What better place to get gift suggestions?

Staff at Skokie Public Library came up with a last-minute idea to help people with last-minute holiday shopping, and the library launched GiftMatch earlier this week.

Skokie Public Library GiftMatch screenshot

“Fill out this short questionnaire and let us know a little about the person you’re shopping for.”

An extension of the library’s existing BookMatch readers’ advisory service, GiftMatch invites visitors to complete an online form with information about the intended gift recipient, and staff reply back with handpicked book and/or movie suggestions.

According to Readers Services Supervisor Kathy Sexton, the library publicized GiftMatch through an email blast, the library website, and social media (Twitter and Facebook).

Sexton said in the short time since the service was announced, the library has received several GiftMatch requests from cardholders, and got a glowing “Thank you!” from one user in response to the library’s suggestions.

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Marketing Manifesto for Libraries

Check out this excellent keynote talk from the Library and Information Association of New Zealand’s annual conference last week.

Ned Potter has posted the video and slides from his “A Library Marketing Manifesto” presentation on his blog:



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A beneficial side-effect of READ posters?

In a study published nine years ago, researchers reported that “an image of a pair of eyes appearing to observe behaviour dramatically increases contribution to a public good in a real-world context.”

The experimenters found that more money was collected at an honor-system coffee/tea station during weeks when the price sign included a photo of observant eyes, compared with the pictures of flowers used during alternating weeks.

Perhaps libraries could benefit from the strategic placement of READ posters (strategically selected for the celebrity’s gaze) in a number of contexts where contributions to the public good made outside of the staff’s line of sight are desirable:

  • Honor-system coffee counters
  • Honor-system printers
  • Public computers
  • Self-check stations
  • Summer reading log sheets
  • Etc.

The poster with Common might be twice as effective …

READ poster: Common with The Audacity of Hope
(Common poster, available from the ALA Shop)

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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 pkampwerth@huntleylibrary.org.

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, www.huntleylibraryfriends.org, or visiting their Facebook page, at http://www.facebook.com/huntleyfriends.

You can contact NIRF (Northern Illinois Regional Friends) through their blog, https://nirfblog.wordpress.com/contact-nirf.


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

* http://www.discoverbooks.com/

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