2017 Baker & Taylor Award winners: Friends of the Ravenna (Neb.) Area District Library and Friends of the Shelby (Mich.) Area District Library

Friends of the Ravenna (Neb.) Area District Library and Friends of the Shelby (Mich.) Area District Library the winners of this year’s Baker & Taylor Awards. Both groups received $1,000 and a plaque from Baker & Taylor. Friends of the Stirling Road Branch Library (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and the Friends of the Ferguson Library (Stamford, Conn.) received honorable mentions. For more information on Baker & Taylor Awards, including application information, visit www.ala.org/united/grants_awards/friends/bakertaylor

2017 Baker & Taylor Award winners

Friends of the Ravenna (Neb.) Area District Library

Mission statement: The purpose of the Friends of the Ravenna Library is to promote and expand the services of the library through ways approved by the organization and the Ravenna Public Library.

The public library of the community of Ravenna was first erected in 1918 with funding by Andrew Carnegie. Originally sized at 2200 square feet, the 1918 structure was fitting for the city’s small population. When the need for additional library support arose, the Friends of the Ravenna Library was established in 1980.

In 2015, the library underwent a feasibility study. With the results of this study, the city of Ravenna undertook the project of building a new library facility approximately three times the size of the original at 7600 square feet—initiated in 2017. On March 28th, the Libraries Transform Informational Meeting was held to discuss the new library funding and building design with the community. The Friends of the Library purchased and served refreshments for 100 community members, and it was established that the new building would be slated for completion in 2018.

Despite the town’s small population, the Ravenna Public Library is fortunate enough to have a large Friends of the Library group, standing at 23 members total in 2017. These members have helped with the capital campaign, and continue to support ongoing programs. Proof of the Friends’ extensive effort can be seen in the elaborate list of programs—nineteen total—established by the Library in 2017, some for which The Ravenna Public Library was awarded the Youth Grant for Excellence from the Nebraska Library Commission. The new Baby and Me Lapsit program along with the creation of a mock children’s museum in the new library building were the elements that earned the Library the recognition it needed for the award.  The Friends of the Library provided the $750 matching funds required for this grant. Another recognition, the Public Service Award, was granted on January 17, 2017 during the Ravenna Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual President’s Banquet.  A big part of the nomination was due to the Friends’ donation of $9,000 in matching funds to kick off the library’s capital campaign in December 2016. 

Several of the Library’s 2017 programs were implemented to benefit the community’s children. The Annevar (Ravenna spelled backwards) is the town’s annual four-day hometown celebration, held in June.  In 2017, the Friends of the Library decorated a parade float and handed out candy and information about the new library. After the parade, an informational booth was set up on the carnival midway, where Friends members shared news about the new library and sold dedication bricks. Other programs, like the Summer Reading Program, saw major participation in 2017 with a record-breaking 136 youth. For this program, the Friends purchased one book for each participant to keep.

Other family-friendly programs included monthly Family Movie Nights, the Ground Breaking Ceremony and reception to initiate the opening of the new library facility, and Halloweenies at Li-boo-rary, during which Friends provided a low-cost hotdog meal for parents on the run between work and trick-or-treating. Thanks to the Friends, the Library was even able to participate in United for Libraries’ own Books for Babies program, awarding infants and their families with a little tote containing a book, information about infant literacy, and an invite to sign up for a library card.

Adults also saw the opportunity to participate in Library events. A Night in Paris: Adult Prom and Ladies’ Night Out were two events that also served as fundraisers to benefit the Library, the latter of which raised about $2,100 in funds over a few months.

The library implemented around 10 fundraisers total in 2017. The decorations from the aforementioned Adult Prom were later recycled to present An Afternoon in Paris, a daddy/daughter, mother/son dance, which was enjoyed by 35 pairs. The Valentine’s Carnival raised over $3,000 in just two hours, and saw an attendance of 250. Others saw widespread involvement from community volunteers, including the Junk Jaunt and citywide garage sales, both of which called for donations, as well as the holiday-themed Cookie Walk. In total, the Friends of the Ravenna Library raised roughly over $36,000 due to fundraising efforts.

The Friends of the Ravenna Library plans to continue to help fund programs that bring awareness to the Ravenna Public Library’s services and the importance of early literacy.  The system of support the Friends provides continues on into the future.

Friends of the Shelby (Mich.) Area District Library

Mission Statement: The Friends of the Shelby Area Library is organized for the development of the Library; to bring together people interested in books; to promote and publicize the interest, usefulness, and resources of the Shelby Area District Library facilities through publications, programs, exhibits, and other means; and to raise funds to provide for the purchase of materials for the library.

The Friends of the Shelby Area District Library (S.A.D.L.) supports its local library with three to four major fundraisers each year. The biggest of these is the annual Celebration of the Trees and Holiday Bazaar, held the week after Thanksgiving, November 30 through December 3. In its 23rd year, 2017 was by far S.A.D.L.’s most successful fundraiser both monetarily and for involvement by the community.

Major events require major preparation. Newly elected Friends President Cindy McKinnon began in September—collaborating with a team of community volunteers to send letters to locals informing them of the fundraiser, submitting several press releases to the local newspaper, and placing posters in stores and the library. An October 12 meeting of the Friends of S.A.D.L.—which was advertised in the local newspaper—focused on securing volunteers for the many sub-committees needed.

From October through November, several of the appointed committees handled a multitude of tasks associated with promoting the fundraiser: publicity projects, assigning hosts, and placing community yard signs around neighborhoods for advertisement. Then, of course, came extensive event preparation: obtaining live cut trees from local tree farms, trimming and mounting trees in stands, procuring live green wreaths from local markets, baking cookies, scheduling cashiers, decorating the library, contacting local churches for Sunday attendance, stringing electric cords for the displays, setting up and staging the displays, creating brochures, and contacting artists.

The Celebration of the Trees and Holiday Bazaar is a four-day, two-part fundraiser: The first part, The Celebration of the Trees, is a much anticipated yearly event in the Shelby community. It’s a silent auction of live cut and artificial trees, wreaths, and other holiday displays, decorated by volunteers just in time for the season. Guests are encouraged to stroll through the elaborate displays and place bids, munch on Christmas cookies, and drink punch, all the while being entertained by The Shelby High School band and choral groups along with other community musicians.

The second part of the fundraiser, The Holiday Bazaar, takes place in an adjoining room of the library. Donations of gently used and handmade holiday items collected throughout the year are priced and arranged by volunteers who oversee the sale until the final day of the event. At that point, remaining items that didn’t sell are packed up and sent as a donation to a local charity thrift shop. Volunteers then shift their attention to post-event wrap-up tasks: tabulating the bids, notifying the winning bidders, and clean-up on the last day.

The 2017 Celebration of the Trees had a record number of 63 entries, surpassing all past participation. While many of the crafters, artists, families, and school groups who decorate come back every year, Friends of S.A.D.L. was pleased to welcome several new volunteer participants in its 23rd year.

The 2017 auction and Holiday Bazaar together raised a total of $5,693.40, surpassing the previous year's total of $4556.00, and breaking the all-time record.

The Friends meet quarterly and have three officers and three board of directors, all volunteers who work closely with the library’s director, Tiffany Haight, to plan and implement programs like The Celebration of the Trees and Holiday Bazaar that support and raise funds for the library.

Shelby is a small town in a rural area of west Michigan. While The Friends of S.A.D.L.  don't have the wealth of bigger cities, they do boast of a giving community spirit and sense of pride in their local library. The success of S.A.D.L.’s fundraisers and events, including The Celebration of the Trees and Holiday Bazaar in particular, can be attributed in part to the dedication of Shelby community volunteers, whose contagious enthusiasm serves as evidence that the local library truly makes a difference.

Honorable mentions

Friends of the Stirling Road Branch Library (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Throughout the years, the Friends of the Stirling Road Branch Library empowered its community to make a difference by tirelessly promoting the importance of the library. Their years of hard work advocating for the Stirling Road Branch Library reached a new summit in 2017 with the resurgence of the STEAM Project.

The STEAM Project was developed as a joint effort between the Friends of the Stirling Road Branch Library and the staff of the library in order to promote science, technology, engineering, art, and math to female, Latin, Native-American, African-American, and Caribbean populations within the service area of the Stirling Road branch.

For the Project, the Stirling Road staff identified three solid opportunities for success: the NASA at My Library grant, a Science Fair Readiness Festival, and a partnership with local art and music organizations like the South Florida Chamber Ensemble (SFCE) and the Hollywood Art and Culture Center. Two of the library’s recent STEAM programs achieved the highest attendance rates in the history of programming at the Stirling Road library: the Eclipse Day Party and the 2017 Science Fair Readiness Festival.

The Stirling Friends provided all supplemental funding and supplies, and the Friends’ Board dedicated their time to marketing the events through email and social media to over 400 people, efforts which increased program attendance by 30% in 2017. This led to the Stirling Friends website receiving statewide acclaim from the Florida Library Association.

In May 2017, the Stirling Road Branch Library became one of three libraries in Florida to be awarded the NASA @ My Library grant. The grant enabled Stirling Road librarians and the Friends to develop a solid agenda of STEAM programming. The Friends used their partnership with the Hollywood Art & Culture Center to expand the STEAM elements to incorporate art, music, and movement.

The highlight of the NASA @ My Library programming occurred in August 2017 when the library hosted its Eclipse Party. The event included a NASA presentation about the American Eclipse, a film showing, and the distribution of eclipse-viewing glasses. Friends volunteers participated by talking to the crowd, helping staff keep accurate count, and answering endlessly ringing phones. At an appreciation ceremony some time later, these same volunteers maintained their enthusiasm for the library and its staff, praising the Eclipse Party’s importance to STEAM and the community.

Throughout the fall and until the end of April, the SFCE developed STEAM programs for the Stirling Road Branch Library. The programs centered on science in relation to music, art, and sound design. In addition, the Friends also sponsored the Hollywood Art & Culture Center’s “Art, Music, and Movement” series for children. In October, the Friends partnered with SFCE for the World Instrument Station to support the Stirling Road Science Fair Readiness Festival. It became one of the most popular stations at the festival and allowed the community’s youth to learn about world instrument designs. The Broward County School Board and NASA lent their presence to the festival, which drew more than 800 people from the community and led to a partnership between Stirling Road branch and the Broward County School Board.

Friends of the Ferguson Library (Stamford, Conn.)

Mission Statement: The Friends of The Ferguson Library is the Library's volunteer support group. The Friends advocate for the Library in the community and generously support programming and collections through revenue raised through their award­ winning book shops at the Main Library and Harry Bennett Branch.

The concept of a Literary Pub Crawl first came to The Friends of The Ferguson Library during a meeting in 2015.  The original objective was to create a new type of event that would: appeal to a younger demographic; introduce a fun, non-traditional type of library event; raise money for the Friends organization; raise awareness for the book shop and Friends membership; take advantage of the library's unique location; and showcase the talents of Stamford arts and educational groups to provide entertainment throughout the evening.

It was also during this meeting of the Friends that the agenda for the event was gestated: Participants would register in the lobby of the Main Library and be assigned to one of three groups, each of which would have a leader responsible for bringing their group to three different restaurants. Entertainment would be provided throughout the night as the three groups traveled to different venues, many perhaps discovering said restaurants for the first time.

Though initially brought about in 2015, the concept of the Literary Pub Crawl was expanded upon in 2016 and grew further in 2017 due to an increase in demand. As a result, participation surged to 150 in 2017 and ticket prices increased by 50% to $15.00. To accommodate the growth in capacity, a fourth restaurant was added to the program in 2017. Many other local restaurants expressed interest in participating in the future.

While entertainment in the first year was provided solely by Stamford’s regional theater, “Curtain Call,” the Friends made it an effort to diversify in 2017 with the objective of dispensing a broader experience for attendees. Among the community groups performing in 2017 were participants of all ages: Stamford's All School Musical, who engaged the audience in a sing-along production of The Wizard of Oz, involved the community’s school-aged children, while Project Music, an immersive after-school training program for young at-risk students, provided entertainment during the registration process. The Westfair Singers, a talented group of adults, wowed with cabaret-style musical numbers, and Curtain Call delighted once again with Shakespearean performances. 2017’s Literary Pub Crawl also introduced a Mystery Trivia Contest, which was competitively enjoyed by all participants.

Immediately following the event, the local newspaper released a major article about the Friends. The article also drew attention to the Book Shop, a desired end goal that had been discussed during the initial Friends meeting. The Library received a generous amount of community feedback as well, including plenty of praise regarding the entertainment and restaurant venues, and admiration of the event’s originality. Some even called for the opportunity of such an event taking place more frequently.

The Friends of the Ferguson Library pride themselves on being one of the first Friends groups to launch a Literary Pub Crawl initiative. The event was so successful that they have subsequently received inquiries from other Friends groups interested in replicating such an event.