New Library Directors Handbook

Friends of the Library

Friends of the Library are organized to support and promote libraries. A Friends group can help assess your library's strengths and weaknesses, provide financial and moral support, and advocate for the library and its cause. Friends do not have a policy-making role; they are meant to help improve and extend services. Just as the public library promotes the common good of the community, so too can the community work to promote the good of the library.

In many Montana communities, citizens who support the public library have established Friends of the Library organizations. A Friends of the Library group is a nonprofit organization that voluntarily supports library causes and services. Each group has its own bylaws, board, committees and policies, and sets its own goals.

It is important for you to work closely with the Friends group to ensure that the goals of these volunteers are consistent with those of the library. The Friends' role can be enormously important, especially in small libraries with very limited budgets.

The Friends can serve as publicity agents for the library: sponsoring cultural and educational programs. They can also be advocates for the library with local government. They can develop and coordinate volunteer services in cooperation with the library director and staff; organize fund-raising events; and encourage donations of books, videos, DVD's and other materials, as well as bequests and endowments.

To prevent public confusion or misunderstanding about the role of the Friends group, you and your library board need to clearly communicate the library's needs and your expectations of the friends organization. In some communities, a trustee is appointed to act as a liaison to the Friends to ensure coordination of the group's activities with the library policies and goals. In turn, a member of the Friends group might be invited to attend library board meetings.

There is a Friends of Libraries U.S.A. group that has great information about Friends groups. Their website is http://www.folusa.org. The following information was gathered from FOLUSA.

American Library Association (ALA) has a division called Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations that has great information about Friends groups. Its website is http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/altaff/.

ALA Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations