Friends of Libraries Section
A Little Bit of Background:
In a survey of Friends groups serving small and rural libraries in New York State which was conducted by FLS/NYLA in early 2021, challenges were identified in the areas of Membership (including Active Participation and Volunteer Engagement), Leadership, Diversity, Fundraising, and the Purpose and Mission of Friends organizations.
The members of the FLS Task Force on Friends and Rural Libraries developed lists of potential suggestions and best practices with an emphasis on Friends groups that support small and rural libraries. Their work is here to share with all Friends.
On this page you will find resource sheets on each challenge area and pertinent in-depth handouts from other FLS-sponsored continuing education sessions (i.e., webinars, conference presentations, regional workshops) that relate to the topic. We have also included links to content in the FLS “Friends News and Notes” newsletter archive and a few samples of Friends webpages and social media accounts to inspire you, whatever the size of your Friends organization.
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Table of Contents
Starting a Friends of the Library Group
Appendices, updates to this article:
· Where Can I Learn More About Friends Groups: Resources about Friends of Libraries
· Annotated By-Laws: What Should be Included in By-Laws for Friends Organizations?
· Membership-Raising: Tips About Membership for Friends Organizations
Resources on Specific Topics Focusing on Friends Organizations that Support Rural and Small Libraries
· The Purpose and Mission of Friends of the Library Organizations
· The Role of the Friends of the Library and the Library Administration
· Membership, Volunteer Engagement, and Diversity
· Become a “Library Champion”
· New York State Digital Equity Portal
Supplemental Materials Associated with the White Paper:
· FLS/NYLA 2021 Survey of Friends Groups Associated with Rural and Small Libraries
· By the Numbers: Survey of Friends Groups Associated with Rural and Small Libraries [2021 Data summary presented in PowerPoint slides]
· Handout: Beyond Younger Volunteers: What Rural Friends Groups Need to Thrive
Rural Libries Round Table
Wemett, Lisa C. “Getting Started: Creating and Sustaining a Friends Group for Your Library.” JLAMS, Spring 2016 (vol. 12, no. 1): 23-59.
Is your library considering organizing community volunteers to support its programs and services? Initial work requires following a variety of steps: recruiting a steering committee, determining the Friends’ purposes and mission, developing by-laws, and holding a public meeting to found the Friends. Once established, expanding the group’s membership and implementing steps to grow the group’s leadership over time will serve to sustain an active organization.
This article first appeared in JLAMS: Journal of the Library Administration & Management Section, an open-access journal. Used with permission of the Library Administration & Management Section of the New York Library Association. Additional issues of JLAMS are available at https://scholarsarchive.library.albany.edu/jlams.
Updates to the JLAMS Article:
The appendices of this article have been updated regularly since its publication. The following handouts supersede the content from 2016.
Please note that Appendix D in the article, NYLA’s Administrative Support program, has been discontinued.
Appendix A: Where Can I Learn More About Friends Groups: Resources about Friends of Libraries (2023)
Appendix B: Annotated By-Laws: What Should Be Included In By-Laws For Friends Organizations? (2023)
Conflict of Interest Policy For Friends of the Library Organizations in New York State (2023)
This resource further explains the “By-Laws” section of the JLAMS article (p.33). It includes proposed wording for the organization’s by-laws on their conflict of interest policy and procedures plus a sample annual review statement for the organization’s officers to sign.
Appendix C: Membership-Raising: Tips About Membership for Friends Organizations (2023)
Everyone needs Friends! (2023)
A sample flier that illustrates the interest form described under "Identifying Interested Volunteers" (p.30 of the JLAMS article).
Read or download the FLS Toolkit to Start a Friends of the Library Group as a PDF..
Resources on Specific Topics Focusing on Friends Organizations that Support Rural and Small Libraries
The Purpose and Mission of Friends of the Library Organizations
Resource Sheet: Purpose and Mission for Friends Groups Supporting Rural and Small Libraries
Handout: The Purpose and Mission of Friends of the Library Organizations. (2023)
Includes samples of purpose statements from the by-laws of Friends of the Library groups in New York State.
Handout: A Primer on Friends Operating Agreements (2023)
Includes a sample Memorandum of Understanding
Resource Sheet: Best Practices for Leadership of Friends Groups Supporting Rural and Small Libraries
Handout: Planning for Smooth Transitions: Tips for Friends Preparing for Leadership Succession
Word Document: Job Description Template
Word Document: Sample Volunteer Job Description: Book Sale Sorter and Assistant
Word Document: Sample Annual Transition Statement
The Role of the Friends of the Library and the Library Administration
Handout: Working Together: Roles and Responsibilities Guidelines - Details the specific responsibilities of the library director, the Board of Trustees, and the Friends of the Library.
Source: Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State. 2018 edition. Available for free download. https://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/trustees/handbook/index.html
Handout: Keepin’ It Friendly! Communications Tips for Library Staff, Trustees, and Friends of the Library
Membership, Volunteer Engagement, and Diversity
Membership is a combination of efforts: volunteer engagement; incentives to join and perks for Friends supporters; recruitment of volunteers to support the group; and volunteer recognition and donor relations.
Handout: Guidelines for Volunteer Programs Coordinated by the Friends of the Library
Resource Sheet: A Dozen Tips for Membership-Raising for Friends Groups Supporting Rural and Small Libraries
Resource Sheet: Diversity: Why It Matters
Worksheet: Asset Mapping Tool (see notes in Diversity resource sheet)
Resource Sheet: Fundraising – a 5-step process for fundraising, types of fundraisers, and resources to consult
Handout: Guidelines for Expenditures of Funds Raised by the Friends (2023)
A sample policy that can be edited and adopted for use by a Friends organization.
Handout: Book Sales: Donations and Remainders
You’ll love this rich resource for programming ideas for all types of libraries. You can search for content by program topic, library type (e.g., rural), or program budget, including free! Contributors share their program: planning steps, marketing ideas, budget details, how to run the program the day of the event, and sage advice for those who would like to replicate the program. You can share your ideas, too, by uploading your information. The posts by bloggers group ideas thematically, like how to install a StoryWalk® or how Scouts can help with Little Free Libraries, https://littlefreelibrary.org/.
Fishing for Friends: How to Reel in Midlife Adults with Programs
This webinar presented by FLS in April 2022 examines the considerations when planning, marketing, and implementing adult programs that will engage adults 50+ with the library and the Friends. Highlights examples of outreach, diverse formal and informal lifelong learning opportunities, and creative community collaborations that can be replicated in your community.
Speaker: Dr. Reneé K. Bennett-Kapusniak, author of Public Library Programs and Services for Midlife and Beyond: Expanding Opportunities for a Growing Population (Libraries Unlimited. 2018)
Resource Sheet: Advocacy Tips for Friends Groups Supporting Rural and Small Libraries
Become a “Library Champion” to support NYLA’s advocacy initiatives. Go to www.NYLA.org/Advocacy to sign up and see the current year’s legislative goals for the Association.
New York State Digital Equity Portal
The NYS Digital Equity Portal reveals barriers to internet access. The portal allows users to generate interactive snapshots of connectivity, speed and cost of broadband, population/demographics, and other digital equity resources from selected geographies across New York State (e.g., congressional district, zip code, NYS public library system). This data will help communities develop strategies and priorities, based on understanding their community’s needs and gaps.
PDF Document: Beyond Younger Volunteers: White Paper on What Rural Friends Groups Need to Thrive
Based on a virtual session presented for the 2021 Annual Conference of the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL), October 20-23. Released June 30, 2022.
How can a state library association help Friends of the Library groups grow and develop? That’s the question the Friends of Libraries Section (FLS) asked when it considered how to best identify the needs of and provide support for Friends groups that assist small and rural libraries. FLS used a data-driven approach by developing a survey to capture input from community volunteers and library staff about their organizations’ unique challenges, abilities, and administrative structure.
The survey results shape FLS's future activities, informing and guiding the Section’s work to help small and rural libraries and their network of volunteers. This paper, released June 30, 2022, explores what FLS learned and how it uses that knowledge to encourage and inspire these Friends of the Library groups.
Lisa C. Wemett, Coordinator for Professional Development and Past President, Friends of Libraries Section, New York Library Association, and Erica Freudenberger, Outreach and Engagement Consultant, Southern Adirondack Library System.
PDF Document: Friends of Libraries Section/New York Library Association. 2021 Survey of Friends Groups Associated with Rural and Small Libraries. Original 40 question survey. January 2021.
PDF Document: Friends of Libraries Section, New York Library Association (2021). By the Numbers: Survey of Friends Groups Associated with Rural and Small Libraries [Data summary presented in PowerPoint slides].
Handout: “Beyond Younger Volunteers: What Rural Friends Groups Need to Thrive”
Arranged by topic (potential areas of challenge to Friends groups supporting small and rural libraries), this handout outlines “maintenance of effort” activities that will keep the Friends healthy along with activities a group could implement to become stronger and thrive. From Beyond Younger Volunteers: What Rural Friends Groups Need to Thrive. Virtual session presented at the 2021 ARSL Conference (Association for Rural & Small Libraries), October 20-23. (www.arsl.org)
Help library patrons and Friends members become better engaged with their library through a webpage or social media account. Content about the Friends, whether it is hosted on the library’s website or on a Facebook page, should make it easy to become a member and learn about volunteer support needed for the library. Marketing the Friends through an online presence can boost membership, increase returns on fundraising efforts, involve the community in Friends events, and promote opportunities for advocacy on behalf of the library.
Friends of the Library groups that have their own webpages
Webpages where Friends have their content on the library’s page
Friends Groups and Social Media
Interested to develop your social media presence for the Friends? Following the business portion of the 2021 FLS Annual Membership Meeting, Karen Ash, Chair of the Friends of the Angelica Free Library, presented “Friends on Facebook: Five Ways Social Media Can Help You Meet Your Goals.” Karen shared her expertise and highlighted the success of her group in their efforts to support the library. Here’s the recording of her PowerPoint presentation on YouTube.
Follow some Friends on Facebook:
Whether library staff who work with and support Friends of Libraries organizations or library civic leaders (both Friends and trustees), everyone can benefit from high quality continuing educational sessions with practical applications to volunteer programs and nonprofits. FLS provides a variety of opportunities, both in-person and virtual, to help people enhance their knowledge and best practices. Below are resources you will want to review: webinars, the FLS newsletter, virtual meet-ups, system-based Friends Councils, and other units of NYLA that support rural and small libraries.
Webinars of particular interest to Friends groups serving small and rural libraries:
· Fishing for Friends: How to Reel in Midlife Adults with Programs (April 2022)
· Friendly Partnerships Strengthen Communities (March 2021)
· Engaging Millennials as Friends Volunteers (September 2020)
· Connecting With Today’s Volunteers to Transform the Friends of the Library: Expectations, Engagement, and Impact (September 2019)
· Administrative Teams: A New Approach to Friends Leadership (March 2019)
To watch FLS-sponsored webinars, go to www.NYLA.org/Friends > Events > FLS Webinars.
FLS members receive our quarterly newsletter. Articles are a mix of timely information for Friends leaders (e.g., tax law considerations for nonprofits) and replicable programs from around NYS. Our goal is to highlight the work of Friends organizations statewide, so please send us your news!
We strive to educate our readers on the variety of continuing education opportunities available to them by providing reviews of Section programs at conferences, meet-up topics, and regional workshops. In case you missed the event, you can still gain many takeaways from these articles.
Back issues of the “Friends News and Notes” newsletters are available on the FLS website: www.nyla.org/friends > Publications. In the archive, the contents of each newsletter is itemized by issue, so you can find topics that will assist you with volunteer recruitment, fundraising, marketing, and more.
FLS periodically sponsors virtual meet-ups open to anyone interested in Friends of the Libraries groups. Each “FLS Connections!” has a specific topic and lasts only 75 minutes. Invited speakers share with everyone informally, followed by open mics where participants can provide their own groups’ experiences and creative ideas. Gathering together, even remotely, has allowed groups all around the state to join in the conversation, to share concerns, gain inspiration, and learn from one another.
Check the FLS home page or Events listings to find out when we’ll meet next and what we’ll be talking about. Days and times vary so we may reach a wide audience. We hope you’ll join us!
In several of New York’s public library systems, volunteer representatives of Friends of the Library groups from member libraries gather to support one another in their work and share best practices once or twice a year. FLS established a task force which worked throughout 2021 with a goal of starting Friends Councils in systems where these Councils do not currently exist. Additional information about Friends Councils can be found in the minutes of the 2018 NYLA Annual Conference session, “Friendly Café Meet-Up.”
Here is a list of public library systems that currently support Friends Councils. If you would like to start a Council in your region, get in touch with the executive director of your public library system, one of our contacts in the library systems below, or FLS at FLS.NYLA@yahoo.com.
Buffalo & Erie County Library System
Joyce Maguda, Friends of the Eden Public Library: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mid-Hudson Library System
Kerstin Cruger, Outreach and EDI Specialist, Mid-Hudson Library System: email@example.com
Monroe County Library System
The MCLS Friends Council meets spring and fall annually. Contact Lisa C. Wemett, Council Secretary, at FLS.NYLA@yahoo.com.
Nioga Library System
Kathy Zipkin, Friends of Richmond Public Library, Batavia: firstname.lastname@example.org
Southern Adirondack Library System
Erica Freudenberger, Outreach and Engagement Consultant, Southern Adirondack Library System: email@example.com
Jim Foster, Chair, FLS Task Force on Friends Councils; Assistant Director and Staff Liaison to the Friends of the Clifton Park–Halfmoon Public Library: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rural Libraries Roundtable of the New York Library Association
The New York Library Association has a unit specifically dedicated to assisting rural libraries. The Rural Libraries Roundtable (RLRT) defines these libraries as being geographically isolated and having limited service populations, limited budgets, and minimal staff. The Roundtable’s membership includes libraries across all specialties: public, academic, school, special, and corporate collections.
The Roundtable serves these functions:
· Creates a network of people who work, volunteer, or are interested in rural libraries
· Provides a forum for the smallest of NYS libraries to exchange ideas and experiences
· Provides an opportunity for continuing education relevant to rural libraries
RLRT would appreciate your membership support. Learn more at www.nyla.org/rlrt.
Ask FLS anytime!
Have a question or concern not answered here? Contact FLS for help at FLS.NYLA@yahoo.com.
Friends groups supporting small and rural libraries can benefit greatly from an organizational membership in FLS/NYLA. The Friends of the Argyle Free Library in the Southern Adirondack Library System serve a population of less than 4,000 residents. Here’s what Carol Kuhr, President of the Argyle Friends, says about the Friends of Libraries Section:
In the past six years I have attended FLS meet-ups in Clifton Park and East Greenbush. I have also twice been able to attend FLS workshops at the NYLA Annual Conferences. I always come away from an FLS event with new ideas for organizing, fundraising, and building and retaining our Friends of Argyle Free Library membership base. We are a small but active organization that, with inspiration from FLS, has been able to increase our annual fundraising and provide valuable support for our library. Thank you FLS!
Thank YOU, Carol! Learn more about joining FLS here: www.nyla.org/join