Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Friends of the Library Shops in Libraries

Friends of the Library organizations are a library lovers best friend. They are the non-profit organizations that provide an extra monetary boost to local libraries. The funds that the Friends raise often subsidize the library collection, go toward library supplies, and pay for beloved community programs. Friends organizations raise money by collecting membership dues and donations from patrons and by coming up with any number of other fundraising strategies. One strategy is the massive, weekend book sale.

CC Credit: Topeka Library

Some libraries have moved away from this labor intensive event and literally set up shop. My favorite way to support my local library in Seattle, for instance, is to shop at the FriendShop at SPL's Central Library. Many other libraries across the country have similar shops in their main library branches to raise money. These shops sell anything from socks to postcards and (naturally) to books. You might wonder, isn't it confusing to sell books at a library? Doesn't it defeat the purpose of the library? Well, no. And no. The idea of the Friends Shop is genius, as long as you do it well. Here are some tips for running an excellent shop.

Have a dedicated space.

Seattle Public Library, FriendShop. CC Credit: Susan Smith

This may be tricky for some of the smaller libraries where space is already an issue, but you need to make sure there is a spot set aside just for the shop. The front of the library works best for visibility. Ideally, you would have a sectioned off area where a volunteer or Friends member could man a separate cash register. Otherwise, you will need to train your circulation staff to take in Friends of the Library money (which they might already be doing for memberships and donations).

Make sure books and other sellable items are clearly marked.

Agave Library. CC Credit: Ellen Forsyth

Large, yellow price tags, for instance, will clue the patrons into noticing that an item is for sale and not for check out. So will all the signage that says "Friends of the Library Shop!"

Have a used book section.

Alameda Library. CC Credit: Gwen Harlow

I would suggest that you also have new books and other items like book bags or flash drives to attract buyers, but a used books section is easy and free. Donated books and weeded items are already at the library's disposal. However, make sure to vet these items carefully. Just like with the library collection, the Friends Shop needs to a have a clean, relevant, and well maintained selection for buyers.

Sell bestsellers.

CC Credit: Christopher Penn

I am an avid library user, but sometimes I can't wait three weeks to read a book. I'm in three book clubs and if I strike out at the library, I'm going to buy the book. If I see it at the Friends Shop right after I check the catalog computer, how convenient would that be!? As a side note for the technical services librarians out there, SirsiDynix ILS has a Buy it Now feature you can add. My process for searching for a book club book involves me sitting on my couch at home looking at the online catalog. If I the eBook nor the print book are available, I go to Amazon and purchase a kindle copy. The Buy It Now feature would allow me to do that through the library catalog and would give a percentage of the purchase BACK TO THE LIBRARY. It's kind of amazing.

Sell fun, local products.

CC Credit: Tiffany Wan

Get the local businesses on board to sell fun, knickknacks. Locally made soaps, chocolates, notebooks, socks (one can never have too many socks), etc. Send out surveys and see what patrons would like to buy. Just make sure to remember that the Friends Shop is designed to raise funds for the library. Have a solid business plan and keep good sales records.

So there you have it! This is something all libraries can be doing, even the small ones. I know this because I used to work at a smaller library that has already been doing this for a while (yay, Friends of The Colony Public Library!). I want to give a big thank you to Friends of the Library organizations all over the country. You are awesome and we love you. :)


P.S. Here are some adorable post cards I bought at the SPL FriendShop. Follow the library gnome!

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