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Friends of the Bozeman Public Library: A Community Resource

The Gallatin Valley is home to over 200 non-profits. These organizations do not hinge on metropolitan amenities, and are often created to stimulate local communities of the West. As part of our New West economy, NewWest.Net/Bozeman is highlighting Gallatin Valley organizations in a weekly series.

With around 1,000 visits every day and more than 25,000 people who have been issued library cards, the Bozeman Public Library is a major community center. Operating from its newly completed state-of-the-art building since 2006, the library is a multimedia resource center and community meeting place that offers residents culturally and scientifically enriching programs and materials.

Founded in 1974, the Friends of the Bozeman Public Library (FBPL), with 40 volunteers and 9 directors, is dedicated to providing financial support and meeting the needs of the Bozeman Library and the community.

The organization supports the Bozeman Public Library in providing the community with free, open and equal access to general information on a broad array of topics; resources to promote personal growth and lifelong learning; popular materials to meet cultural and recreational needs; and the training to find, evaluate and use information effectively. Amy McNamara, Vice President, expands on FBPL and its efforts.

NewWest.Net: Why and how did your organization come into being?

FBPL: The Friends was founded in 1974 by a group of community members and library lovers who believed that additional community support of the Bozeman Public Library would enrich the experience of library patrons.

NewWest.Net: Why is this organization in Bozeman? What are the advantages and challenges of operating in this area? Are there other non-profits in this area that you partner with or would like to?

FBPL: The Friends exists to serve the Bozeman Public Library. We are fortunate in that the library is a focal point for the community. Newly completed to Silver LEED standards in 2006, it represents the best of what today’s libraries have to offer – a multimedia resource center and community meeting place, in a stunning new facility adjacent to the best of Bozeman’s parks and extensive trail system.

The Friends “recycles” donated used books, selling them through its Friends Bookstore at Wild Joe’s coffee shop in the library and its Used Book Sales at the library throughout the year. In addition, the Friends sponsors authors, musicians and other presenters at the Library on a regular basis.

The Friends partners with the Library Foundation to sponsor library events and extend its reach in the community. In addition, the Friends collaborates with the Montana Center for International Visitors to bring in speakers who offer programs that are culturally or scientifically enriching and thought-provoking.

As with most local non-profits, the Friends faces challenges on two fronts: the ever-increasing need for funds to meet the library’s requests and the ongoing recruitment of volunteers to assist in Friends’ endeavors.

NewWest.Net: Where are you directing your resources?

FBPL: The Friends directs its resources towards supporting programming, increasing community involvement at the library and enhancing the library experience for all visitors. The Friends provides ongoing help to the library, including purchasing computers and furnishings, commissioning artwork for the library; and enhancing library book and audio collections. We publish the monthly Check It Out newsletter with news, programs and library happenings; support the library book clubs; and organize used book sales and the ongoing used book sales in the Friends Bookstore. We also sponsor speakers, performers and musicians for community programs and events.

NewWest.Net: What is your annual operating budget, and can you please break that down between administrative and fund-raising versus program expenses?

FBPL: Our operating budget for 2008 is just over $50,000 with approximately $42,000 going towards programs and gifts to the library. Approximately $3,500 covers administrative expenses and another $5,000 goes towards outreach and fundraising.

NewWest.Net: How are you fulfilling your mission statement?

FBPL: The Friends enriches the experience of library patrons by sponsoring activities and programs, providing volunteer services and donating gifts including computers, book collections and state-of-the-art equipment.

NewWest.Net: What is your most recent success story?

FBPL: In November of 2007, the FBPL presented a hanging sculpture created by local glass artist Richard Parrish to the Library. This magnificent piece of art hangs above the circulation desk and will welcome visitors for years to come. In October, the Friends donated a new self-checkout system to replace one that was no longer functioning. This system speeds up checkout, provides privacy to library patrons when they are checking out their materials and assists the overburdened library staff.

NewWest.Net: Thank you!

About Alison Grey

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