Friends of the Library

In many Montana communities, citizens who support the public library have established Friends of the Library organizations. A Friends of the Library group is a nonprofit organization that voluntarily supports library causes and services. Each group has its own bylaws, board, committees and policies, and sets its own goals.

It is important for the library Board to work closely with the Friends group to ensure that the goals of these volunteers are consistent with those of the library. The Friends' role can be enormously important, especially in small libraries with very limited budgets.

The Friends can serve as publicity agents for the library, sponsoring cultural and educational programs, as well as advocates for the library with local government. They can develop and coordinate volunteer services in cooperation with the library director and staff; organize fund-raising events; and encourage donations of materials, as well as bequests and endowments.

To prevent public confusion or misunderstanding about the role of the Friends group, the library Board needs to clearly communicate its needs and expectations of the organization. In some communities, a trustee is appointed to act as a liaison to the Friends to ensure coordination of the group's activities with library policies and goals. In turn, a member of the Friends group might be invited to attend Board meetings.

The national organization, United for Libraries, is a branch of the American Library Association. Its website includes excellent information about organizing and revitalizing Friends groups.