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How to Support Your Library with These 10 Easy Actions

Abby Hargreaves

Staff Writer

Abby Hargreaves is a New Hampshire native living and working as a Children’s Librarian in Washington, D.C. She fulfills the gamut of the librarian stereotype with a love of cats, coffee, and crocheting (and likes a good run of alliteration). Her MLIS degree enjoys the company of a BA in English from Hollins University, making Abby an advocate of women's universities. Her favorite color is yellow.

With brick and mortar bookstores seemingly closing left and right and folks attacking libraries for a perceived lack of relevance, you might be wondering how to support your library. The obvious option here for many is to donate old books and other materials. That’s a great way to help out if you’re sure you’re donating items the library can use (pro-tip: always call ahead and save yourself the trip; chances are we can’t use your VHS tapes!), but there are many more ways you can support your public library.

Get Political

When it comes to public libraries, local politicians can have a big hand in calling the shots in things like budgets. Often, we forget about things like library funding until it’s in jeopardy. Take a minute to write a letter to your local officers in support of your library. Be specific about how you and the rest of the community benefit—does your library offer an array of amazing programs? Does your library do a really excellent job of customer service? Does your library provide invaluable assistance with exam proctoring? Your mayor, council members, and what-have-yous might not be aware of this. They’re busy, so it’s useful for library customers to provide testimonials with reminders that the library is a community centerpiece.

Letters to the Editor

Like writing to politicians, sending letters to the editors of local publications can be a huge help. While not everyone still receives or reads local publications, you never know who might take note of your sentiments. Maybe a stay at home dad in your neighborhood is looking for opportunities to socialize with other parents and, as a result of your letter, finds just the thing with story time. Maybe someone looking to write a will discovers the library has a will writing event coming up and they had forgotten about the library until now, but wouldn’t it be nice to leave something behind for it? Letters to the editor so frequently seem negative or anti-something or other—add some sunshine to your community with a letter of love for your library.

Become a Friend of the Library

Friends of the Library groups are common across the United States. These fantastic volunteers do things like organize book sales, help out at library events, produce newsletters for the community, and other activities to support your library. They are a wonderful resource and typically easy to join. Some Friends of the Library groups have a membership fee (which usually goes toward the library or toward the function of the group) and it may be as simple as filling out a form online to join. Plus, being a Friend of the Library sometimes means perks, like early access shopping at the book sale!

Shop at Your Library’s Book Sale

Whether your library has seasonal book sales, an ongoing book sale, or a combination of the two, there are often plenty of opportunities to buy cheap, secondhand books at the library. Depending on your library, there may also be local kitsch for sale along with the books, DVDs, and CDs (one of my local libraries had a print of an old map of town for sale last year—so cool!). These book sales are likely populated by donated materials which the library couldn’t use in their collection. You’re likely to find many bestsellers along with some obscure gems at a steep discount. Plus, the money raised goes to the library. Win-win!

Check Out Materials

No kidding; it’s that simple. Libraries often thrive on statistics, so it’s important to use materials the library offers from print books to digital databases. Local politicians and others who have influence over the budget will look to the library’s usefulness in the community. Circulation statistics indicate how many books and other materials are checked out throughout the year. While it’s not always an accurate picture of the library’s impact, circulation statistics are frequently one of the main flags these folks look to. So before you run out to buy a book, take a peek at your library’s catalog to see if it’s available.

smiling in the library by josh felise

Leave Reviews in support

Libraries frequently have pages on Yelp, Google, Facebook, and beyond where customers can leave reviews. Most folks feel more compelled to leave a negative review than a positive one, which is just human nature regardless of the business. But if you’ve got something nice to share about the library (or, of course, if you think something needs improvement), sharing that on various social media review platforms can be fantastically helpful for the library. Love your library? Go ahead and give ‘em a five-star rating!

Use Reshelving Carts

The carts at the end of bookcases—often called “reshelving carts”—in the library are there for a few reasons. One is that ensures books are placed in their proper location. Also important is that many libraries take statistics of books and materials that have been viewed in the library, but not checked out. This is an insightful piece of information that allows better assessment of what kinds of materials customers have interest in, which also points to the library’s usefulness. So before you put that book back where it came from (or so help me! Monsters Inc, anyone? Bueller?), do yourself a favor and just leave it on the reshelving cart.

Talk to Library Staff

Library staff aren’t always in a position to ask every customer their opinions of the library. It’s helpful when you tell us, though! Take a minute to let us know what you like and what can be improved. We might be surprised to hear what little things make a difference for you, so let us know. The more we’re aware of what you want, the better we can be. Try folks at the information desk or ask for the manager’s email to ensure your comment reaches the most relevant people.

Attend Programs and Events

Like checking out materials, this one seems pretty obvious when it comes to how to support your library. Frequently customers will request specific events and when the time comes, no one shows. If you’re able to make it and the event interests you, join in. Statistics help us prove to officials that the community uses the library and they tell us what programs, events, services, and materials our community wants. Don’t see something you’d like to attend? Talk to a library staff member.

Tell (and Bring) Your Friends

One person supporting the library is great—two is better! Like any typical business, libraries thrive on word of mouth. Libraries are making a shift toward qualitative evaluations of their offerings, but statistics still matter. Besides, the more, the merrier! Tell your friends about the great collection the library has or bring them along to the latest author talk. It’s an easy way to support your library and we’d love to see you!