Getting Friends To Advocate AND Sell Books


Libby Post is President/CEO of Communication Services and serves on the American Library Association’s Library Advocacy ­Committee.

Even after they’ve heard all the talk about the importance of library advocacy and the role a library’s Friends group can play, there are still many Friends who just want to sell books.

This is not to say that book sales aren’t important. They raise funds so Friends can help underwrite important library programs and services. Actually, book sales are the first rung of library advocacy. They are staged with the subtle message that supporting the Friends means supporting the library, and supporting the library is a good thing.

However, in this day and age, with libraries forced to defend their funding either to the voters every election cycle or local municipal leaders every budget season, it is essential for Friends groups to climb the ladder of library advocacy and see themselves as citizens who stand up for their libraries. For some, this will be a natural transition; for others, it is a total redefinition of what it means to be a Friend.

For those who need to redefine, the first step for trustees or other library leaders who want to help is to bring their Friends group into budget advocacy discussions and talk about why speaking out is so critical. Trustees and leadership should provide their Friends with key points they can use in a variety of settings: “The library is an important community asset.” “Our library’s return on investment is greater than any other public service.” “Did you know that library funding amounts to just 1.5 percent of all the taxes we pay?”

Once the facts become second nature, standing up and speaking out for the library will be easier. Together with the library’s Board of Trustees and director, the Friends will develop concise, values-based, emotional messaging that can become the basis of an advocacy campaign, and will—with apologies to LBJ—grab citizens’ hearts, so their commitment and subsequent votes will follow.


Perhaps it’s not voters Friends need to convince but local municipal leaders who make funding decisions. After our organization, Communication Services, worked with the Friends of the Irondequoit Public Library (IPL) outside of Rochester, NY, the library’s Friends became advocates extraordinaire—in a quiet way. They got bright yellow T-shirts made that simply said, “I’m a Friend of the Irondequoit Public Library.”  Then they sat together, up front, at every town board meeting. Sometimes they addressed the board, other times they just sat. They were there as a block of yellow graphically screaming support for IPL. The town board knew the Friends and the library were concerned and watching.

The library’s funding was stabilized and eventually, after a number of attempts, IPL’s two old branches were replaced with a new building on the town’s municipal campus. What started with a quiet Friends presence eventually gave town leaders the impetus they needed to protect the library’s funding and build a new state-of-the-art library, now a proud symbol of the community.


Let’s go back to the hearts of voters. Imagine a group of 70- and 80-year-old Jewish women—many of whom either worked at the library or in Mt. Vernon’s school district—coalescing with a number of professional women of color as well as dedicated library staffers who worked on the effort during their off hours. This was the Friends of the Mt. Vernon Public Library, NY.

In 2014, they came together to save the library, literally. Mt. Vernon is a city divided by railroad tracks. The people who live north of the tracks are middle-class homeowners. South of the tracks are renters and working poor. Mt. Vernon is populated with 100 different cultural groups and has a 14 percent poverty rate. The library is on the south side of the tracks.

In short, the library was going to lose its funding unless the public approved a $4.35 million budget—the first time the voters were asked for funding. Needless to say, these dynamic Friends took their responsibility as advocates quite seriously. They spearheaded one of the most successful campaigns I’ve ever seen. The Friends, who just used to organize book sales, worked with the library board to become a powerhouse that built support for the library, phone-banked for voter identification, did public presentations, and shepherded a successful effort to save a beautiful Carnegie facility in a community that needed its library.

Friends becoming advocates is about library boards giving them the information and support they need to change how they think of themselves. Friends can still sell books—but if they believe that every book sold is an opportunity to advocate about the importance of the library, they’ll be speaking in front of municipal leaders and running successful campaigns in no time. After all, if the Friends don’t stand up for the library, who will?

Libby Post is President/CEO of Communication Services and serves on the American Library Association’s Library Advocacy ­Committee.

Friends of Libraries Section Daniel W. Casey Award

FLS Daniel W. Casey Library Advocacy Award

Sponsored by the Friends of Libraries Section of NYLA

The Friends of Libraries Section is proud to continue the long-standing tradition of the Daniel W. Casey Library Advocacy Award.  This annual recognition has been given every year since 1993 by the Empire Friends Roundtable, now the Friends of Libraries Section. The Casey Award honors a volunteer member or a group of the library community whose efforts have contributed to the growth of libraries or Friends of the Library organizations.

Call for nominations:

The  deadline for submission of nominations for this prestigious award is July 1.
It’s not too soon to be thinking about a worthy recipient.  The nomination form is available here.

2015 Award Recipient

This year marks the first time that the Friends of Libraries Section will honor a library volunteer with the Daniel W. Casey Library Advocacy Award. This recognition has a 22 yearlong history with the Empire Friends Roundtable, now FLS.

The Daniel W. Casey Library Advocacy Award, sponsored by FLS, honors a volunteer member or a group of the library community whose efforts have contributed to the growth of libraries or Friends of the Library organizations. We are pleased to announce that this year’s award will be given posthumously to Don Riplinger of the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library (FFRPL).

See the complete story about Don in the FLS September 2015 newsletter.
Read about the plaque presentation in the FLS December 2015 newsletter on page 4.

Who was Daniel W. Casey

Dan Casey & Gov. CareyDan Casey (1921-1995), a resident of Solvay, New York, was known as “Mr. Library” for his tireless advocacy on behalf of libraries at international, national, state, county, and local levels.

Dan paved the way for libraries in legislative and other government offices with his persistence in stating his belief in libraries and in better library services.  His involvement in libraries began with his appointment to the Solvay Public Library’s Board of Trustees in 1954.  From that beginning, he went on to become President of the Solvay Public Library Board, the New York State Association of Library Boards (NYSALB), and the American Library Trustee Association.  He was an honorary Life Member of the New York Library Association.

Dan served on several statewide library committees under Governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo.  Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush named him to the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Informational Services.  In 1988, Dan was appointed chair of the Commission.

Dan also gave his service to other boards including the Onondaga County Public Library, Central New York Library Resources Council, Syracuse University Library Associates, and the Empire Friends Roundtable.

In 1995, the Empire Friends added to the awards Dan had received by a posthumous presentation of the EFR “Library Advocacy Award.” The award was renamed the Daniel W. Casey Library Advocacy Award in memory of Dan to honor him for being an effective library advocate for 41 years.

Photo provided by the New York State Library.  Manuscripts and Special Collections.  New York Library Association Records, 1890-1986 (SC 14879).

Do you know of an individual or group that is deserving of this award?

Please submit your nomination for the Daniel W. Casey Library Advocacy Award by July 1st. The nomination form is available here.

Recipients of the FLS Daniel W. Casey Library Advocacy Award

2015   Don Riplinger, volunteer, Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library (FFRPL)

Recipients of the EFR Daniel W. Casey Library Advocacy Award

1993    Robert J. Trudell, NYLA President 1991
1994    Michael J. Bragman, State Assemblyman
1995    Daniel W. Casey, Solvay Public Library
1996    Friends of the Utica Public Library
1997    Joan C. Silverstein, Westchester Library System
1998    Friends of Middletown Thrall Library
1999    Friends of Oswego Library
2000    Friends of the Shenendehowa Public Library
2001    Harold J. Wusterbarth, Mohawk Valley Library Association
2002    Nicholas J. Pirro, County Executive, Onondaga County
2003    Friends of the Rochester Public Library
2004    Friends of the Macedon Public Library
2005    Helen Marshall, Queens Borough President
2006    Hugh Lee, Bovina Public Library
2007    David Cooper, Friends of the Bethlehem Public Library
2008    Dennis Mosley, Friends of the Albany Public Library
2009    Friends of the Orchard Park Public Library
2010    Robert Manning, Baldwinsville Public Library
2011    Friends of the Red Hook Public Library
2012    Frank Van Zanten, Friends of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District
2013    Janet Dempsey, Friends of Cornwall Library
2014    Building Preservation Committee, Aurora Free Library

Read about the work of the Aurora Free Library Building Preservation Committee in this article published inThe Auburn Citizen

Friends of Libraries Workshops (FLS Section of NYLA)

Photo: Volunteers and staff representing libraries from the Clinton-Essex-Franklin and Finger Lakes Library Systems gathered at the Plattsburgh Public Library to learn about starting a Friends of the Library group.

Friends of Libraries Workshops
NYLA’s Friends of Libraries Section (FLS) held their workshop, “Getting Started: Creating and Sustaining a Friends Group for Your Library,” on April 23, sponsored by the Friends of the Plattsburgh Public Library.

Sixteen representatives from seven public libraries in two public library systems gathered to learn the key steps to develop a new Friends group: recruiting helpers for a steering committee, determining the Friends’ mission, expanding membership, and growing the leadership to sustain an active organization.  The hosts, Friends President Pat Loughan and Treasurer Kim Bailey, brought the workshop to Plattsburgh with an eye toward revitalizing their group and involving more sustaining members as active participants in the organization.  Others in attendance were looking for ideas for their fledgling groups or wanted assistance in starting a group for their community.  Nearly 90% of the participants rated the workshop “outstanding.”  One president of a well-established Friends group commented “Thank you sincerely for the wealth of knowledge and ideas!”

In May, the Ramapo Catskill and Mid-Hudson Library Systems joined together to offer both FLS workshops on successive evenings for their members.  The “Getting Started” workshop on May 25 will be followed by “Keep It Growing!  Strengthening Your Friends of the Library Group” on May 26.  This second workshop focuses on membership recruitment, volunteer engagement, and networking in the community to maintain the crucial advocacy work by Friends organizations.  If you are interested to offer either of these workshops in your region, contact Lisa Wemett at  FLS is happy to help Friends continue their valuable volunteer work on behalf of your library.