Working With Your Friends

by Tracy Wasserman, Senior Assistant, INALJ Florida

Working With Your Friends

Tracy Wasserman

Libraries have Friends.  Very valuable Friends – in the form of Friends groups, run by volunteers who spend many hours raising money to support library programming, and booking and coordinating events that draw people to their libraries.  They run library book clubs, contract and pay musicians to perform, local artists to display their works, local professionals to speak, and find award-winning foreign films to show at their libraries, at their expense, and for the most part, free to the public.  It’s important for library personnel to regularly recognize and promote their friends to their patrons, to encourage membership and awareness of the wealth of cultural enrichment available to them.  The United for Libraries division of the American Library Association thinks this is very important as well, and devotes an entire week in October each year to the promotion of Friends organizations, with Friends celebration ideas, awards to libraries for activities and efforts in supporting their Friends, and information on how to start a Friends group.

I currently serve as the Board Secretary, and social media and event enrollment coordinator for the Friends of the Boca Raton Public Library in Boca Raton, Florida.  It sometimes feels like a full-time job, albeit a fun one, and I am awed and amazed at the dedication and devotion of the other Board members and Friends volunteers, who spend even more hours than I do booking and running events, coordinating membership drives, managing our used bookstore (which involves the intake, labeling, pricing and selling of hundreds of weeded used library books and book donations from the local public), and following and attending other cultural institutions such as neighboring libraries and museums to coordinate joint programming.  They also reach out to local charities and schools, to share speakers and musicians we contract to perform at the library.  We provide refreshments at some events, and luncheons and/or dinner receptions at main speaker events and local artist exhibits.  This is all done without pay.  I believe the general public and other library patrons have no idea of the hard work that goes into the staging of any one of these events.  But the library benefits as the venue for all events, the occasional accolades from the public are warming, and we feel that we are doing valuable work for the library, the public, and our local artists and musicians.

Our other accomplishments and value to the Boca Raton Public Library?  We grossed $79,000 in bookstore and Amazon sales alone last year (our average book price at our bookstore is $1-$5, so imagine how many books we sold to gross that amount).  With those funds, and membership fees and donations received, we spent $20,000 last year on youth programs at the library, including outreach enrichment programs for disadvantaged kids, and $20,000 on library support, including ebook support, the funding of certain online reference databases, and library programming.  This was in addition to the $15,000 we spent on our own programming at the library, which includes a music series, speaker series, art exhibits, and special programming (at Thanksgiving, we had an Abigail Adams impersonator speak to a packed house for 2 hours about her life and the life of women in general in the 18th century, after a Friends-members only dinner reception – a membership perk we give our members, who pay an average of only $25 a year).

So, please, librarians, recognize and honor your Friends at your library as often as possible.  Join your Friends group and encourage your library patrons to join as well.  It’s a win-win for you and your Friends.

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