Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Coalition Building

Tuesday, May 5 3:00 (Time Change)
Coalition Building: Developing Citizens Support for Your Library
Speaker: Margie Schuster

Margaret Schuster, formerly the Volunteer Services Manager and Friends of the Library Coordinator for 15 years at Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis, MN. Margaret now serves as liaison to 26 current Friends groups and is now assessing the feasibility of starting Friends groups in the 15 Minneapolis library locations.

Margie Schuster began by encouraging us to take one more step—in addition to lobbying and message development—and create a coalition to expand into a broader sphere. The idea is to create an alliance that can talk about what the library is doing. Trustees and Friends form the most powerful union for advocating for libraries. Coalition building is about forming alliances that can do more than one person or one library can do. Margie talks about an alliance between Best Buy and the local library where she is from in Minnesota. Margie also relates a story about Friends groups bombarding city hall in Minnesota to prevent the closing of four small branch libraries. There is an emphasis on the one working with the many. The strongest alliance is with the Trustees and the Friends. Every Friend and every Trustee needs to look at every organization they belong to and examine how that organization and their library can work together.

Ms. Schuster reminds us to establish ways of reaching out to the community, such as the case of her library preparing books and tote bags for mothers-to-be. She also relates a story of a non-native English speaker working with the library to develop her speech and accent to obtain a job at a renowned local hospital.
What is the library looking for, what are its needs? Be prepared to optimize a connection with other organizations. Margie gives an example of a PC user group looking for a tutorial on the subscription databases. Such a tutorial led to a regular tutorial for basic PC use in the community. Such alliances led to an increase in the number of people who became Friends because of the support and visibility, the willingness to support the community and a number of different ways. This also leads to a discussion of perception, how the public views the library and its librarians. It is also important to stay in touch with the needs of the community to optimize alliances that benefit the library and the community, rather than depend on traditional means of support, but rather thinking creatively and looking toward the future.

Spreading the word and sitting on clubs—looking for opportunities—is vital to the future of the library. As Margie reminds us, coalition building—those impromptu alliances—are the present and future of the library, especially in these trying and difficult times.

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