"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." This Charles W. Eliot quote stands at the end of every e-mail Pat Tagg sends.
Clearly, books are important to Tagg. And, she shows her appreciation for them not only with this quote. She serves as the Board Chair for the Madison non-profit Friends of the Madison Public Library. It turns out that books have friends, too. And, during these times of limited resources, these friends are needed more than ever.
Since 1938, the Friends of the Madison Public Library (FMPL) has served as an advocate for the . The group provides volunteer support and raises awareness for the needs of this town treasure. They also raise money for books, programs and other initiatives not funded by the Library’s budget. In fact, said Tagg, these days raising money has become a top priority for FMPL. A question they often ask themselves, said Tagg, is “What can we do to generate more funds?”
With library budget cuts a reality statewide, the need for additional funding has grown. To help make up for the shortfall, Madison Public Library Director turns to the Friends. Typically, she makes a list of funding requests that she submits to the Friends for approval. Items on the list include, but are not limited to, children’s programs, technology and, of course, books. A recent funding request approved by the Friends, said Tagg, was for the purchase of a LCD projector for the Library’s Chase Room.
Tagg added that FMPL does not provide funding for staff or facility expenses.
In response to the Library’s funding needs, the Friends raise money in several different ways. They issue an annual appeal letter and host an annual fundraising benefit. They also work with Drew University’s Office of Continuing Education to bring the Drew Mini–Courses program to the library. This long-standing program invites the community to sign up for abbreviated classes on a variety of topics. The program is one of the Friends’ biggest fundraisers, said Tagg. And, she added, it provides a way to bring people to the library who might not otherwise visit.
Another popular fundraiser is the biannual “Touch A Truck” event where all are invited to get an up close and personal look at all types of trucks. Tagg said, last year the “Touch A Truck” event was successful not only because it raised money but because “the community thoroughly enjoyed it.” Approximately 1,300-1,400 turned out for this special day.
In order to help bring these and other Friends’ initiatives to life, Tagg said, during the past couple of years the group has focused on technology. Using technology as a tool to fulfill FPML's mission has been a clear priority. New Board members, said Tagg, have been helpful in building the group’s tech expertise. With technology, she said, the group hopes to be able to better engage the community. “It will allow for more dialogue and engagement,” she said.
Because of the tech initiative, the FMPL now has a website, deploys regular e-mail newsletters, and Giftworks’ software to help maintain their donation database. Going forward, they plan to host their own Facebook page.
The use of technology has already helped bring attention to the FMPL’s upcoming Annual Benefit fundraiser on March 5. The event itself, however, will offer guests a chance to connect face-to-face with fellow Library supporters.
The evening will celebrate Drew University and its role in supporting the library. Tagg said guests will enjoy a five-piece jazz ensemble, door prizes and a 50/50 raffle. Those interested in attending can register here.
Tagg invites others to join the Friends of Madison Public Library’s effort to support our town’s library. Those with a flair for fundraising are especially needed. The Friends would like to expand fundraising efforts to attract more corporate sponsors, said Tagg. Those with ideas and corporate connections are encouraged to contact the Friends. Volunteers who would like to help organize certain events, like “Touch a Truck” or the Gala, are also most welcome, said Tagg.
There’s a Chinese proverb that says, "To read a book for the first time is to make an acquaintance with a new friend; to read it for a second time is to meet an old one." At the Madison Public Library, we can do both; we can make new friends of books and re-read the old. With the support of the Friends of the Madison Public Library, the Library will continue to be an important and vibrant link in our circle of friendship.
For additional information on the Friends, visit their webpage.