Like most successful writers, I have personally experienced the transformative power of the public library. Several years ago, I became aware of the tragic lack of funding for libraries. I found it shocking that states and municipalities were cutting into the very backbone of our educational infrastructure. I have made it my personal mission to do as much as I can for libraries, whether supporting them through my trust, Save the Libraries, or speaking to the Georgia State House on the importance of a well-read citizenry. I think my experience represents a microcosm of the greater tragedy that has struck library systems all over the world.
In the United States, it is a fact that every dollar spent on public libraries returns $5 to the community. Eighty percent of our incarcerated juveniles are functionally illiterate. Adults who are unable to read are twice as likely to end up in prison as those who can. The math is simple: a child who reads does well in school. A student who does well in school goes to college. A college graduate earns a better living and not only pays more taxes, but has more disposable income to spend on services. They are also more likely to raise children who value education and reading and will in turn follow the education path of their parents. Contrast that with the millions of dollars spent every year on truants and in the juvenile justice system and you’ll find an exponential gain in investment by simply keeping the doors of our local libraries open.
This is but one argument I’ve found helpful in persuading politicians and local businesses to get on board with library fund-raising: by investing in libraries, they are making a fiscally sound choice for their communities. This message is catching on. In the past few years, there has been a great deal of national media attention given to the plight of today’s libraries, and this attention has stimulated an uptick in citizens’ public support of their libraries. It’s difficult to predict, however, whether this attention and goodwill will convert into financial support; and, frankly, simply hoping that it will happen is not a good strategy.
It’s time for libraries large and small to mobilize and focus on serious fund-raising. The consequences of leaving future library budgets in the hands of local public decision-makers alone will sound the death knell for many beloved libraries. It is an unfortunate reality that very few librarians are prepared to be fund-raisers. Even many of those with a master’s degree in library science are woefully inexperienced (and often intimidated) by the idea of asking for money. To make matters worse, the day-to-day challenges facing any library director leave precious little time for taking on the additional task of mounting a comprehensive fund-raising effort.
That is why practical, achievable help is at hand in the pages of this book. This new resource will go a long way toward helping every librarian, trustee, Friend of the Library, and library lover avoid the pitfalls of fund-raising. In it you’ll find great ideas and specific suggestions for conducting all types of fund-raising activities. You’ll learn how to create a plan and identify partners to help you realize your goals. Outlined within this book are clear, concrete tools for implementing the activities you will include in your fund-raising plan. The authors have even included a gallery of examples of fund-raising materials created by libraries that are leading the way in the brave new world of library fund-raising. However you choose to approach this book, do it with the knowledge that whatever plan you implement, you are moving in an essential direction for your library’s future.
I can think of no other warriors who are better prepared for battle than the men and women who have historically been on the front lines of literacy. Good luck!