Starting a Library
Recently, a reader of our I Love Libraries website sent over an inquiry about setting up a library in her community. According to the IMLS report, Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2008 (most recent in the series), all but about 2% of the U.S. population falls within the legal service area for a public library, so this kind of question for a public library is unusual--but we were delighted to get news of a new library despite all the news of closings! As it is a frequent question for other types of libraries, however, the ALA Library has developed a series of Fact Sheets to serve as initial guide to those seeking to establish a library.
For a new public library, the place to start is with the library development department of the state library, as there may be a district library serving the area or plans already underway to enhance library service. That department is also likely to have state-specific guidance.
The next steps, though, start being the same for any library:
- Work with the community to be served to determine the overall program of the library: what are the demographics of the population to be served? What kinds of programs will be offered? What are the community information needs? For public librarians, the PLA Planning for Results series is invaluable.
- Establish a funding plan and determine the sustainability of that plan. For a public library, on average, 80% of the funding is local, with another 8-9% coming from various fees, gifts, etc. Thus, it is necessary to understand how tax dollars are collected, then allocated in your state (and each one is different!). For other types of libraries, consider that there might not be ongoing funding once the start-up period has passed.
- Prepare a collection plan--and begin to investigate the costs of building the collection, including reference resources, both paper and electronic. Consider the role of book donations: will people really give you what should be in the library, or just what's cluttering up their home?
- Finally, once the planning for the overall program for the new library is in place, investigate planning the facility. Again, the ALA Library has a fact sheet to serve as a starting point.
It's exciting to think about starting up a new service, and careful planning will ease the process.'