Wednesday, November 17, 2021

#NYLA2021: Friendly Relationships, Working Together for the Library

Libraries: We're all in logo

This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29) and in-person (Nov. 3-6) formats, as well as having on-demand content. Below are notes from one of the in-person sessions.


Friends of the Library can be valuable members of the library team. Trustees provide governance, library directors manage the operations of the library, and a Friends group provides an opportunity for citizen volunteers to give support and financial assistance. All parties in this alliance need to understand their well-defined responsibilities and the limits of their roles. Frequent, clear, and open communication is the key to a successful partnership, along with joint planning sessions and establishing an operating agreement to address the needs and expectations of all. Robust, positive relationships between these key players will impact customer satisfaction and achieve long-term goals, helping libraries to be strong and resilient. Our panelists from the Hamilton Public Library will share ways their Friends, director, and trustees work together successfully.


  • Travis Olivera, Library Director, Hamilton Public Library
  • Diane Finch, Board member, Friends of the Hamilton Public Library 
  • David Hopper, Member of the friends, Hamilton Public Library 


The three speakers interacted well with each other and provided a lot of information.  I did not capture everything they said. 
  • Note that the Hamilton (NY) Public Library website contains information about their friends group. 
  • Friends help the library with items that are "beyond the scope of normal funding."
    • Someone gave the example of a friends group providing funding towards digital resources for their library system, which benefited their library.
  • Friends do not have their own agenda. They are a booster club for the library.
  • The friends group should consider whether it needs to have its own insurance.
  • Friends may be asked to have a representative on the search committee for a new executive director. Why is this important? The friends will interact with that person frequently. The director needs to work well with the friends group,
  • Friends should have a newsletter which talks about what they are doing.
  • Among the things that a friends group might do is to fund snacks and thank yous for the library staff.
  • What can the library do for its friends group? 
    • Provide physical space which the friends can use. They did state that sometimes a friends group - especially if the group does book sales - may need more space than the library can provide.
    • Provide advice and act as an intermediary.
    • Promote what the friends are doing through the library's website, social media, and/or newsletter.
    • Allow the friends group to use the library's mailing address. 
    • The library may understand purchasing better than the friends, so when possible help the friends with their purchases.
    • Include information in the library's annual report about what the friends have done. (example)
  • The friends need to focus on library programs only. They are the friends of the library, not the friends of some other group.
  • The friends need to have a memorandum of understanding with the library and the library's board of trustees. The friends should also have written policies.  The speakers noted that they are putting various documents in place now.
  • Recruit friends from frequent patrons.

Final Thoughts

Good to hear these three talk about their friends group. While some of the information overlapped with other friends sessions I've attended, some tidbits were new. That's a good reminder that there is always something new to learn! 

I hope they will speak again at NYLA once they have created all of the documents they mentioned (bylaw, etc.). I think that could be an important update to this session.

No comments: