ASSOCIATES (2006, November, v. 13, no. 2) -

Katie Kintner

This month’s theme is the future of librarianship (or is it libraries?) so I thought it would be a great time to make one of my famous lists. I know I’ve done a fundraising list before but with the advent of so many budget cuts, maybe it would be best to start again from scratch. So what follows are Katie’s six great ideas for library fundraising using facilities and materials readily available to libraries for free.

  1. Ant rodeos can make the future of your library look bright and smell less like “Raid.” With the abundance of food and drink being sneaked into the stacks, there is no shortage of livestock for this particular fundraiser. However, the nature of ants in your particular part of the world may require some modifications. Ant rodeos may do for midwestern libraries where the black and brown ants tend to scurry in all directions at once but in southern California, libraries may wish to organize ant march-a-thons or swarming competitions. Fire ants could be creatively used for first aid exhibitions.

  2. With the cutting of staff due to budget restraints, a lot of chairs are sitting empty. Why not fill them with customers? With minimal training, reference staff can be utilized as hair stylists for the busy reader who has no time to make separate stops for personal grooming. As he/she peruses the latest “Harry Potter,” reference staff can do a quick easy trim and clip. The only drawback is that reference staff stylists tend to make everyone look like Moe Howard or Dorothy Hamill.

  3. Budget cuts are hitting everywhere outside libraries too, so it has become apparent that middle managers need to upgrade their skills at presenting the next quarter’s projected losses through rose-colored glasses. Who better to teach them than library directors already well practiced at justifying their continued existence from year to year? Optional cane, Panama hat, and soft-shoe song and dance routine training included for an extra fee.

  4. Why not combine public services and pool resources? Zoos and libraries seem like natural partners. Who needs lions and tigers when you have black widow spiders, fire ants, and killer bees shown in their natural habitats in warm-weather libraries? Midwestern libraries can present exhibits of living fungus, silverfish and cockroaches, all living as nature intended within the book stacks. Look around your library and see how you can organize inside wildlife in your particular area. You might be surprised what people will pay to see!

  5. Sideshow performers made a lot of money back in the early and middle part of the 20th century, many with no more skills than the average library worker. Who in your staff could bring in some extra cash by doing what they do every day? You could have signs just like they did at Barnum & Bailey: “See the bibliographer asleep in her cubicle, muttering in Chinese!” “The amazing Bookbindery!” “Fur grows on books as you watch!”

The last great idea for ensuring the future of libraries comes from you. Maybe it’s the most outrageous of all, but every library staff member and patron holds a key for investing in your library’s future. It’s the key between your ears—your brain. Each and every person who walks through the door of a library, whether it is to report to work or find information, has a stake in whether libraries will continue to exist for all of us in the future. If we use our brains and work together, libraries will continue to evolve and be relevant, important parts of our communities. If we don’t, then the future looks pretty dim and ant rodeos won’t seem like such a crazy idea after all. So let’s leave the ant rodeos and reference hair stylists in my crazy fevered imagination and next time an idea comes from an unexpected source, like a fellow staff member, take time to consider that it just may be an idea that will help keep your library open and thriving. Then thank that person for take the time to care.

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