Get out there with the help of your Friends

There's a lot of talk about the value in leaving the library building. Not for patrons, mind you, but for staff. I'm often reminded of a marvelous tip I learned from Gail Santy, a presenter at the Association for Rural and Small Libraries conference last year (handouts from her presentation).

She encouraged (quite strongly, I remember) everyone in attendance to spend 10% of their time each week outside the library buildling. This tip stirred up a lot of discussion as to what 10% really meant, especially in the case of small libraries, which everyone in the audience represented. The presenter explained that 10% could be split amongst staff, that the director need not be--and shouldn't be--the only library representative meeting with stakeholders and attending meetings and town activities. 

This all came back to me today as I attended a meeting of the Friends of the Oakland Public Library branch representatives and staff from Oakland Public Library. We spent much of our time discussing and sharing best Gerry Garzon, Interim Director of Library Services, Oakland Public Library (CA)practices on how to engage new Friends members and volunteers. While my Friends colleagues talked, it occured to me that many of the activities outlined in the Edge benchmarks--engaging the community to learn about their priorities and needs, getting the word out about programs and services, communicating with stakeholders about technology programs desperate for funding, and sharing those successful ones ripe for touting--could be strengthened and bolstered with help from the Friends. (Pictured here are Gerry Garzon and Winifred Walters, Oakland Public Library, plus Friends members.)

Friends are community members imbued and motivated by their love of the library. What if library staff included the Friends group in brainstorm sessions to enhance their outreach and community assessment efforts? As I've come to learn through my participation in my branch's Friends board, Friends show up at city council meetings, they have connections to key stakeholders, and most importantly: they spread the word of how their libraries are transformational. Perhaps mobilizing this group with information about your library's Edge participation and results will bump up that 10% number and get your library the support it deserves. It's worth a shot!