What’s in a Name?

Library Donation StrategiesDonation Brainstorming_379542964

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

One of the biggest struggles libraries face is how to increase operating funds. Grants are available for special projects and new initiatives, but that leaves day-to-day expenses. Encouraging donations by giving patrons the opportunity to name something can help with both the new cool stuff and the everyday necessities, thereby freeing up more funds for staff salaries, the electric bill, snow removal, etc.

Not surprisingly, naming opportunities have a long history in library fundraising with “adopt-a-magazine” programs and memorial book plates. But how can you go bigger and move beyond these humble basics?

Think about what else might be adoptable or could be memorialized – shelving, display units, room renovations, supplies, equipment – the sky’s the limit. A new kiosk, circulation desk, self-checkout station, or makerspace could be within your reach if you’re willing to expand your naming opportunities to more areas.

From the beginning, you need to be very clear about what you want and the amount of money needed to obtain it. You must also make the process of giving convenient and rewarding for the donor. Timely, accurate acknowledgement from the library that recognizes the gift and makes the donor feel appreciated is vital. No one wants to hear a donor say they never received an acknowledgement letter, that there were inaccuracies in it, or that the library misspelled a name on a memorial recognition like a book plate.

With memorial books, you don’t want to be pressured into buying or accepting titles that your collection development policy doesn’t support. The same goes for tributes or in-kind gifts for areas beyond collections. With restricted gifts, make sure your library is in control. Avoid using vague statements such as “furniture for the reading room,” or you could find yourself stuck with a glider rocker, when what you really envision is a reading chair with built-in charging station.

If you don’t already have one, put a gift acceptance policy in place.

Donor Wall_519050002In some cases, signage acknowledging gifts is the way to go and makes perfect sense for special collections, rooms or programming areas, and outdoor seating such as benches. However, placing labels and plaques on every shelf, chair, and table is both cumbersome and unattractive. Perhaps you can create a tribute area in your library or invest in a donor wall.

Libraries and/or Friends groups often hold yearly fund drives. Though you may dread the thought of conducting multiple mailing campaigns, picking specific projects or services to sponsor throughout the year may be more effective than just a single annual appeal for unrestricted gifts. Make giving easy by setting up procedures for accepting in-person, by-mail, and online donations.

Beyond specific items and initiatives, naming opportunities can also give your operating funds a boost. Summer reading programs for children, craft materials, and lecture series are just a few of the things that might attract donors. Again, just make sure you (not the donor) are choosing the content and focus of the gifts.

Many libraries are creating “societies” or “circles of giving” for specific endeavors. Explain the important role libraries play in bridging the digital divide. See if you can raise funds to offset the costs of your computer hardware and software upgrades, consortia member fees, and database contracts. If you’re going to create tiered schemes, map out what the donor levels are, what they support, the perks of giving at various levels, and what type of recognition is due to each type.

Everyone likes seeing their name in print. It’s essential that you acknowledge gifts and list your donors in your library newsletters and annual reports. Make sure sponsorships are mentioned in all publicity materials and media coverage.

Ribbon Cutting_1103731883Capital campaigns and professional fundraising often address major gifts such as wings and entire buildings. However, it’s helpful to be armed with information; you’ll want to have potential projects in the back of your mind in the event an unexpected large bequest or endowment comes your way.

Here’s another idea you may not have considered.

Though it may seem morbid, families of the recently deceased often look for opportunities to memorialize their loved ones through gifts of books or other contributions—or request that funeralgoers make charitable donations in lieu of flowers. So make sure local funeral directors, lawyers, and estate planners have copies of your newsletters and fundraising brochures for them to keep in mind as they meet with clients who may be interested in library bequests. Knowing the library is an option may give comfort to those who are grieving and having to make difficult decisions about settling estates.

Essentially, fundraising is match-making: connecting your goals with people who love the library and want to give back. How you are helping this happen in your community?

Additional resources:

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

Before joining Brodart in 2016, Stephanie Campbell worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

Does anyone still care about reference collections?

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

Open Books-9043447Imagine you are a customer service librarian being forced to choose just three reference tools out of your entire reference collection and discard the rest. What would they be? Librarians and grad students used to mull over questions like this while hobnobbing at conferences or gathering in coffee shops. But what was once a philosophical reflection about the most valuable reference books (with the assumption being that of course every library needs them), has become a much simpler and more realistic question: “Does anyone care about reference collections anymore?”

It’s 2018. What three tools would any good customer service librarian choose to keep?

  1. The Internet
  2. A good search engine
  3. A smartphone

No, you’re right, they aren’t books, but you have to admit that they are indispensable. Goodbye Encyclopedia Britannica, farewell World Almanac, adiós Famous First Facts. Full disclosure: I got my start in the reference department of a large public library, using standards such as The Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, The United States Government Manual, and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. I cut my eyeteeth on them. I fell in love with many, many reference titles and I could not stifle my affection. I loved those musty tomes passionately.

Today it’s a different world—one with different patrons, who have different needs and are asking different questions. About the only thing a reference collection gives me today is warm fuzzies. OK, I am exaggerating…somewhat. Yes, there are some valid exceptions. But let’s look at what’s happening across the country.

Kyle King, at the North Independence branch of Mid-Continent Public Library (Independence, Mo.), works in the district’s reference center. Since he started there 10 years ago, the collection has shrunk from 38,000 volumes to 18,000. He says the nature of the questions he receives has changed. Computer Search-456214333A lot of what used to be ready reference is now solved by patrons themselves who hop onto a search engine for answers. The library has become an educator in information literacy and is taking a major stance as a resource for mastering digital technologies. He notes, “Twenty-five years ago, questions were informational, but now they involve demonstrating skills. For a car repair question, we handed the customer a manual rather than joining them under the hood. Today, though, we do hands-on demos of using email, navigating websites, and filling out forms.” The print reference collection still receives some use, especially in areas where no equivalent online tool is available for free or a reasonable price, such as collectibles, legal materials, building codes, and style manuals. Many reference books have been moved to the circulating collection, and some reference books are occasionally sent to another branch for a patron to use.

Kathi Woodward, Reference Department manager at Springfield-Greene County Library (Mo.), is a relative newcomer to the profession, having started in 2012 after more than two decades in the world of bookstores. During her six years as manager, the reference collection has decreased to half its size. Women Man Computer-289539899She has retained some print materials because there is no comparable or affordable online equivalent, such as various medical reference titles, collectibles, and Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. Woodward agrees that the nature of the questions has changed and there is considerable focus on technology, job applications, IRS, and “How do I…?” queries.  However, the homework question—that old familiar friend of ours—still crops up often.

For Ben Lathrop, Information and Reference Department Manager for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, one challenge is the size of the reference collection. The library weeds based on condition only. Two floors of its main library—closed to the public—house large numbers of nonfiction and reference volumes. Lathrop has pulled together a collection of approximately 1,000 volumes located adjacent to reference staff for quick, daily use. In his 12 years with the library, some types of questions have largely disappeared, with library users now asking Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant instead of librarians or their friends. Some customers, though, still ask the library for phone numbers, addresses, and such. While encyclopedias and atlases sit unused, building codes, price guides for antiques and collectibles, and a few titles such as Corporate Affiliations Directory remain invaluable. In many cases, the library allows reference titles to be checked out. Lathrop noted that reference librarians used to practice the “teach a person to fish” approach by helping customers use reference books, but that today they’re doing the opposite: answering the question directly without going into teaching mode.

In early 2016, Jessica Parij, Manager of Adult Services at Rochester Hills Public Library (Mich.), posed this question to ALA’s Think Tank Facebook Group : “What’s your print reference section look like nowadays? Still big? Small? Interfiled? Gone completely?” With close to 40 comments, the most common responses were:

  • Heavily weeded
  • Getting smaller
  • Shrinking
  • Moving to circulating collection
  • Replaced by online resources
  • Sad but tossing the outdated and unused books

These individual comments are particularly noteworthy:

  • “I’m about to decimate mine.”
  • “I just discarded three quarters of mine.”
  • “Gone. A few ready ref at the desk but other than that, all gone!”

Andy Woodworth, manager of reference and adult services at Cherry Hill Public Library (N.J.), a 2010 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, is author of the blog Agnostic, Maybe: the Neverending Reference Interview of Life. Woodworth offered what is perhaps the best response to this post’s featured question in the article he wrote for INALJ (the website formerly known as I Need a Library Job). In the entry titled “Reference Isn’t Dead, Just Different,” Andy says, “I turn downright ornery towards the physical reference collection as a continuing concept that libraries should embrace…. (After weeding the reference collection) I am presently looking at a leaner, meaner physical collection that covers the topics better than their online counterparts.”

So it seems that after ruthless weeding and a focus on the immediate goal of meeting the needs of 2018 library users, those beloved reference books have been replaced by fast Internet, smart searching, and strong technology. The remaining titles have to earn their shelf space. So what should stay? The titles should be solid, dependable, reliable, easy to access, quicker than going online for an answer, and offer beautifully arranged, succinct answers to frequently asked questions. Simple, eh? To paraphrase a great Zen saying, “The way is easy, except for the picking and choosing.” I confess, it still pains me to discard a reference title I have long loved, but I can do it.

Paul Duckworth New - 2.5 x 3
Paul

Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.