Celebrate National Friends of Libraries Week!

By Maura Deedy, Library Advisory Specialist at the MBLC

We are thrilled to kick off National Friends of Libraries Week. This is an opportunity for libraries to celebrate the role of the friend. Friends advocate, fundraise, champion, and promote the library in their communities.

In 2018, libraries reported over 59,000 library friends at 308 libraries. These are the people who understand and value the importance of the library in their community. Some friends groups have less than ten people, and others count up to 1000 members! What they have in common is that they are passionate about their local library.

These organizations are usually private 501c3 groups with their own board and officers. A friends group will engage in membership drives, book sales and other activities to help raise funds to supplement the municipal budget. Maybe you’ve been to a local book sale or perused a cart tucked near the circulation desk. Donated books sold by friends groups help provide direct financial support. Friends purchase museum passes, furniture, and sponsor summer reading programs, cook book clubs and more.

Friends can play an important role in advocating for the library to local and state officials. They are able to leverage their voice and knowledge of the library, and help tell the library story to ensure adequate funding is needed. Friends can also play a key role in any local bond or ballot votes, overrides and more. The Massachusetts Friends of Libraries is an association formed to provide leadership on issues of regional, state and national concern to libraries, including encouraging and assisting in the formation and continued growth of Friends of Libraries. They promote awareness on library issues and advocate for state funding to libraries through the Commonwealth. Visit https://libraries.state.ma.us/pages/friends-of-libraries-week-19 to learn more about Friends groups in Massachusetts.

National Friends of Libraries Week is coordinated by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association with approximately 4,000 personal and group members representing hundreds of thousands of library supporters. United for Libraries supports those who govern, promote, advocate, and fundraise for libraries, and brings together library trustees, advocates, friends, and foundations into a partnership that creates a powerful force for libraries in the 21st century.

Letters About Literature: 2019 Awards Ceremony Held at State House

By Ellen Flanagan Kenny, Communications Associate at the Massachusetts Center for the Book

L-R: Norwood High School English teacher Elizabeth Colahan, Kenneth Amis, Elizabeth Amis, Norwood High junior Jason Amis (Level 3 Honoree), and Senator Michael Rush.

Thirty students were honored at the annual Letters About Literature awards ceremony, held on May 23 in the Reading Room of the State Library at the Massachusetts State House.  Representative Natalie Higgins, House Co-Chair of the Library Caucus, provided the legislative welcome and thanked the many legislators on hand to welcome families, teachers, and librarians to this “Celebration of Massachusetts Student Reading & Writing.”

The Letters About Literature program is sponsored nationwide by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and administered by state centers for the book which operate in each of the 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Students in Grades 4 to 12 write letters to authors about books, poems or speeches which had a profound effect on them.  One of the most active state programs, Massachusetts again received thousands of letters from all corners of the Commonwealth.

Level 2 (Grades 7-8) Top Honors awardee Bezawit Seyfe O’Neill of Brookline (Montrose School) reading her letter.

In her remarks, Sharon Shaloo, Executive Director of Mass Center for the Book, told the thirty honorees that they represented the top 1% of participants in Massachusetts.  “Every year, and perhaps this year more so, Letters About Literature reminds us of the power of books, the importance of reflective thought and writing, and the necessity of those activities in an engaged and civil society,” Shaloo said.

An outstanding team of 2019 judges including Sharon Bernard, Director, Fitchburg Public Library; Beth Ineson, Executive Director, New England Independent Booksellers Association; and David Mazor, Executive Director, Reader to Reader, Inc., presented awards to the student honorees.  Judging assistance was also provided by the English Department at Salem State University and MCB staff and volunteers.

The 26th annual Letters About Literature program was made possible by a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, with additional support from gifts to the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

L-R: David Mazor, Executive Director of Reader to Reader, Inc., Beth Ineson, Executive Director of NEIBA, Representative Natalie Higgins, House Co-Chair of the Library Caucus, Sharon Bernard, Director, Fitchburg Public Library, and James Lonergan, Director of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

The Massachusetts Center for the Book, chartered as the Commonwealth Affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is a public-private partnership charged with developing, supporting and promoting cultural programming that advances the cause of books and reading and enhances the outreach potential of Massachusetts public libraries.

For more information, contact info@massbook.org or call 617-872-3718.