Friday, May 9, 2008

Academic Libraries have Friends (and Donors!) 5/8/08

Academic Libraries have Friends (and Donors!) 5/8/08
Emily S. Silverman, Director of Library Development and Communication, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Ms. Silverman described the morale of the staff of UMASS during the massive budget cuts five years ago. Collections were negatively affected. The outside of the library was drab and uninviting. The staff complained. The director of the library discouraged whining so the staff knew something had to change. The director created a “Friends Group” to help raise much needed funds. One thing that impressed me about Ms. Silverman’s presentation was that she kept on referring to the library staff as winners. She said that in order to get money, the staff had to undergo an attitude change and see themselves as winners not whiners. Marketing materials developed by the library had to look professional. The newsletters and annual report have many pictures. The first funded project was the library’s courtyard. The project served as a foundation to showcase the new direction in donor development.

The library went through a number of changes. The library moved to an information commons model. Library use doubled as a result. The library became a hub of activity so it became easy to market to donors. Alumni classes began to donate money toward gardens and maintenance of the gardens.

Silverman suggested asking potential donors how they feel about the library. She recommended exploring who the library users are by utilizing assessment tools like surveys, focus groups, and observational studies. The library then demonstrated to the campus that they listened by documenting the improvements based on the feedback in the marketing material.

Part of her job is to promote the library to reunion classes. She works with retired faculty to develop personal libraries. She enlists library deputies (reference, special collections librarians) to advocate for the library. Silverman hosts a donor appreciation event.

Two successful approaches: a “second ask” program where student works call donors of the college and ask them to contribute to the library. The library has a line on the tuition bill requesting donations for the library at $100 a pop.

The director of the library also gave a presentation and spoke of the importance of donor stewardship. He stressed thanking the donors for their contribution. He solicited library staff to call and thank donors. He also spoke about developing a formal program for donations. The “Library Friends” initiative is good but the library needed to set up the infrastructure for a library development/advancement office which is separate from the existing college advancement office. The director spoke of a Director’s Council where important members of the community are asked to join and are required to donate a minimum of $1000 and enlist others to donate. That is how they got $600,000 worth of free software from Microsoft.

This presentation was impressive. I was completely unaware that a state library could set up a development department. Throughout the presentation, I kept on seeing potentional $ signs and imagined the possibilities at my library.

Millie Gonzalez
Reference and Electronic Resources Librarian
Framingham State College

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