OK, this is an idea that has been rolling around in my head for months.
First, back in February of this year I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the Big Talks From Small Libraries, a free online conference sponsored by the Nebraska Library Commission and the Association for Rural and Small Libraries. One of the speakers was Rachel Reynolds Luster, a librarian in Missouri who was featured in a story on NPR in 2013. She said that she received thousands of cash and book donations from all over the country after that story aired on NPR. From this outpouring of love and cash, it reinforces, to me, that people LOVE libraries and only want to support them, especially in small, rural communities. But how can anyone support any library nationally?
Based on this story it came to my mind that it would be great if the American Library Association (or some other national library organization) hosted/sponsored/supported an Adopt-a-Library program nationally. This program would allow people from all over the world to pick and choose the state and/or library that they wanted to donate to. As library director in a small rural community, I am quite sure there are more people from West Virginia who live outside the state than inside it because of lack of job opportunities here. If there were a nationwide Adopt-a-Library program it would allow libraries in small regions with less tax base to level the literacy playing field. The Adopt-a-Library program could even be as simple as a site that has links to a wish list for every library on Amazon or the like.
Out of State Library Supporters
Also, I have an amazing library supporter in Wisconsin who sends me a few boxes of items every year. This library fan is from West Virginia but no longer lives here, but wanted to support literacy in her home state. So Barb W. (you know who you are, you amazing person, you) contacted the West Virginia Library Commission and asked them about a small "up and coming" library in WV who in turn recommended the Pioneer Library. (Thank you, WVLC!) Many people from West Virginia have to leave to find work. I'm willing to bet that this is the case with MANY small libraries around the United States.
I wrote my BIG IDEA to the ALA and received a kind response from Susan Brandehoff, the Director of Program Development and Partnerships who was encouraging. She also recommended getting in touch with the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies and I Love Libraries (an initiative of ALA). I also thought my idea might strike a chord with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL). I have librarian friends all over the country. Some have multi-million dollar budgets, others (like my own) have budgets under $35,000 per year. Smaller libraries with smaller budgets cannot compete nor provide the same services as larger libraries in wealthier tax bases. How can we level the library playing field so that every library has the same access to money and materials? Money and materials are the two things that make libraries go.
Who Wants To Have Their Library Adopted?
So there it is. People are passionate about libraries. People want to support libraries not just in their own communities. How can literacy and libraries continue to grow and thrive in small, impoverished parts of the United States? I know the West Virginia Library Commission is always pessimistic, "Prepare for budget cuts." This year West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin cut an entire line item in the state budget for special library projects. Times are tough, people. Let's pool our resources nationally, let's be a big supportive library team.
If we can find a national library organization willing to take this on, this could be an amazing place for little libraries to post their Amazon Wish Lists (it doesn't have to be connected with Amazon) and have complete and total strangers from all over the country (& world) who support libraries, literacy and lifelong learning buy items or contribute cash for your library. This could kind of be like Kickstarter for libraries. Let's do this people. Who's in?