Building Your First Community Library

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So the good news is that public libraries in America outnumber McDonald’s. The bad news is that families spend $18.6 billion on home video games for their children vs. $1 billion on books and other library materials. But all is not lost. The American Library Association (ALA) reports that there are more than 9,000 public libraries in America, not including those found in public schools.

If you’re working for your company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, an excellent effort is to help build a community public library. You’re going to, of course, source books from donors. But you can also mobilize the support of other companies like those making educational furniture to contribute. Here are a few ideas on how you might pursue this community library project:

America’s Public Libraries

Including the armed forces, public schools, and government libraries, the overall total is almost 117,000. Libraries are essential to the collective health of a community. As one study points out, public libraries have emerged as one of the “third places” that strengthens a community. The home and workplace are referred to as the first and second places, respectively. The research argues that the sense of trust and neutrality that public libraries carry become keys to the success of these third places. Most adults also find public libraries as a friendly place, and 66% feel that closure of a library would have negative consequences on the community.

Building One

woman at a library

Books, of course, will be the most critical component of building a library. But there must be some meaning to it, and the community must also know why you want to make it. In other words, stating your mission for the project is just as important as the books that are going to be in them. Are they meant for kids of a certain age? Will the collection focused on a specific subject that has relevance to the community? Be clear with this part first before moving to the next steps.

  1. Location. Just like any business establishment, location is critical. Consider access to public transports, for example, or if they can be on the same route as other famous places. You also need to legally establish the physical structure, i.e., make sure that you comply with zoning laws or rules from homeowner associations.
  2. Furniture. Be creative when furnishing your library with tables, chairs, and shelves. See if you can work with local companies to sponsor the build of a shelf or multiple shelves. Consider doing a campaign drive that would solicit old furniture that you can refurbish or upcycled to be part of the library. This will add character to the overall ambiance of the rooms.
  3. Make it digital. Books can now be tracked using bar codes and database systems that monitor the ins and outs of books and under which borrower the books appear. This is one critical component when you’re building your library. While this sounds costly, you can tap into social media for support or make a fundraising effort that would cover the cost of computerization.
  4. Sustaining the initiative. There will be costs to operate a library year-in and year-out. Consider how you would be funding its operation. One approach is to set up a library foundation. This model allows foundations to receive grants or accept donations. Make sure that you hire the right people to run it.

There will be challenges, such as finding the right location and mobilizing other possible stakeholders. But once done, it will be a rewarding endeavor.

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