Friends of Libraries: A Report to the Library and Information Commission by CPI

David Harrison (Service Planning Manager, London Borough of Bromley, Leisure & Community Services)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 February 2000




Harrison, D. (2000), "Friends of Libraries: A Report to the Library and Information Commission by CPI", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 1, pp. 40-48.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

“Friends of Libraries” groups have been a common method in the USA of raising funds and establishing lobbying organisations for public libraries for many years, but they have never flourished in the UK. W.J. Murison produced a BLR&D report on Public Library Users’ Consultative Councils in 1979, but otherwise, the literature has been scarce. This report emerged from a CPI seminar held at Stamford, Lincolnshire, in June 1998 entitled “Friends of libraries: a new dimension”, which led to the commissioning of a research project by the British Library Research & Information Centre (BLRIC). This document is the outcome of that work, set in the context of the UK Government’s current policies on modernising local government and its review of local services through the best value process.

Achievements of groups to date, according to the executive summary of this work, “include [in order of importance] representing users, campaigns for the service, arranging activities, fund raising, providing books, and advising on service developments and change”. The purpose of the research is a practical one, that is to provide information and ideas about how to establish, maintain and develop Friends groups for both librarians, public and others, and for those existing groups which may wish to re‐vitalise themselves. In order to achieve this, the authors have garnered information by questionnaire surveys and interviews and have tempered this with the findings from a focus group on the subject. The latter exercise was “a specifically directed” meeting of respondents to the surveys, together with two researchers who had previous experience in the subject. Its objective was particularly to comment on the report itself, including its presentation and its recommendations.

Following an executive summary and an introduction which explains the methodology of the research, there are chapters on the public library sector and national and academic libraries. These detail the establishment of groups in each specialist area, their work and their success or otherwise. It is noted, for instance, that there are many reasons why Friends groups have frequently fought shy of becoming involved in fund raising. These range from a moral objection – taking the view that the parent organisation should not be encouraged to relinquish its financial obligations – to a realisation that “fund raising requires expertise” which is unlikely to be found in Friends groups. These are followed by chapters on Friends groups in the USA, Canada and Australia, guidelines for best practice and the case for national and/or regional federations of Friends groups. There is no index, but there are appendices listing contacts, a directory of Friends groups and specimen constitutions. The document is in A4 format, with a blue plastic binder.

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