April 2009, Volume 1, Issue 4
Worlds Connect @ Your Library
Clock is Ticking
South Dakota Public Libraries Data Digest
Build Your Support Base with the 3 P’s: Getting and Sustaining Funding
by Jane Healy
Robin Schrupp, Grant County Library Director since 1991, has learned to get and sustain funding for her library by applying the 3 P’s: a Personal Touch, Publicity, and Persistence. “It is important to have that support base in place, in good times and in bad, so that if and when you need to fall back on it, they are there,” Robin said.
Robin and her staff go out of their way to be friendly, helpful, accommodating, and innovative in their programming and their customer service.
They offer outreach to senior citizens with monthly book delivery to nursing homes and assisted living centers. Library staff offers more than books by bringing seasonal treats and contests.
The Library also reaches out to the other end of the age spectrum, doing story times and crafts at the after-school program and working with the schools for Prairie Bud, Prairie Pasque, and YARP. They promote the Summer Reading Program by bringing costumed storybook characters to the schools, along with flyers and prizes.
Robin recommends getting to know people in your community. She recruits community members to give a presentation to kids during Summer Reading. Presenters from years past include a WWII vet showing his memorabilia, a train collector who set up a city train track, and a man associated with the circus who did a clown act. The library also uses guest community readers for story time.
The library offers training and materials pertinent to patron needs and interests, including free computer training, tax forms, and business information.
The library works to include programming for all age groups, often tying it to special observances, such as Dr. Seuss Day, Teen Tech Week, and Older Americans Month.
The library ensures teen involvement by giving them a sense of ownership. A focus group of teens designed the teen area for their tastes and comfort. They also help plan summer programs and make purchase recommendations for their area.
Grant County Library keeps a file cabinet in which extension clubs keep their record books. They also open their community room to many groups, including 4-H, Garden Club, and others.
The meeting room is not the only community territory in the building. The library offers its south windows to snowbirds who leave their houseplants in the library’s care for the winter.
"You’d think folks would jump at the chance for free education and entertainment, but you really have to put yourself out there and toot your own horn,” Robin said. Photos of Robin and her staff are featured on ALA READ posters (created from the ALA READ CD). They plan to use photos of prominent people in Grant County and hang the posters around town. “When people see a recognizable face promoting reading, it helps,” Robin said.
“Speak at every opportunity to group functions such as the Kiwanis Club,” Robin advises. In her experience, the groups enjoy hearing what’s new and what’s needed at the library and usually give a donation.
Grant County Library staff and their library board take advantage of community events to draw attention to the library. The Library Cat (costumed character) throws candy and bookmarks in the summer parade, and used book sales are part of FarleyFest. The library also hosts a Halloween Carnival with help from the board.
Robin makes use of media, too, by sending programming and event information to the local newspaper. One of her staff members writes a monthly column for the paper, emphasizing what’s new, and Robin maintains the library Web site, grantcountylibrary.com, highlighting programs and events. “We try to keep our name in the papers,” Robin said, not allowing anyone to forget about the library.
Robin adheres to the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Several times, she’s been turned down for budget requests, but she kept asking her funding authority, the county commissioners, and eventually succeeded.
One example is the installation of an indoor book drop. Robin went back to the commissioners year after year with fact sheets stating the necessity and benefits to patrons and staff. Year after year, she provided them with purchasing sources and price information. She obtained estimates for the drop itself, the sidewalk, and the installation. Enlisting the support and community status of the library board president, the commission finally approved the purchase, taken not from the general fund, but from the library’s petty cash fund.
The establishment of a petty cash fund is something Robin thinks every library should have. “It is essential, at least in our situation.” This fund contains money from small sales such as fines and photocopies and acts as a discretionary fund for programming and non-budgeted items.
One year the commission threatened a budget cut. Rather than hang her head in disappointment, Robin and the library sponsored an essay contest called, “Why I Love My Library.” Several people entered essays stating the benefits of having a nice library in their small community and expressed what the library meant to them. This showed the commissioners that the library made the community a better place and that it had community support.
Parents and children like to sit together in the double rocker Robin purchased with some left-over end-of-year money. The commissioners thought this was a wasteful expenditure, especially since other county buildings did not get things like that. Robin proved the rocker’s importance by taking pictures of families using the rocker and getting their comments. These were posted in the library and in the newspaper, changing the commissioners’ opinions.
Robin also adheres to the idea that if at first you don’t succeed, try another way. Grant County Library will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year, so Robin requested some building and landscaping upgrades. While waiting for the budget to come through, Robin called some Master Gardeners, who must do community service to keep their Master Gardner status. Two responded by redoing some existing landscaping, planting flowers and bushes, and tidying flowerbeds.
Funding bodies appreciate initiative, and Grant County Library staff have found it worth their persistent research and time to seek grants. They have successfully obtained a “We the People” book grant and “Picturing America,” both of which enrich the community. They have their eyes on several other grants that will improve services.
For years, Robin envisioned a South Dakota room and asked the commissioners for funding. The idea was always rejected, but Robin’s dream came true in 2001, thanks to the generosity of a local philanthropist. He paid for the room’s construction and décor, including the granite entry tile with the South Dakota seal sandblasted into it. See the room here (right).
Robin invites the commissioners for a library tour and coffee and cookies when they are in town for their commission meetings. She tries to time her requests for them to sign papers or look at building problems when she knows the library will be very busy. Then the officials can see what an important, vital place the library is.
“The mission of a library may be obvious to you, but not quite so clear to others. Time is a precious commodity for everyone, as well as money, and people need to know that the library is always a timely resource in their daily lives,” Robin said.
She encourages librarians to “make your library an absolute necessity to the community” and exhorts librarians to “make yourself indispensable and show that you can weather the constant changes that technology and the ever-shifting world throws at you.” If you do this, she said, “Your library will always be one of the most important facets of your community,” and will continue to be funded.