Good News! The Goodnow Library Board of Trustees have asked the Friends to submit a proposal to reengage with the Goodnow Library.
Learn a little more about the Friends of the Goodnow Library. Read the interview below that appeared in the January 6, 2023 edition of the Sudbury Weekly.
1 -- Let's start at the top -- what is the mission of the Friends of the Goodnow Library, and what type of work has the organization done to support the library over the years? What are the accomplishments you'd like to highlight?
Under our Articles of Organization, the purpose for which the Friends was formed was to “support and stimulate public interest in the Goodnow Library as a public library of the town of Sudbury”. In fulfillment of that purpose, the Friends have provided annual funding to the Goodnow Library to fill the funding gap between the town budget and programming and resources that patrons want. Specifically, the Friends have
However, our greatest accomplishment has been to interact with residents in our community and to engage them as volunteers. These volunteers have donated not only money, but countless hours of their time to make the library an important and valuable resource for the community.
2 -- Can you explain what a "Friends" group is for readers who might not know? Are they common? What's unique about a Friends group compared to other types of organizations?
Friends groups are usually independent, nonprofit corporations organized to support the operations of a public institution over and above the public funding and public employee activities of the institution. They do this in a variety of ways. Support can include funding programs and activities, promoting the increased knowledge and understanding of the institution’s resources, services and needs, soliciting contributions, endowments and bequests and undertaking purchases of non-budgeted equipment and donating it to the institution to enhance its service capabilities for the community. In the case of the Friends of the Goodnow Library, we endeavored to encourage the community to get directly involved in support of the library’s programs and services. Friends groups are common. There are many Friends groups supporting various town institutions, including the Friends of the Sudbury Senior Citizens, LS Friends of Music and LS sports booster groups. Friends groups actively support many libraries throughout Massachusetts and the country.
3 -- Can you summarize the typical financial contributions you've made to the library over the years? How does that money get used in the library?
The Friends paid for things that the community wanted that were not paid for by the town. Typically we met annually with the Library Director and Assistant Director as part of our budget process. In these meetings our president and vice president discussed the money the Friends had available for the needs of the library for the upcoming year and the requested funding needs as specified by the Library Director. Our primary focus was children’s programming along with adding and supporting programs for adults to promote further engagement with the library. Increased programming produces increased foot traffic in the library and aids the library in getting increased state funding.
In addition to our annual funding of between $30,000 and $35,000, we have also contributed money for other purposes. We gave a significant contribution to fund the initial RFID technology used for the library’s self-checkout system. We contributed $40,000 for furniture for the main floor and bought and paid for the book drop box. Before they became a standard part of the budget, we also funded the audio books and CD’s as well as the copier lease and copier supplies that are now paid by means of a revolving fund.
4 -- Can you put those financial contributions in context for readers? How do those contributions compare to operational budgets for comparable programming?
The Trustees have told the Town that the Friends only contribute approximately 1.5% of the library’s budget. That may be true in the aggregate, but if we only look at the enrichment programs and services portion of the budget, that element of library services that directly benefits the members of our community, the Friends funded nearly all of it.
Money alone does not reflect our total contribution. Members of The Friends of the Goodnow Library have donated thousands of volunteer hours that further enhance the programming and resources of the library. Additionally, volunteering creates a sense of belonging, loyalty, and community.
5 -- Zooming out from the details, the Friend's have historically offered a lot of support for the library, but can you explain if/how support for the library translates into impact across the broader community?
The Friends serve as ambassadors for the library in the community. More importantly as members of the community ourselves, our goal has always been to communicate the feedback we receive from the community back to the library so it does a better job meeting the needs of library patrons. We also use this feedback to create new programs and make improvements to existing programs.
The Friends have raised the visibility of the library by creating their own website, social media pages, and a newsletter and by publicizing all of their events in the media.
The Friends have also collaborated with other local community groups on projects. In addition, we contributed books left over from their book sales to worthy community organizations such as More Than Words, Cradles to Crayons, local prisons, schools, daycare centers, and hospitals.
6 --There are a variety of ways for the community to support the library. Given the available choices, why do you think your donors have opted to give to the Friends over the years?
We believe that all the support received by the Friends from members of our community is due to an appreciation for what we do for the library, both in terms of funding and volunteer support.
Also, no matter their level of support, members receive a newsletter, invitations to special member only events, and the right to vote for the leadership of the organization. We welcome and value member input.
Our fund raisers are designed not only to raise money but also to foster a sense of community. Our Friends Annual Book and Bake sale in the spring, the summer Friends Book Sale, and the Trivia Night fundraisers are community events. Our members as well as others in the community volunteer and donate their time, books, and baked goods to ensure the success of our spring Book and Bake Sale. Our Trivia Night fund raiser is again a chance for people to get together and have fun playing competitively for prizes while paying to support the library. Our fundraisers are inclusive events, and everyone is welcome to attend and play a role in supporting the organization.
7 -- You're currently having conversations with the Trustees of the Goodnow Library about potentially re-establishing a relationship. Though those conversations are at an early stage, what might a positive outcome look like for all parties involved, as well as the community?
We believe that a successful library needs an independent Friends group that is focused on the interests and needs of our community. We are all a part of that community. We are all neighbors. We also believe that reviewing the past will serve as a road map for corrections that need to be made in the future in order to create a smooth and collaborative functioning team of the Trustees, the Friends and the Foundation.
The Friends have proposed a series of meetings between the trustees and the Friends as well as separate meetings between the Goodnow Library Foundation and the Friends in order for all parties to be heard and for relationships to be mended. All parties must be willing to make a good faith effort to communicate in an honest and transparent way, and the means of communication must be firmly established to prevent future misunderstandings. Roles must be mutually agreed upon and be clearly defined.
A reorganized relationship with defined roles, transparency, mutual respect, and the ability for each of the three groups to easily communicate with each other is essential for the Goodnow Library to realize its full potential. The Goodnow Library belongs to the whole community, and it should reflect the values and interests of its patrons. It should be a warm and welcoming place where all volunteers are valued and respected.
8 -- I should ask this one because it's in the news this week. After much discussion, the Trustees voted on Tuesday to ask the Friends to submit a written proposal for what a future relationship might look like. Have the Friends decided if they'll be submitting one?
With the best of intentions, the Friends have already submitted a proposal verbally and in writing that apparently was not what the Trustees were seeking. We’re interested in receiving a written clarification and suggestions from the Trustees as to what they have in mind.