How to engage your group of library supporters

Each year, United for Libraries and SAGE Publishing team up to award an outstanding leader of a Friends of the Library group for an academic library with a travel grant to the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference. This year’s winner is Lisa Kippur, Executive Assistant to the Deans at the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries.

Lisa shared some advice on enhancing Friends of the Library groups based on her own experiences. Check them out below.

What are your top tips on leading a Friends of the Library group?

Lisa R. Kippur

Friends of the Library groups are all different with each library. Public Libraries will often have book sales coordinated by the Friends group, and there are fewer Friends groups developed in university settings. The University of Colorado Friends group is an aging population, like many of the universities I spoke with a couple years ago, upon my employment with the library, many of the Friends groups at the university levels have disbanded for this reason. In trying to reconstitute the Friends group, it’s important to find out what the group foresees as their role. For example, several of our members didn’t want to have active roles, but instead just wanted to help out at special events.

It’s also important to assess fundraising and what the goals are there. Our group is more in tuned with “Friend raising” rather than fundraising. They get the word out about the Friends group by inviting their friends to events and meetings. Once people learn the value of the Friends, which at our library includes a Library Card, they are excited to join. I am looking forward to having a focus group with members of our Friends group later this summer. It’s important to change it up according to what the members prefer.

 You recently revamped the marketing materials for the group. What changes did you make and why? Examples are welcome!

Basically, we didn’t have any marketing materials. There were no postcards or brochures explaining the group and the website was woefully out-of-date. We came up with a nice “logo” which really just says “Friends of the Libraries” with a photo of the front of our library. Above, see the postcard front which gives information about our group, which we sent out to all 1,500 of our Library donors. We also had an ad in the local paper about joining the Friends of the Libraries. So these weren’t really changes, they were just additional items important to getting the word out.

 In what ways do you keep your Friends of the Library group active and engaged?

It was very hard when I first started my position here, as, like I said, our group is an aging population. I had lunch with each of our board members to find out what they wanted to do, where they saw the Friends of the Libraries going and how they wanted to participate. It’s very important to learn the needs of the members in order to keep them engaged and active, which is why I decided to hold a focus group. My hope is to engage some younger populations and possibly work with the Alumni Association to have a lower membership cost for recent graduates from the university.

This year, you’ll be attending the ALA Annual Conference for the first time. What are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to learning more about the profession as well as to gaining some new perspective that I can bring back to my Friends group and use in my upcoming focus group. Our Friends group funds three student fellowships annually, which is up from the one fellowship they used to fund historically. The members voted to use money from our fall event towards student support, so we now have two events annually rather than three. I can certainly see Friends group funds put toward the future of the profession, at least at our university. I’d like to see what other universities are doing with their friends groups.  I’m also looking forward to seeing Sarah Jessica Parker speak!

Will you be attending ALA Annual this year as well? Follow @SAGELibraryNews  to see what we’ll have in store for you. Interested in more library tips? Watch four of our sessions from the 2017 ER&L conference on marketing resources, communicating with faculty, video use in higher education, and active learning. Additionally, check out this post about navigating user engagement and usage statistics in the library.



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