Highlights, Takeaway Messages from Drafting the Blueprint '13

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Posted by jim under Workshops

Seventy-five Library Friends hailing from all corners of the state congregated in Mankato, Fergus Falls and Mountain Iron, Minn., last month to take part in MALF’s 2013 summer workshop series, “Drafting the Blueprint: Building Friends.”

MALF’s second annual Drafting the Blueprint season was predicated on a problem statement, of sorts. “How do we retain and recruit Friends, and maintain and increase fundraising numbers, at a time when Minnesotans have more demands on their time and money than ever?”

This is a tall order, to be sure; exploring it fully took a full day. To make the most of that time, host Ann Walker Smalley (director of St. Paul-based Metronet) split the day’s itinerary into two halves: a lecture-style presentation in the morning, followed by illuminating panel discussions and participatory activities in the afternoon.

All who attended reported the experience to be both informative and fun. For those who couldn’t attend, we are pleased to provide, by way of summary, a few takeaway messages and other highlights.

Building Friends

“Building” implies forward progress. For Friends, it can take any of many forms. Advocacy and public relations efforts, fundraising, and special event planning may top the list. Critically, though, your success in these endeavors is totally contingent on the competency and cohesion of your organization. You must, in effect, be brilliant at the basics.

To this end, Ann Walker Smalley offered up “Ten Commandments for Building a Successful Friends Group.” These are, in full: 

1. Secure the interest and support of the library’s director, staff and board of directors.
2. Make sure that these parties – and your members – understand the role each group plays in the overall success of the library.
3. Keep the Friends organized, and keep your programs on track.
4. Whatever your resources, manage them effectively.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep your member base and the public apprised of what you are doing.
6. Money is only part of the equation. You must also budget time effectively. Do what you can to ensure that officers, members, and other volunteers make good on their time commitments.
7. When possible, nurture relationships with community groups and other Friends groups in your region. Synergies are sometimes possible.
8. Focus on volunteers – particularly ‘non-Friend’ ones. Help them in their work whenever possible.
9. Be willing to learn and share with other Friends.
10. Evaluate and evolve. A dynamic organization takes a regular look at itself to evaluate its successes and looks at ways to grow and change.

Ann offered a bonus commandment, too:
11. Stay informed about library happenings, including trends affecting the industry at large. If you do, you can offer positive ideas and solutions in support of library operations.

This session closed with these words to remember:The most successful groups are those where everyone feels their contribution is important to the group’s success.

During and after a working lunch, workshop attendees then dove into “Phase 2.” Two open-format panels anchored the afternoon.

Keeping the Flame Alive
Phase 2 opened with an overview of the generations we find (or don’t?) in our Friends groups, and the relevant characteristics of each. Understanding this gives you an idea of why people in different age cohorts act the way they do – and why working across generations can sometimes be difficult. 

Recruiting younger members (particularly “Millennials”) is difficult to do without a robust web presence. Few if any of the Friends groups represented in the audiences used Twitter, Pinterest, or Tumblr. A larger minority had an active presence on Facebook and their associated library’s website. Going this extra mile is imperative, however. Young people (and increasingly, all people) rely on online resources to keep them up-to-date on the things and causes they value most.

A host of other ideas were voiced. Some were geared toward larger libraries, and others to their smaller counterparts. Some were most appropriate for urban areas, and others best suited for application in rural library systems. In contrast, as Ann Walker Smalley noted, the value of a robust web presence is universal to all Friends of the Library groups.

Beyond the Book Sale
For some, “Friends of the Library” is essentially synonymous with “book sales.” While in most cases the assertion will be only partially correct, the book sale fundraiser is indeed alive and well. Popular expansions on the traditional, once- or twice-a-year event include: installing and stocking permanent bookshelves to sell de-accessioned library materials year round; adding greeting cards or other items to your “product line”; and, selling rare or like-new items online.

Other fundraising ideas floated during the panel included: silent auctions, gift basket sales, quilt raffles, coffee carts, food sales at community events, clothing sales, and library “galas” or other ticketed eventsImagination and fun were the bywords of these ‘non-book’ sale events.

If you would like more information on any or all of the above, see the workshop PowerPoint that Ann is making available to all our readers on Slideshare. Visit http://bit.ly/1ai3t3S.


ALA’s Washington Office Wants to ‘See’ Your Library in Action

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Posted by jim

The term “public library” conjures up different images for different people. Some view the library principally as a neighborhood meeting space. Others instead think first and foremost of a convenient, nearby source for information. Still others value their library for the community programming it hosts.

The common thread is that libraries are viewed and appreciated as a quintessentially local resource. 

As Friends and staffers deeply involved in their branch’s work can tell you, if there is a downside to this local orientation, it is that public libraries oftentimes do not have larger platforms with which to showcase and share the great, innovative things they are doing at the local level.

Here is your chance! If your library has implemented pioneering or otherwise interesting service programs in the last few years, ALA’s Washington Office wants to hear about it!

Or, more accurately, see it.

ALA is looking to produce a series of videos to educate legislators and other policymakers about the imp


ortant and inventive library service offerings that federal funding makes possible. For this purpose, they are currently soliciting raw, unedited footage from public libraries across the country.

A non-comprehensive list of programs and services that are good candidates for inclusion are:

  • Assistive devices for people with disabilities
  • Computer literacy programs (and new equipment)
  • Digital content collections (including e-books)
  • E-government services
  • Family literacy classes
  • Homework help and mentoring programs
  • Internet Access
  • Job assistance

Sound interesting? Your footage does not need to be professionally shot or edited. Any length of video will be accepted. You can take video just for this purpose, of, if more convenient, repurpose something from a previous videography project. Please be sure that all subjects appearing in your video are informed and give their consent to participate.

ALA Washington Office staff will view, organize, edit and contextualize clips from across the country in preparation for a release date corresponding with 2014’s National Library Legislative Day. The video series will then prove a valuable lobbying tool for many years to come.

You have two months to get your materials ready; the entry deadline is Friday, November 15. When ready, email your submissions to ALA Washington Office’s Press Officer, Jazzy Wright, at jwright@ala.wash.org.

Public Libraries and Equal Access to Information in the Digital Age

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Posted by jim under Events, Trends

Last Tuesday, communications and library leaders from across Minnesota congregated in Alexandria to hear the most recent round of research findings from the Governor’s Broadband Task Force. This Task Force consists of a 15-person panel aiming to make “’border-to-border’ high speed Internet and cell phone access available throughout the state.” It’s an ambitious goal, but one the commission has been making steady progress toward since its inception in November 2011.

The choice of venue for the September 2013 meeting – the Douglas County Library – is an extremely appropriate one. Public libraries, long-time champions of securing equal access for all to vital information resources, are unsurprisingly at the forefront of the movement to see access to public computers (and particularly internet capabilities) extended to all Minnesotans.

comp.jpgIndeed, public libraries, their range of service offerings, and the institution’s continued societal relevance topped the list of issues discussed last week…

Did you know that, on average, Minnesota libraries provide 13.7 computers for patron use? Or that use of this resource has increased over 71% just in the last two years? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

If this is a subject you’ve been meaning to get informed on but have always found hard to approach, now is your chance. PowerPoints and other notes are available online. Click here to view them.

Meeting Abstract

Topics: Libraries in the digital age, libraries and Internet access, return on investment (ROI) for library public funding.

Speakers: Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson, interim State Librarian Jennifer Larson, Peg Werner of the Viking Library System, Melinda Ludwiczek of the Metropolitan Area Library Services Agency, and Gail Hedstrom, Library Director for Thorson Memorial Library in Elbow Lake, Minn.

Have You Heard About the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award?

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Posted by jim under Awards,Awards

While everyone loves hearing about library grants and awards, the narrow eligibility requirements associated with most can be quite discouraging to Friends and staff. Either you are an urban library and the grant of the day is available only to rural systems, or the award you just heard about exists to recognize excellence in adult programming – while you’ve been focusing all your effort on children’s events.

Fortunately, there are a few recognition opportunities out there that are open to a much larger swathe of libraries and Friends groups. One such is the ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award. This distinction exists to acknowledge “excellence in library programming through a cultural or thematic program or series.”

images.jpgYes, it’s as broad as that! A cultural or thematic program is one that “features the humanities, sciences, arts, creative arts, or community and civic engagement programs.”

Moreover, “in recognition that programming is an essential part of service delivery in all types of libraries,” public, academic, school and special interests libraries are all eligible.

Top prize is $5,000 and a Citation of Achievement presented during the next ALA Annual Conference.

The next application cycle will be for programming presented during the last twelve months (i.e., September 2012 to August 2013). The nomination window will open soon and remain so until December. Check the ALA website periodically for more details.