Friday, November 6, 2009

Support Your Local Library!

In these tough economic times, more and more stresses are being placed on local libraries, while at the same time many of them are facing budget cuts. People who can't afford to buy as many books are checking more of them out of the library. People who have lost their jobs are using library computers and reference materials to search for new jobs. Also, libraries are serving as community centers, providing meeting rooms to organizations and low-cost or free reading or educational programs for children and adults.

How can you support your local library and assure the services they provide your community continue? I'll list a few ideas, and I'd like to encourage InkSpot readers to submit more ideas in comments. Libraries everywhere need our help and encouragement.

1. Donate used books that you no longer want to your local Friends of the Library organization or to whatever entity at your library runs a used bookstore, with profits going to buy new materials for the library shelves.

2. If a library tax measure is up for a vote in your community, support it any way you can, with a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, a sign in your yard, a contribution to the campaign, personal e-mails to your friends encouraging them to support the measure, etc.

3. Include your library or the Friends of the Library organization in your year-end giving plan. Most libraries have an associated nonprofit organization, or are one themselves, to which you can make a tax-deductible donation. Alternatively, if your library has a donation "wish list" of physical items, maybe you have a file cabinet, printer, bean bag chair or some other item that you no longer need and the library could use.

4. Volunteer a few hours a week in your library to shelve books, read to children, decorate a bulletin board, make database entries, or do whatever needs to be done. As library funding shrinks, so does the staffing, and volunteers can help fill some of the gaps.

5. Serve on a library committee to plan special events such as local author signing days or an all-city-reads program. And, you can even bake cookies or provide other refreshments for such an event. I serve on the committee for the Pikes Peak Library District's annual Mountain of Authors program, which aims to connect local authors with potential readers in the community. My connections with fellow local authors are useful in planning programs and inviting speakers. If you're an author, this is an area where you can really contribute.

6. Another area where a writer can contribute is in encouraging teen writers. If your local library doesn't have a teen writing critique group, start one. If they do, offer to talk to the group about writing or writing business how-tos. I've given presentations to the teen writing group at my library branch about tools for character development, how to write a query letter, markets for teen-written short stories and poetry, and other topics. I find working with enthusiastic teen writers to be a lot of fun!

7. Avid readers can volunteer to run a book club at your local libraries, possibly focusing on a particular genre or a theme, such as "world travelers" . I've discussed my mystery books with general and mystery-oriented book clubs at various Pikes Peak Library branches, and while some are managed by librarians, others are run by volunteer organizers.

8. Join your local Friends of the Library organization and volunteer for their projects, many of which might be included in the above list. Or, serve on the Library Board as a community liaison.

9. If you're an author, donate a copy of one of your books to the library and volunteer to put on a reading or discussion program by yourself or with other local authors.

10. USE your library! Get a library card and check out books, movies, and other materials and talk to your friends and neighbors about how useful the library is to you.

I'm sure InkSpot readers can come up with lots of other ways to support your local libraries, so chime in, folks!


Lisa Bork said...

Wow, Beth, that's a pretty complete list. Our library sells canvas book bags, t-shirts, and local restaurant coupon books to raise funds, too. It's a wonderful place!

jbstanley said...

Give your local branch some of your large print books (if you've got them). They can rarely afford the price tag and will so very grateful to put them in circulation. I've earned new readers by doing this and it feels good to know those who have a hard time reading small font can experience new authors.

I'm trying to talk my library into have a mystery night with food and alcohol. "We should do it before you remodel." I keep telling them. "That way, if the patrons get rowdy and break something, who cares?"

Lyn said...

Excellent post, Beth. A community without a good library seems empty. So far, we're doing well down here, expanding our library to about four times its original size. In LA, it was getting hard to find a branch that was open much at all. Very disappointing, specially for the kids. I don't see why a library couldn't be as much a center of community life as a theater or football team. Good list, too.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Excellent post, Beth! I use both the Los Angeles County and Los Angeles City libraries quite a bit. I love going into the branches and seeing them buzzing with activity. And I love doing library events. They are usually very well attended.

JB - what a great idea! I have a few extra copies of my large print editions around. I'll definitely pass them along to my local branch.

Alan Orloff said...

Terrific list, Beth! I know libraries help foster a life-long love of books and everything we can do to help them thrive is important!

Mare F said...

Well done, Beth.

Marcia Talley said...

And tell your local librarian to watch the Sisters in Crime website,, for an announcement about their library drawings. Between January and December 2010, Sisters in Crime will be awarding $1000 to a winning library each month, to buy books.

-- Marcia Talley

Lesa said...

As a public librarian, I can't thank you enough, Beth. All wonderful ideas!

I do have one to add, though. Please let your local elected officials (city councils, library boards, county commissions), know that you value your local library. Please speak to them on behalf of the library. So many of them don't value libraries as much as the community members do, and they don't understand the work of libraries, or the need for them. Please speak up, before they take away your libraries. Let them know why libraries are important to you.

And, thank you!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Great, Beth! Thank you!

Beth Groundwater said...

Ooooh, great ideas, JB, Marcia and Lesa!

G.M. Malliet said...

Marcia - What a terrific project for SinC. Everyone benefits.

wlpl said...

Well said, Beth. As a public librarian I believe that public interest and involvement is what makes or breaks a library. Your list of suggestions is great!

Theresa de Valence said...

Verrry interesting!