Libraries have always served as central sources of information. But if the past two years have shown us anything, it’s that libraries play another essential role: that of community hubs from which a range of services and resources are disseminated.
One might describe libraries as critical infrastructure that deserve to be funded as such… especially given the key role libraries played in keeping people connected and informed during the pandemic. However, the fiscal year 2022 funding bill that passed in March didn’t exactly reflect libraries’ essential nature as a public good. Despite high hopes for additional funding as initially proposed by Congress, the final budget fell well below expectations. Library directors were left disappointed as funding either remained level or came in below recommended levels.
Of course, budget crunches in libraries are nothing new. Librarians have long had to turn to creative fundraising methods to overcome funding shortfalls. And tried and true methods (looking at you, annual “friend of the library” book sales!) do help fill in some gaps.
But for most libraries, a few more fundraising strategies are necessary to keep up with community needs. These strategies can help raise funds and increase your reach.
For many libraries, grants help make up the differences when a local levy doesn’t pass, or state and federal appropriations fall short. Foundations, associations, government sources, and companies offer a range of grant opportunities, each with their own specific focus area and requirements.
For instance, the Lois Lenski Covey Foundation often offers grants for projects such as bookmobiles and mobile outreach efforts for underserved youth, and the American Library Association offers numerous grants each year across multiple focus areas. You may have to think outside traditional parameters and search for grants that support literacy, learning, community outreach and development, specific projects, and more.
Partnering with business and organizations within your community can help you raise money while increasing visibility and expanding reach. Consider:
- Holding book club meetings at a local restaurant. Ask nearby restaurants what their slowest night of the week is and set up book club meetings at that time. Your book club brings in customers; in return, restaurants agree to donate a percentage of sales to the library.
- Work with a local coffee shop. Partner with a café or coffee shop to sell coffee and tea in the library for a percentage of sales.
- Host tasting events. Set up tastings in conjunction with wineries, breweries, and eateries, where both books and goodies are sold.
Generate More Income
Use the spaces within your library to bring in extra funds. For instance, rent a conference room to groups who need a meeting space. Set up reservation fees, depending on how long they need the space.
You could also hold events that require an entry fee. Consider fun, team-based events like board game tournaments, trivia contests, concerts, and other live events. They both draw larger crowds to the library and generate income.
Consider offering paid services at the library, such as passport application processing. Other fee-based services might include pay-to-reserve high-demand materials, or a membership program that offers access to special collections or prime study spaces.
Expand Your Reach with AutoLend Library
One of the most cost-effective ways to expand your library’s reach is through kiosk technology. An AutoLend Library can be placed anywhere your patrons are! Kiosks are fully automated, so patrons can check out and place holds, return books, and browse new materials–all in one convenient place.
The AutoLend Library allows for 24-hour contactless service. The kiosk even serves as a WiFi hotspot, which helps further establish the library as a community resource. When funding and budgets are tight, creative strategies can help you keep expanding your reach!