a supporter of a float in the town’s parade. Or, it’s possible you even attended one of their book sales. They are the Friends of the Library. If you have a public library in your area, it’s very likely that the library exists, in part, thanks to the Friends of the Library. From the heart of a librarian with a bit of explanation, this is a love and thank you letter to the Friends, wherever they may be.
Friends of the Library typically have one main function: raising money for the library. Sometimes this is as simple as encouraging individuals to sign up to be a Friend of the Library which typically involves an annual membership fee. The money collected from membership goes toward the operation of the group and, more significantly, the library. Those funds might be used to help support library programs like supplying materials or paying speakers’ fees, to provide refreshments at programs, or, in some cases, to boost the spending budget for books, DVDs, and other materials.
Have you ever donated books to the library? They probably haven’t ended up on library shelves, but more likely landed in the Friends of the Library book sale. The Friends often have the responsibility of organizing and advertising for the book sale event. This event is special because not only does it help raise money for some of the things listed above, but it’s also a great opportunity to get a book on the cheap. Donations are often overflowing with the year’s best sellers, so it’s the perfect opportunity to snag a copy of The Kiss Quotient and something more obscure while you’re at it. Plus, all the funds made at the event typically go toward the library and it can be a fun way to meet other book lovers in your community.
Probably due to a small budget and, often, lowish membership, the Friends of the Library is not an organization we think of frequently. They get minimal advertising and tend to work on a volunteer basis. Libraries need a lot of help and advocacy, so the volunteer job can be exhausting and time consuming. (Though if you’re considering volunteering with the Friends, don’t let that stop you—help is often needed at all levels.) Despite the great amount of work, energy, and time the Friends devote to the library and its community, their work is often overlooked and thankless.
The main function of the Friends is fundraising, but they’re often game for lots of other activities. Many Friends groups provide additional “staffing” for library programs, advocate for the library in the community and build partnerships with other community organizations, and provide other services depending on the members’ skills and abilities as well as the library’s needs.
So, maybe you’re wondering, “How can I help these noble souls?” Good news—there are a few options! The first is to use your library’s services, materials, and programs. Simply showing the Friends that their work is worth something by showing up is huge. You might also consider a monetary donation, either in the form of a Friends membership or just a check in their name. Or, as mentioned previously, you might consider donating your time to the Friends and volunteering with the group. The more, the merrier! However you decide to help, know that your efforts are heartily appreciated.