National Friends of Libraries Week will be celebrated October 15-21, 2017. Many of our St. Lawrence County libraries have a Friends group that helps support the library’s mission and goals.
Traditionally, many public libraries were established by community members who understood the value of libraries and the need for libraries to have support for long-term survival. Within our own community, there are many examples. All of the Hepburn libraries (Colton, Edwards, Hermon, Lisbon, Madrid, Norfolk, and Waddington) were formed only after each town’s residents voted to provide continual financial support for the libraries Mr. Hepburn offered to build. Other libraries have similar agreements with financial benefactors and groups who came together to create a public library in their community.
All of our public libraries are chartered through the New York State Education Department and are guided by a local Board of Trustees that is either appointed by the municipality or elected by registered voters. Trustees determine the mission of the library, set policies and procedures, obtain sustainable funding, and oversee the general management of the library. Many, but not all, of our public libraries also have a Friends of the Library group that advocates for the library, helps fundraise, volunteers time, and provides information to the public. Friends give their time, energy, and financial support to help ensure their local library is relevant to people in the library’s service area.
So what do our local Friends groups do? Many Friends groups help fundraise by hosting periodic book sales, selling concessions at special events, and soliciting donations from both community residents and local businesses. Most Friends groups are designated as non-profit organizations, which allows them to collect charitable donations and remit them to the library on an as-needed basis. Friends groups often set specific goals where a certain amount of money collected will go to support specific programs or services within the library. In some cases, Friends groups help the library purchase new equipment or furniture, or cover the cost of supplies and materials for the summer reading program. Friends groups may also help the library find volunteers for special events or workshops, and promote the benefits of the library to community residents.
In recent years, many Friends groups have enrolled in a program called Amazon Smile which directs 0.5% of your eligible Amazon.com purchases to the charity of your choice. Locally, you can choose to support the libraries in Canton, Colton, Cranberry Lake, Gouverneur, Hammond, Hermon, Heuvelton, Madrid, Massena, Morley, Morristown, Norfolk, Norwood, Ogdensburg, Potsdam, Richville, Russell, and Waddington.
Looking for a way to support your local library? Libraries of all sizes have Friends groups – stop in and check out the group at your local library. Joining a Friends group is easy, and provides an opportunity to meet new people while supporting a valuable community resource. Even if your library doesn’t have a Friends group, there are plenty of ways to provide support – just ask your local library staff and they will be happy to give you more information!