It Takes a Village to Create A Giant Floor Piano

Our goal was to create a setting where our community could feel a sense of pride in building an object related to our summer reading theme, Read to the Rhythm. A floor piano, like in the movie Big, seemed like an obvious fit, and with the many instructional videos online, we felt this could be accomplished with what we had on hand, and common household supplies.


You may wonder what this has to do with marketing.  Karen McBride, our Public Information Manager, created this brilliant slogan: It Takes a Village to Create a Giant Floor Piano. These words demonstrate that we can’t possibly do the work ourselves.  Secondly, the program itself was a marketing piece for our exciting MakerLab kits, developed by Digital Services Manager Michael Campagna. At the Barrington Area Library, you can check out MakerLab kits for 2 hours.  In this program, we used the MakeyMakey and Raspberry Pi Kits.


With our giant floor piano program just two weeks away–tinfoil, MakeyMakey, Raspberry Pi, and wire strippers in hand—we were ready to add the finishing touches on a program that had been in development since March.  While we had researched a number of piano methods, we had to alter the designs we found to create something both safe for a public entrance (no trip hazards), and inviting.

We found a great tutorial here.  While the article is beautifully written and explains how the piano works, we really wanted to design our piano to look like a real piano.  Before the program, our Digital Services Manager Michael Campagna set up Scratch on our Raspberry Pi, we printed an image of a basic keyboard, and began mapping out what piano keys would be assigned to different keys on the MakeyMakey.


We used the Scratch program to accomplish this, making the last key a cat’s meow for good measure!


On the actual night of the event, we hooked up the Raspberry Pi, running the Stratch program, to a monitor to show how we assigned the musical notes to each key on the MakeyMakey. The Makey Makey was hooked up to 8 bananas so that each participant could see how the technology worked on a smaller scale before venturing out to build a life-size model.  We showed this video on YouTube, and explained that ours would look a little different (no tinfoil in sight).

Next, we divided into 2 groups based on interest:  Lizzy’s group was the wire-stripping group, and Gwyn’s group was the art group.  After each group was done, we came together to build the inner workings of the piano.

The wire is the kind used for networking computers.  We took off the blue plastic outside, to reveal 8 wires inside.  We needed 2 wires for each key (a wire to attach to the MakeyMakey ground, and a wire to attach to the Makey Makey key).  With 8 keys, that meant 16 wires total.

For each key, 1 wire was laid down, with tinfoil on top to increase conductivity, a layer of duct tape, and then the next wire.  Lastly, a layer of tinfoil covered the duct tape.  When someone steps on it, the two wires and  pieces of tinfoil are table to pass a charge through the duct tape layer, thus completing the circuit.  It’s a lot like turning on a light switch: once a kid steps on it (or flips the switch), the circuit is complete.  We put the white tarp over it to hide these layers.


At the end of the program, participants were invited to take a group picture, sign their name on the poster, and at last, play the piano. The last step was to remove the computer monitor and the mouse from the Raspberry Pi, so that the computer itself and the MakeyMakey could be on display without them in the way.


At this time, from the reference desk upstairs, we can hear the piano being played in our Atrium.

The sweet sound of success.


  • Tinfoil
  • Wire Strippers
  • Wire
  • 4 Foam Tiles
  • MakeyMakey
  • Raspberry PI
  • Duct Tape
  • White Tarp
  • Speaker

Lizzy Klinnert and Gwyneth Stupar are Adult Services Librarians at Barrington Area Library.



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You’ve Got Questions About Friends Groups and We’ve Got Answers

RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Libraries) is the library system for northern Illinois.  It has a marketing networking group that meets every two months to discuss and share information about library marketing issues.

At the May 29 meeting, the agenda included how best to handle the issues that sometimes arise with Friends groups.  Since the last two posts on Illinois Libraries Matter were on Friends groups, I thought it might be helpful to those who are interested in learning more about how to start Friends groups and how to manage them to post this excerpt from the meeting minutes.

Friends Groups

The discussion began with Friends Groups and a number of issues were raised:

  • Exclusive focus is on the book sale
  • Small number of people involved
  • Struggle for control of Friends’ assets
  • Members dying off
  • Need to get new people in but unsure how to do this
  • Would a “junior” Friends group be a solution?
  • Friends viewing fundraising revenue as “their” money
  • Attitude that the Library doesn’t care about the Friends, so why should the Friends care about the library
  • Excessive restrictions on the use of funds raised by Friends
  • Can you have a Friends group and a Foundation?
  • Tension between the board and the library and the Friends group
  • What legal restrictions are there on funds from a book store that is open every day or a few days a week
  • Do we include Friends groups in Strategic Planning?
  • How do you fire a volunteer?


  • One library that had three fundraising groups brought in a consultant to study the situation and then consolidated the groups, bringing in “movers and shakers” from the community to provide leadership
  • Friends groups should manage themselves
  • By-laws should govern Friends groups and clarify that the Friends mission is to support the Library
  • People put off the “20-second conversation”:  a) Explain what is needed; 2) Say:  “You don’t seem to be able to do that now.  Take a week to think about it and then let me know what you decide to do.”
  • Library volunteers should be separate from Friends groups and should be managed by a dedicated volunteer coordinator
  • When it comes to Friends groups, you get what you get
  • There are some personalities that are difficult to work with
  • Have a strategy meeting: reinforce that their role is to support the library
  • Talk about needs and expectations
  • Have to have talking back and forth
  • Be political; schmooze your Friends; respect them; show appreciation for what they do; thank them, formally and informally
  • Your library director should be the formal liaison to the Friends group although other staff members may attend Friends meetings and an employee should be at every Friends meeting

At Huntley Area Public Library:

  • There are 250 Friends members; 80 are volunteers
  • They have a board; one of their board members attends meeting of the Library board

At Brookfield:

  • The Library Director is the liaison and there is a Board Member liaison and they attend every Friends meeting
  • People are more interested in volunteering when they know their role and mission
  • Saying “We want your opinion,” will make volunteers more receptive to getting involved
  • ILA (Illinois Library Association) can act as a vehicle for Friends revenues for the purpose of donating them to the Library

Elizabeth Neill is a member of the RAILS Marketing Group and lives in Elmhurst. 


Join the RAILS Marketing Group online on their Facebook page.

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Friends Are Meant to Come and Go

At the Brookfield Public Library we have been fortunate enough to have a small but dedicated Friends of the Library group for just over thirty years. I met the group for the first time in 2005, and while I was happy to be coming on board to a Library that had an active support group I also noticed that the bunch came with their idiosyncrasies. Only later would I realize that all Friends of the Library organizations are unique and outfitted with caring, eccentric souls. If you’re a new Library Director my advice is to look beyond all of this and focus on the group’s purpose: supporting your Library in ways big and small. And writing checks, big and small.

Brookfield PL FOL 4th Parade 2012

Setting the stage and expectations for regular meetings with your Friends of the Library organization is a necessary task. Some Library Directors forgo these meetings and charge another staff member with attending them, say a public relations staffer. I have personally chosen to attend the monthly meetings and for years the Friends and I have enjoyed the banter and interplay at the gatherings. When it comes down to it, those quirky personalities can make for jovial meetings and for hilarious conversations about exactly why the Library needs funding for additional stepstools, for chemicals to use in the Geeks science class or for pizza for the staff. I believe my requests have only been turned down once or twice in the past decade. Not a bad track record, if I do say so myself. Our Friends group has most recently provided the seed money for the political action committee that was formed to support the Library’s new building plans and 2016 referendum. And they’re also in their ninth year of the Library’s annual fundraiser – The Taste of Brookfield @ Your Library – an immensely successful after-hours event that is a boon to the Library’s image in the community.

Has our Library’s Friends of the Library group always been a smashing success? Absolutely not, but don’t tell anyone. Leadership and membership in the Friends has waxed and waned, so much so that in some years it is key Library staff putting on the annual fundraiser with the help of just a few Friends members. But the larger community has never been the wiser, seeing the Friends as a thriving, integral organization. When two hundred plus residents and community stakeholders raise their wine glasses to the Library, bid on silent auction items, and work the room each fall, the Library’s advocacy group appears to be the strongest and hippest club in town. The event then attracts new blood for the Friends, with eager members coming forward to take part in next year’s planning and in the Friends group. Regroup. Rinse. Repeat.

In ten years’ time, I look back and realize I’ve spent many, many hours sitting with the Friends in their meetings. My time and effort has been returned ten-fold to the Library – and therefore to the community – via heightened Library awareness, usage, and improved program offerings. The cast of core Friends characters has remained mostly the same but change is always happening within the group.

Love your Friends, bolster them up when they need it, and carefully craft your check requests.

Kimberly Coughran is Director of the Brookfield Public Library.

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Starting a Friends Group

The original Friends group at the Huntley Area Public Library began almost 25 years ago when the library district was formed. A book club of about 20 book lovers started the Friends group. Four years ago the original group disbanded and a new Friends Foundation was formed so the group could expand its fundraising efforts. Today’s Friends Foundation functions as both Friends and fundraisers. I serve as the staff liaison to the Friends. The group is led by a nine member board of directors. A member of the Library Board of Directors attends the Friends board meetings. Membership has grown to about 260 and the group raises $50,000+ yearly. Fundraising has expanded from hosting book sales to breakfast and tea fundraisers, mini-links in the library, and Library Lover auctions and events. Following are some of my thoughts and suggestions for starting a Friends group.

Decide what function the group will have – advocacy, volunteering, or fundraising? Will library staff support the group or will the Friends be independent, move books and do their own promotions? These questions should guide who you recruit. If you want fundraisers, do not apologize for seeking fundraising individuals. You are raising funds to support a vital community resource.

Be patient. Growing a group will take time and effort. Start by building a dedicated core group. Look for potential members in book clubs and at library programs. Ask your staff for the names of patrons who are regular library users and supporters. Most importantly, ASK individuals to be Friends. Encourage your recruits to recruit their friends. Treat each and every recruit with respect and make them feel needed and appreciated. Friends are volunteers and to retain a volunteer their work should be meaningful, they need to feel appreciated, and there should be a social aspect to the volunteer work to keep everyone coming back. Our Friends groups likes to say they put the fun in fundraising, which is why they keep volunteering!

DSCN1133 (2)

There are a few legal considerations when starting a Friends group. Whether you decide to apply for 501(c)(3) status or simply register as a charitable organization with the state, legal considerations are important. The advantage of seeking 501(c)(3) status for our group was that we were able to apply for and received grants that benefit the library. Follow state and federal laws, register the group and file and pay appropriate taxes. I recommend finding an attorney and an accountant who will donate their time to help you sort through the laws and regulations if you need help. Groups that fundraise may owe Illinois state sales tax on book sales or the sale of items, whether the group has state and federal tax exemption or not. While I wish our group did not have to pay state sales tax on book sales, we do because it is the law. Don’t let the legal and tax considerations dissuade you from starting a Friends group. The benefits to a library in terms of volunteers, fundraising capacity and the good will and advocacy a Friends’ group provide outweigh the other issues.

There are many things staff and group can do to help themselves grow. First, word of mouth, or talking about the group helps spread the word. Staff and Friends should be encouraged to talk about the Friends whenever possible. There is no substitute for making a personal connection and asking others to join the Friends. This holds true for fundraising, too. Make a personal connection. People will join and make donations because you took the time to make the connection. People give to people, not causes (Bray, 2010, p. 33).

More thoughts about getting started and sustaining a vibrant Friends group.

  • Build a database of names. Collect names and addresses whenever possible. A Friends group will not survive without a donor database, even if you use that database for nothing more than to recruit volunteers and advertise book sales. If the group does not grow, it will fail. Use the list to recruit volunteers to help with fundraisers or to help at library functions. This is the beginning of your fundraising database. Our group started with an Excel spreadsheet and now uses Access for our database. There are other fundraising software programs that might fit your needs better.
  • Membership Fees. Will you collect annual membership fees? We do because it helps grow our database and it is a source of fundraising. You decide. Individual memberships for our Friends start at $10 a year. We offer individual lifetime memberships for $100 and Corporate Lifetime Memberships for $250. We are inclusive, though, and anyone can join for free if the fee is too high.
  • Book Sales. Book sales provide the library a way to recycle its discards and give patrons an avenue for disposing of unwanted books while helping the library raise money. An added benefit of hosting book sales is that it demonstrates social responsibility. With the growing electronic books market, our Friends group saw a decrease in overall book sales two years ago but this year’s sales were even with last. That could change, but for now it is our number one fundraiser. We raised $22,425 last year in book sales that included bi-monthly sales in a small program room and ongoing Corner Books sales in the library. We also recycle books for money through Discover Books*.


  • Promote your group. Create a brand for your group by developing a logo, even a simple one, and use it on all materials. A website and a Facebook presence are helpful when you are able to expand your promotional efforts. Your core group should consider developing a formal strategic plan that evaluates resources and competition and develops a mission and vision statement to help the group stay focused.
  • Connect with other Friends Groups. In northern Illinois Friends groups have formed a group, NIRF (Northern Illinois Regional Friends). We meet quarterly at libraries in the region. We share information about recruiting friends, fundraising, and discuss book sale issues. It is a great way to meet other like-minded Friends and offer support to each other. At this group we discovered several of us participate in Farmers’ Market events.   What a great place to meet local people and promote your library!

Building a Friends group will take time and patience but it is worth the effort whether your goal is to gain volunteers, raise funds, advocate for the library or all three. I welcome your comments or questions at

Pamela Kampwerth is the Head of Volunteer and Outreach Services at the Huntley Area Public Library.

You can learn more about the Huntley Area Public Library Friends group by going to their web site,, or visiting their Facebook page, at

You can contact NIRF (Northern Illinois Regional Friends) through their blog,


Bray, Ilona. (2010). Effective fundraising for nonprofits: Real-world strategies that work. (3rd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Nolo.


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How-To Market a How-To Fest

The library is always a place of learning and discovery, but even more so during Glenside Public Library District’s annual How-To Fest each fall. Inspired by the How-To Festival at the Louisville Public Library (, GPLD hosted its first event in September 2013. Our first attempt was successful, but we learned a lot of things that would have made it better for both patrons and presenters. Since staff spend months preparing for this one day event, we knew that marketing would be integral to its success. We concentrated hard on that effort in September 2014 and felt we were a lot more successful by expanding our PR on many levels. Let’s take a look at some of successes, failures as well as what we learned from them.

Social Media:

We didn’t harness our social media outlets properly leading up to our inaugural event and, as a result, attendance suffered.

How to 1

In 2014, thanks to a coordinated effort between staff, the library posted teaser information about topics leading up to the event and an album afterwards. Having our full lineup planned out and scheduled throughout the building in advance for the day helped us organize our posts as well as include links to our complete schedule and photos to gain attention.

How to 4

Newsletter: The How-To Fest has always been front page news in GPLD’s newsletter. In 2013 we published a brief and purposefully vague description due to time constraints. That all changed in 2014. Thanks to a longer lead time, we were able to promote high interest presenters and encourage registration for the lectures.

How to 6

Word of Mouth: Again the first year we didn’t do very well in this aspect, but we utilized this strategy to an extreme in 2014. When helping patrons up and until the event we were able to “sell” our fest by reminding them that the day would feature someone to work on resumes (for job-seekers) or crafters (for those checking out books from the 700’s) etc. This built up a buzz with no cost, and inspired people to save the date and time for their favorite happenings.

Our Programming Coordinator also shared information about the event with fellow programming librarians. Thanks to her efforts, we had several libraries send out delegates to check out what we were doing. This was a boon for us: it helped us get presenters at a free or reduced rate since they knew there would be opportunities to get their contact information out to other potential employers.

Large Format Signage: In 2014 we purchased a large colorful banner that we hung on the front of the building approximately a month before the fest. The sign increased awareness of those entering the building and staff saw an increase in requests for further information. We also secured space on Glendale Height’s Village Marquee. This electronic sign is located at a busy intersection in our small village. These two opportunities opened up our event to the outside world and brought us participants who lived outside of our service areas.

Promotions: As a way to encourage attendance, we created a punch card. Everyone who visited a booth or lecture was invited to have the presenter initial their card. If they attended five different events, they were put into a drawing to win one of several prizes. We bought or solicited items that the instructors made for prizes to tie the reward back to our event.

How to 7

Marketing Library Resources: The How-To Fest is a fantastic opportunity to market library resources! Staff pulled materials related to the topics at the fest and displayed them at the tables and lectures. For 2015, we plan to have a staff member demonstrating library databases and offering giveaways to attendees.

Looking ahead to 2015: As with any project, we knew to meet and discuss to plan for changes and improvements to make 2015’s event even better. We also solicited feedback from presenters as well attendees to give us ideas on how to host an event that is relevant to the wants and needs of our community, but also make it a rewarding experience to those giving us their valuable time. As a result, major changes in scheduling demonstrations, staffing, and marketing are in the works.

Karen Luster is the Adult Services Manager and  Jane Hebert is the Adult Programming Librarian at Glenside Public Library District.

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Connecting with Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

How many entrepreneurs and small business owners are in your library community? Maybe more than you think. A November Entrepreneur article explains that there are 17.9 million “solopreneuers” in the United States and growing ( In Barrington, where I am the Business Liaison Librarian for the Barrington Area Library, nearly 80% of businesses in this community are comprised of only 1-4 employees. While they may have a lot of energy, vigor, and innovation, this group typically is limited on time and money. This makes it even more imperative for local libraries to reach out to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

As an embedded librarian, I work closely with the business community through consistent involvement in committees, networking opportunities, and speaking and training engagements with business owners and professionals. However, these entrepreneurs and business owners can also be valuable resources to the community. By creating a platform where entrepreneurs and business owners can share their story and lessons, fellow professionals can gain insights and perspectives from their very own community.


The Barrington Area Library has a Business: It’s Better in Barrington series in which over twenty businesses to date have had an opportunity to share their business story with the community. Provided at no cost, these 3 minute videos allow owners to talk about their business and how it relates to the community. My colleague and I do an initial consultation, bring the equipment (camcorder, tripod, mic, and camera) for the video shoot date, and edit the video on iMovie. Our goal is to provide a video for one business per month. From high school students who won a $15,000 grant to start a business to family bakeries and delis that have been in the community for generations, every owner has a valuable story to share. Once completed, we upload the videos onto our website and social media. To date, our business videos have more than 4,000 views. (

More recently, I started a podcast series with local entrepreneurs. In a radio-style format, I interview people who have decided to become their own boss about the joys and challenges that they have faced as entrepreneurs. This includes discussions of purchasing an existing business or franchise, joining a family business, or starting from scratch. The podcasts are each about 10-15 minutes and are shared on the library’s website and social media. Additionally, the interviewees each get a link to the podcast so that they can promote it on their social media and share it with friends, family, and clients. This only requires podcasting software (I use Garageband, but a free version is Audacity) and a SoundCloud account which allows you to upload roughly 3 hours of audio for free. (

With an increasing population of entrepreneurs, it is so important for libraries to develop connections with these business professionals. Sharing library resources, workshops, and opportunities is important, but it is also necessary to create an avenue to share experiences and perspective digitally. While databases and books provide the technical information, community connections form the relationships and insights that are invaluable any entrepreneur.

Barbara Alvarez is the Business Liaison Librarian at the Barrington Area Library.

Posted in Networking, Outreach, Tips and Tools | 2 Comments

Lima Public Library’s Teen Advisory Group

The teen advisory group (TAG) at Lima Public Library currently consists of about 15 teens in grades 6-12 from a variety of area schools.  Working with the teen librarian, they plan nearly all the teen programs, help with selection of materials, and have even planned and presented programs for kids. 

The TAG was formed four years ago.  To start the group, the teen librarian invited several regular program participants to meet to brainstorm program ideas.  The teens seemed to enjoy the idea that they could have input on what programs were offered.  By scheduling and planning programs with teen input the library was able to increase the average attendance at teen programs from 5-10 to 20-30. Those initial members invited friends to join the group, and the group expanded.  TAG members have an application to fill out with their information, why they want to be a part of the TAG, and what their hobbies and favorite classes are.  The current TAG members vote on new members and have never turned anyone down to date. 

Members are expected to attend the monthly planning meetings. One unexcused absence results in a warning.  Two puts them on probation and a third results in their removal from the group. Excused absences do not count against them.  A typical meeting includes about 60 minutes of program planning, 30 minutes of talking about various topics including what they’re reading, favorite music, movies, tv shows and books, and 30 minutes of program preparation and setup for the monthly special program that follows the meeting.

At the planning meetings, programs are planned several months in advance.  Lima Public Library offers a Creativity Lab program after school twice monthly, a Teen Tuesday evening hangout weekly, a monthly movie night, and a special program one Saturday a month.  A small group of two to four TAG members are assigned to each special program. The whole group selects a theme for the program, and the small group plans what activities will occur at that event.  They provide the teen librarian with the activities planned, materials needed, and a setup plan for the Teen Spot Lounge.  The teen librarian works with them to modify plans as needed to fit the library’s needs and the programming budget.  The planning group then presents the program to participants.  Recently they’ve hosted a series of fandom-related programs including Nerdfighters, Sherlock, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Marvel Comics.  On several occasions they have planned and presented programs for kids as well.

A group of members who are voracious readers are given the opportunity to write reviews of books they’ve read, provide input on materials that are selected for the collection, and read ARCs as well. These readers also help to pull materials for a variety of display topics selected by them as well as the teen librarian.  These materials fill the four display areas in the teen collection and are rotated on a monthly basis. Book reviews are completed on a form provided by the teen librarian and include a 1-2 sentence book talk that is shared on the library’s teen Facebook page.

In return for their work planning programs and giving input on materials selection, TAG members are rewarded with a yearly overnighter program.  They get to come to the library at 6:00 on a Friday evening and stay until 8:00 the next morning.  They fill the night with games and activities of their choosing including some that can’t be done while the library is open such as flashlight tag, beach ball volleyball on the main floor of the library, and human Battleship.

For more information about Lima Public Library’s TAG, how it operates, or about their programs, contact teen librarian Steve Moser at or 419-228-5113 x121.

Steve Moser is the Teen Librarian at Lima Public Library.

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