National Friends of Libraries Week

Casey McPhee and Geri Remming

It’s time to honor some of the hardest working volunteers in libraries – Friends of Libraries
groups. United for Libraries will coordinate the 14th annual National Friends of Libraries Week
which takes place Oct. 20-26, 2019. Many libraries take this opportunity to put forward
community proclamations, host special events and find creative ways to say thank you and build
awareness for their groups. Media messages give kudos and details about the kinds of projects,
programs, and operational needs the Friends generously support. By getting a word of thanks
out, there are opportunities to recruit new volunteers, board members, and donors.
In recent State Library of Florida Community Conversations with Florida Friends of Libraries
groups, we heard participants say they want to help libraries build communities that welcome
diverse populations, have resources for people in need, improve lives, and maintain positive
and sustainable growth. They also said they want to feel connected beyond their own
neighborhoods and have collaborative spaces for working and socializing. Many people added
that they support learning new skills and encouraging youth to seek higher education to build a
better workforce. Participants agreed that funding is dependent on a long term vision and that
there is a need for community values to be shared with each other and those results shared with
decision makers.

Friends in the State Library of Florida discussion groups were concerned about barriers to
mobility and transportation and the dividing lines that sometimes separate populations in
regards to funding and often negatively impacts a sense of cohesiveness. Many voiced their
belief that they need to focus on advocacy to ensure the availability of resources and fairness in
their division. They stated that Friends can work with libraries to help build trust in our
communities by partnering and collaborating with other organizations in the community,
speaking with legislators about support and working to ensure diversity on our boards, in
staffing and volunteer programs.

At the culmination of these discussions, Friends shared their thoughts on the strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing Friends groups and libraries. Some of the
concepts brought to light included, membership retention, working with staff and volunteers,
generating funding, the need for leadership, and advocacy platforms. They shared their
thoughts about succession planning among volunteers and encouraging a younger
demographic to join their ranks. Friends of Libraries are appreciated all year long, but it’s
important to shine a light on them each October to make their hard work more visible and our
appreciation collectively shared.