In 2009, the Friends were recognized with one of five national awards for excellence with the Baker & Taylor award, awarded annually by the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF) to library friends groups for outstanding efforts to promote and support their libraries. The Friends were recognized for advocacy efforts which resulted in $860,000 of additional funding for the library.
In the fall of 2008, The Seattle Public Library announced that it was facing a $1 million budget deficit for the 2009 fiscal year. At that point, the Friends, as advocates for the Library, leapt into action, creating an advocacy platform based upon continual, year-round community awareness and grassroots support.
To educate city officials, The Friends, beginning in April 2009, began sending out monthly “NewsFlashes” to the Mayor and City Council members. These “NewsFlashes” were one-page monthly emails, focused on the following topics:
Board member Sarel Rowe speaking at a Seattle City Council Budget Hearing.
• The increased use of Libraries, particularly in a down economy
• How free access to computers and job resources helps the community get back to work
• How the Library is engaging teens via its Teen Center Advisors group
• How libraries are assets to city neighborhoods
• How libraries and schools work together to foster education
At the same time, in order to connect with and ultimately build community support for the Library, the Friends created their own blog, developed a survey and used social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to foster grassroots support for the Library. In order to show how the Library was a point of influence for people throughout Seattle, the Friends posted budgetary “NewsFlashes”, survey results and personal testimonials from community members on Facebook and Twitter between April and August 2009. As a result of their tireless advocacy during the spring and summer, the Friends' efforts were rewarded with over 3,000 supporters by the end of August 2009.
In September of that year, when the Mayor announced his library budget for 2010, the efforts of the Friends paid off. Due to the Friends' relentless efforts, the City Council modified the Mayor’s budget and restored $860,000 in funding to the library.
The Friends were honored to received recognition for these efforts. The Friends continue to be invaluable not only for the education and awareness we provide on the value of libraries but also for the encouragement and community support we have provided -- and will continue to provide -- to Library staff and administration.