Public Library Friends Group with Assistance from Paid Staff
Public Library Friends Group without Assistance from Paid Staff
In August 2007, Friends of Florence County Library decided to host a fundraiser in February 2008 in order to increase the Friends endowment. With a significant monetary contribution, books, materials and programs could be perpetually funded, thereby meeting the goal as ascribed in the Friends’ mission statement.
Friends President Bob Youngblood had been involved with a nonprofit organization in another state that asked hosts to provide dinners for guests who bought tickets for a particular cause. Since that event had been very successful, Friends board members agreed that option should be pursued. The goal could be met with the following objectives: 1) promote an event with a reasonable ticket price that would appeal to the public; 2) Create an unusual, clever aspect that no other nonprofit organizations were doing, and 3) Encourage participants to support their community by promoting the library as an institution that is committed to lifelong learning. A three-part event was planned for Feb. 26: a booksigning at Barnes & Noble, a wine tasting, and dinner at local homes. The hosts and hostesses would not know what guests were coming until the night of the dinner, hence the name “Guess What Friend is Coming to Dinner.”
The Friends began by approaching Barnes & Noble to obtain contact information for the cookbook authors Matt and Ted Lee, to see if they would be interested in signing books at the event. With a positive response from the authors, it was agreed that they would have a book signing at Barnes & Noble in the afternoon and come to the library in the evening. The partnership was amenable to all, since the bookstore, the Friends and the authors all received remuneration from the sales of The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook.
In September, Piggly Wiggly, the library’s largest corporate donor (who endowed the Children’s Technology Center), agreed to sponsor the Wine Tasting using its vendor, Southern Wine and Spirits. Concurrently, the Friends received a sponsorship commitment from Garden & Gun magazine. The magazine, which has a readership of 150,000, included information about the event in its January/February issue, displayed a link to the event on its Web site, provided magazines and gift bags at the event, offered discounted subscriptions to attendees, and included post-event information on its blog.
The Lee brothers were already involved with Piggly Wiggly in a promotional campaign that included a large banner with their photos. The library’s IT staff was able to superimpose this image for a new banner on the library’s entrance, which also included the logos of all sponsors.
During the month of September, Friends board members began recruiting potential hosts and hostesses for the event. The Lee brothers signed a contract in December. At that time, 19 hosts and hostesses were confirmed.
At the Friends board meeting in December, planning began with written instructions regarding duties for volunteers and board members. At the January and February board meetings, members reported on their assignments, and the initial worksheet for the program became more narrow and focused.
An informational letter for the hosts and hostesses was sent out in mid-December. In January 2008, the Friends began to advertise the event with an article in their Among Friends newsletter, local print media, and electronic calendars. The event was also promoted on radio shows and to civic groups.
Hosts and hostesses were sent a second letter in January that included updated information as well as flyers, a Friends bookmark and an IRS tax deduction form. In February, letters regarding the event were mailed to Friends members with tickets.
The day after the event, letters of thanks along with an evaluation sheet were sent to hosts and hostesses and all the participants and sponsors. Random telephone calls were made to attendees to get feedback about how the event could be improved for the next year. Praise and constructive criticism was noted in preparation for the next event. The Friends also provided acknowledgement of those who responded. The “Guess What Friend is Coming to Dinner” event was a huge success, with 167 dinner guests and 43 wine tasting guests. The Friends raised $9,000.
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When a new county librarian was hired a needs assessment for the library indicated an overwhelming response for an adult literacy program and bookmobile service to outlying areas of the county. Bookmobile service had been discontinued in 2003 because of budget constraints. The new librarian petitioned the County Board of Supervisors for $210,000 for a bookmobile. The supervisors approved the request but did not include funds to provide a collection. The Friends of the Library thus began their “Stock the Bookmobile Campaign” to raise $100,000.
The county librarian and Friends worked closely to form partnerships with other agencies. The Friends set up a matching fund of $5,000 to start the campaign. First 5 San Benito County (preschool, parenting) provided a significant grant. The County Board of Education which supervises rural schools (there are still some one room schools in San Benito County!) and Hollister Elementary School District gave in-kind donations. Additional grants came from a variety of other city and county organizations.
A commercial mailing (with a nonprofit discount) was done, explaining the campaign in a letter to each household in the county. The group offered a “Friends of the Library” book bag with their logo and a free membership for contributions greater than $50. Their membership grew from under 100 members to 161. Funds from weekly book sales allowed a financial base to cover the cost of the commercial mailing.
To publicize the effort the Friends sent out press releases to the two county newspapers. They kept their members informed through a monthly newsletter (email) and snail mail, including a tri-fold brochure explaining the campaign. The group contacted corporate sponsors and networked to learn of any and every possibility.
The Friends coordinated a Penny Drive through the rural schools to raise funds and generate additional public awareness in the remote communities to be served by the bookmobile. During National Library Week the group held activities in conjunction with three local restaurants. Through the “Eat to Read” effort, these local restaurants donated a portion of sales to the bookmobile campaign.
In October, 2008, a Mystery Party fundraiser featuring “dress as your favorite sleuth” was held at a local winery in partnership with the local historical society. A local non-profit stage company enacted a murder to be solved. A silent auction enhanced the event and catered hors d’oeuvres whetted the appetites of those in attendance. This event put the Friends over the top on the “Stock the Bookmobile Campaign.” Acknowledge of donations, both in thank you notes and publicity in newspapers and Friends newsletters were sent to all who participated.
While concentrating on the bookmobile, other services were not being neglected. The library acquired a vehicle to be used as a mobile classroom to augment space requirements for adult literacy tutoring and story times since space in the library building is at a premium. This vehicle was initiated in collaboration with other county agencies to offer outreach services in the community, such as health services, legal aid, adult literacy training, tutoring, and story times. The Friends obtained a grant to help renovate the vehicle and helped with publicity for its dedication during National Library Week.
The Friends held a “Love Your Library” breakfast on Valentine’s Day to which local lawyers, accountants, financial counselors, investment advisors, funeral directors, City Council members and members of the County Board of Supervisors were invited. There were commended for their past support and asked to apprise client of donations to the Friends in their tax considerations, bequests, and wills.
The Friends obtained a variety of additional grants throughout the year to initiate and expand a Teen Book Club, Newborn Story Time, and a six week class for parents of newborns to give them pointers on reading to their children. Throughout the year the Friends coordinated a regular routine of advocacy and public awareness efforts by attending County Supervisor and City Council meetings, writing letters to the editor, participating in county events, setting up a booth at the local Job Fair, and participating in a “Kids in the Park” event. All this was accomplished while also providing regular outreach to the homeless shelter, battered women’s shelter, and the jail! As a result of these efforts plus outreach and improvements in the library by library staff, the number of library borrowers increased by 2,604; the number of items circulated increased by 25,401; the number of visitors increased 13,000; and virtual visitors increased approximated 13,998 (previous year’s usage was estimated). It all added up to a very successful 2008!
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The Friends of the Orangevale Library was given a Baker & Taylor Award for the sum of its activities on behalf of the library in 2008. The Orangevale Public Library faces unique challenges; it has been in existence for 98 years, but has had seven locations with no permanent home.
In the words of the Friends:
“Nestled in the foothills of Sacramento, Calif., lies the small town of Orangevale (population 34,618) and the Orangevale Public Library, where a Think Tank of 10 active and dedicated Friends gather monthly. The Think Tank, in reality, is the official FOL Board, but when it comes to the how-to’s, we switch hats, let go of formalities, and become a serious, earnest Think Tank. Heeding the words of California State Assembly Member Roger Niello (5th District), ‘What’s going to make the big difference [in securing a permanent home for the Orangevale Library] is the continued effort of a strong Friends of the Library organization.’
We, the Friends of the Library of Orangevale, pursue our endeavors creatively and relentlessly. Our planning methodology is simple: ‘What, where, when, how and who.’ Our implementation calls on the resources of our 101-member pool and the community at large... The Think Tank is big on publicity...this mighty media effort keeps the goal of acquiring a new library in the limelight in people’s minds.”
Among the 2008 accomplishments of the Friends of the Orangevale Library were:
- Saving on postage for 5,000 invitations by teaming up with a local utility company. The “Bodacious Book Sale” is the Friends’ biggest annual fundraiser. The Friends negotiated with the Orangevale Water Company, and inserted a flyer for the book sale in each of its water billing statements. The company’s billing and mailing service, Data Prose in Oxnard, also lent support. The successful booksale earned $4,325 for the library.
- Helping expand the library’s facility from 3,120 square feet to 4,320 square feet. When a space adjacent to the library’s strip mall location became available, the Friends notified and met with county and library officials, who offered to fund a complete remodel of the current and new spaces. A $281,000 library renovation was held, with a April 3, 2008 grand opening.
- Increasing Friends membership through cost-effective means. The Friends board created a “boutique” complete with upscale donations, thrift store treasures and “garage sale goodies.” When signing up for Friends membership, new members chose a free gift from the boutique. During this event, the Friends gained 24 members.
- Hosting a Breakfast and Books fundraiser. The Friends’ annual Breakfast and Books author event featured Bud Gardner (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Jennifer Martin (Huna Warrior). More than 200 guests attended, purchasing books and Friends memberships.
- Securing community grants. The Friends helped secure a $1,000 grant from Wal-Mart and a $725 Branch Booster Program grant from Target.
- Teaming up with local organizations. The Orangevale Rotary, along with Boy and Girl Scouts, help at the Friends’ monthly Saturday Mini Book Sales. Through a partnership with a local pediatrician, the Friends distribute Books for Babies kits to new parents. Middle and high school students volunteer at the library.
In addition, the Friends continuously sponsor unique and successful literacy programs at the library.
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Challenges, never imagined in the 37 year history of Friends of the Cedar Rapids Public Library, presented themselves June 13, 2008 when the city was inundated with flood waters. Ten square miles of homes, businesses, performing arts centers, museums, as well as federal, city and county facilities were destroyed. The heart of the city was gone and with it one of the greatest losses for the community, the 85,000 square foot Cedar Rapids Public Library. “The entire adult and youth collections were destroyed, as were computers, furniture, the library checkout system and many other items, by more than 5 feet of floodwater.” As reported in The Gazette, Saturday, July 19, 2008. What remained for the community with a population of 130,000 was a 2500 square foot branch library on the west side of the city.
As a board, the Friends turned to its mission statement, “Friends supports the Cedar Rapid Public Library services and programs, promotes literacy through outreach programs that encourage and enhance reading throughout the community and conducts fundraising activities to assist with library and outreach projects.” Board members wondered how it was possible to even continue as a support group. There was no main library and many of the Friends outreach and fundraising projects were curtailed because the flood waters destroyed thousands of dollars worth of equipment and materials used to conduct these activities.
Each of the six literacy outreach programs suffered significant loss of materials, equipment, and even program sites. The hardest hit was the Books and Babies program that provides a gift packet to the 3,300 babies born annually at the two local hospitals. This collaborative program involved the three metro libraries, four area school districts, and the Grant Wood Area Education Agency. Students with disabilities assemble the packets and Friends members deliver them monthly to each hospital. The Transition Center, where the students assemble the packets, was flooded and all the materials were deemed unsalvageable. Nearly $10,000 of board books, bags, and printed materials were lost. To make matters worse, the printing company was also flooded and presses were destroyed. This well received community program faced what seemed insurmountable obstacles.
The second devastating loss and one which held the greatest financial impact was the book sale activity. Each November the Friends host an annual used book sale. It is a year long process of receiving donations at the drop box behind the main library, sorting and storing the donations at the rented warehouse space and then holding the book sale at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. The effort of selling 70,000 plus donated books and audiovisual materials nets about $45,000 annually.
The flood had the Friends scrambling. The $3,000 bolted down Friends book donation drop box was swept away by the powers of the river. The warehouse where the storage and sorting center was located in the basement, took on nearly 14 feet of water. Fortunately, a day before the river overflowed its banks, an emergency call went out and Friends members spent five hours moving pallets of books and media materials to the upper floors. While the books were safe, tucked away in nooks and crannies, there was no access to the warehouse and no hope of returning anytime soon. The Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, the location for the annual book sale, was also inundated by flood waters and remains closed today.
With the Friends programs in shambles, it seemed like a daunting task to regroup. The Friends forged ahead. Each committee chair completed a project damage summary. As a result, three major goals were set; to replace Friends equipment and materials, to get the Books and Babies program back in operation as quickly as possible and to hold the annual book sale in November. Several grants were written and the Friends received a total of $10,500. In addition, the co-chairs of Books and Babies secured $8,000 and co-sponsorship from the Young Professionals of United Way. Board books were reordered and all packet materials were revised and reprinted. By August the Books and Babies packets were being distributed. The biggest Friends outreach program was up and running with less than a two month disruption.
Meanwhile, the concern remained as to whether a November book sale could be mounted because there were no books, no storage space, and no facility to hold the sale. Gathering books was not the issue. The community wanted to help; citizens wanted to donate books and people from across the country contacted the library wanting to send books. There was absolutely n place to receive, sort and store the books because many of the suitable facilities had already been rented to businesses seeking temporary space. But out of disaster comes cooperation. A library Trustee approached her former employer and the storage and sorting center location was resolved.
With storage resolved, another challenge presented itself because there was no central drop off location. After many suggestions it was decided that all phone calls and emails received at the branch library dealing with book donations would be routed to several Friends members. Arrangements were then made to pick up books at homes and businesses, individuals were directed to drop books at a member’s home who had a protected area. The “bench” became the recipient of thousands of books. This same person agreed to receive book delivers from across the country, with books arriving from Main to Colorado.
In September, the library was able to negotiate and lease 26,000 square feet at Westdale Mall. The former drugstore space would be converted to house the library’s bridge facility to open in February. With great cooperation and effort on the part of the library staff and Board of Trustees, the rented space was offered to the Friends for the book sale. And what a sale was mounted with a net profit of $46,686! In February, the temporary library facility opened its doors to the public and $36,000 worth of furniture and lighting fixtures were a result of the successful book sale.
The Friends of the Cedar Rapids Public Library traveled through uncharted waters and righted the “ship” in a very short span of time accomplishing the goals established by the board within the days after the flood. The lifelines of financial assistance and in kind donations helped replace materials needed to continue the literacy outreach projects and to resume the business of raising money to support library programs and activities. But more importantly these lifelines served as a tremendous morale booster for Friends as well as the community at large. The Friends formed new partnerships and responded during the library’s darkest hour.
The Cedar Rapids Public Library continues to face tremendous challenges. But each test is a small step toward recovery. Through the tireless actions of Friends members, working collaboratively with library Trustees, Foundation members, library staff and the community, the Cedar Rapids Public Library has risen from the muck and sludge left behind by the flood waters.
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Library Tree Lane (LTL), a major fundraising project of the Friends of Henderson Libraries, is a two-week long series of displays and events in late November and early December in the Paseo Verde Library. The fifth annual Library Tree Lane in 2008 – the Fabulous Fifth – earned proceeds of $20,000 for the preschool collection of a new branch of Henderson Libraries. This amount combined with 2007’s $19,000 for a total of $39,000 for the collection.
Library Tree Lane began in 2004. In subsequent years, the LTL Steering Committee has begun each year with a January debriefing – identifying elements of the previous year’s LTL to keep, omit, or modify. In January 2008, the committee designated the year’s effort as the “Fabulous Fifth” because the year would mark LTL as an established tradition, would culminate in a gala reception and auction on Dec. 5, and would donate proceeds for the second and final time for the preschool collection in a new branch opening in 2009.
Planning progressed from the January recap to the drafting and approval of a business plan in February. The business plan included Library Tree Lane’s mission, goals, calendar, committee, and specifications for sponsors. The focus of fundraising proceeds was fully described in a flyer to accompany contacts with potential sponsors and donors. The volunteers and greater community were engaged at every step as the committee established dates, possible sponsors, potential activities, and the range of donors needed for the project.
A two-week event, Library Tree Lane 1) provided diverse holiday ambiance for the main library venue; 2) offered holiday- and book-related activities for the community, and 3) ended with a gala reception and silent auction. The community’s needs and resources were taken into account by the LTL Steering Committee, made up of volunteers committed to supporting Henderson libraries. Library personnel played essential liaison roles in both the community and the Paseo Verde Library venue.
From March through December, the LTL Steering Committee, subcommittees, and community members matched up needs and resources. Honorary co-chairs were named in March. Two kinds of sponsors were sought – event sponsors and trees sponsors. Event sponsors provided funds and in-kind services for printing, activities, and the gala reception/silent auction. Tree sponsors underwrote professionally decorated trees that were delivered to charitable organizations chosen by the sponsors.
A student at the Art Institute of Las Vegas designed graphics for LTL print materials. LTL volunteers canvassed the community for donations to be used in silent auction baskets and a chance drawing. In September, implementation entered another stage with the beginning of basket preparation, refining of database information, preparation of invitations for mailing, and development of activities and the gala reception program. October and early November were dedicated to completing baskets, confirming program elements, decorating wreaths and trees, and decorating the Paseo Verde Library venue for the Nov. 17 to Dec. 5 LTL schedule.
The LTL Steering Committee set goals in January and February:
Total proceeds for Library Tree Lane will reach or exceed $20,000.
Exclusive of profits, the project will continue to replace the $5,000 in seed money provided by Friends of Henderson Libraries. Funds will also be put aside for storage and advertising.
The project will continue to work toward building its own seed money account over the next three years.
Throughout the year, the goals were constantly assessed, particularly in light of the 2008 downtown in the economy. Thorough, accurate financial records allowed the LTL group to know at all times what was profitable and what was not. A portion of every LTL meeting was spent on evaluation and realignment as necessary. For example, when reservations for the gala were lagging, additional invitations were sent via e-mail, and local newspaper advertising was purchased.
Goals 1 and 2 were met; goal 3 continues. In addition to these monetary goals, the Library Tree Lane project incorporated three keys to success: collaboration, diversity, and excellence.
2008 was the first year in which tree sponsors chose local charitable organizations as recipients of the trees following Library Tree Lane. This approach integrated LTL in the community in a new way by providing holiday cheer to audiences not reached in the initial LTL setting. Also, 2008 saw the introduction of Two Gifts in One, an opportunity for patrons to make a contribution for a preschool book and to honor an individual or group through a bookplate and card.
For the first time, the Friends of Henderson Libraries featured Library Tree Lane in the “Giving Guide” published by In Business Las Vegas and distributed to businesses in the Las Vegas Valley.
At every stage of Library Tree Lane, community collaboration was the major key to success. Robyn Carr, New York Times bestselling author and member of the Henderson Libraries Board of Trustees, shared the release of her new novel, A Virgin River Christmas, with an LTL Holiday Chat.
Stephens Press provided guest authors for the gala. Capitol North American delivered trees to designated charities. The Art Institute of Las Vegas and Black Mountain Graphics took the print materials to a professional level. Approximately 150 businesses and individuals donated goods, services, and gift certificates that resulted in 136 silent auction baskets and 23 chance-drawing items. Other sponsors ensured that every aspect of LTL was covered.
Volunteers and other community members gave time, talent, and materials monthly, greatly reducing LTL expenses and thus enhancing proceeds. Wal-Mart awarded Library Tree Lane a $1,000 grant for preschool books.
More than 400 people attended the gala on Dec. 5. The generous participation of the community was recognized through plaques, certificates, ribbons, complimentary tickets, thank-you letters, bookplates, print materials, and news releases.
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