Focus on success, not survival.

This morning I was truly fired up after reading fundraising literature and thinking of ways libraries can easily implement many of the ideas used successfully by nonprofits. One thing that was mentioned several times was the importance of not asking for money, but instead sharing stories of people impacted by the organization and then presenting an opportunity to help or contribute to a specific program or project.

I kept thinking of slogans such as, “Make an investment in your community, support your local library.” Recently I’ve worked with some libraries that have struggled with the idea of the importance of partnerships and focusing on the positive instead of the negatives (not enough staff, not enough time, not enough space, not enough funding). It is much easier to share stories than to ask for money, and it also keeps the focus on the positive contributions libraries are making in our communities.

What does happen when libraries focus on the community and not just on keeping the doors open?

Today, WebJunction facilitated an amazing webinar that answers that question. Innovations from America's Best Small Libraries 2011 showcased the exemplary work of three libraries serving populations under 25,000. Wow! The amazing services, technology, and programming they are offering knocked my socks off! They are really involving their community members…they aren’t thinking about survival because they are making such an impact on their towns, I’m sure no one could imagine living without them. They are passionate about the work they do and they aren’t shy about sharing, one library even said that they brag! Love it.

If you are in need of inspiration or examples of success that don’t involve much staff time or much money, listen to the archive to hear some stellar success stories. Partnerships were a major theme. Naturita Community Library shared, "We accomplish nothing alone," and Page Public Library said, “We partner with everyone we talk to.” All three libraries have innovative ways of connecting with their community, such as Page Public Library’s book baskets, which are left at business waiting rooms around town,  or the Ames Public Library’s technology training that impacted an older adult to the extent that he said his life “ went from ordinary to extraordinary.” A true life changing example.

Thank you to all the libraries out there that are working hard AND playing hard with your communities. It truly is happiness to know how many lives are being impacted at every stage of life.

One of the libraries made it their goal two years ago to win this award, and shared how it raised their status when they told everyone what they were working towards. If you feel inspired to share your own story, apply by November 2, 2011 to be the Best Small Library in America. The award is cosponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Library Journal. LJ’s executive editor Rebecca Miller was also on the webinar and shared, “We've had libraries tell us that they get a boost in their communities just by applying, building support along the way.”

Which brings me to this final thought--make an investment in your community, promote your local library. Don't be afraid to brag by telling the amazing life-changing stories you have about your library. When someone asks, "How's the library," or "What's new," tell a story of the impact your library is making, let them know what services you offer, and how they can be involved. Get out into your community, make the partnerships, build relationships, and hopefully you will soon be happily bragging about the success of your library, if you aren't already!