Yesterday I went to a seminar for non-profits on “sustainability.” The theme being a sharing of resources. I am on the board of the Friends of the Library and, more recently, the Library’s Endowment Board. Supporting what I believe is a worthy cause until I find myself in a ballroom with enthusiastic do-gooders who are tending orphans and caring for flood victims. One gentleman asked me if I found it difficult to raise money for an agency that receives county funding. In other words, “why should I give money to the library when I already pay my taxes?”
This sounds like a reasonably good question but in an age when libraries are being closed due to lack of local government funding, volunteer organized fund-raising becomes essential. Of course, I realize that it is ridiculous to compare my “worthy charity” with the daily vocation of someone who is working with abused women but there is something fundamentally visceral about libraries that most people “get.”
As I stood to introduce myself I made the distinction in a nutshell when I said, “ I don’t feed the poor the poor but I bet you that everyone in this room has used the library.” What would it be like if this resource went away?
Being as our library has a good-sized conference room that is available free-of –charge to any group, this struck home with this particular audience . At one time or another, most people, particularly if they are working or volunteering in the non-profit world, have been to a meeting or heard a speaker in the library conference room.
In these days of purse-tightening and austerity , libraries have become an alternative source for things we used to think nothing of paying for. Not just the latest best sellers but movies, music, and audio books. My library offers career counseling, tax assistance, literacy tutoring, genealogical research, the children’s department publishes a literary youth magazine, there are arts and crafts classes, small business counseling, a program that takes books to children who cannot get to the library, holiday events, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Libraries can no longer be thought of as that building with all those long dark dusty shelves guarded by a prim spinster who scolds you for bringing in overdue books or shushes the slightest giggle. Walk into any library today and you will see how dynamic and even rowdy a place it can be!
The Friends of the Library provides much-needed funding for a lot of activities that enrich the lives of the community. For children the library becomes a place where the world begins. From the Baby Lap Time reading to playing learning games on the computer, the library can often be a place of refuge for kids. I urge you to become a member of your local Friends group and to give generously.