Community Outreach

4 09 2007

Whenever I mention to a colleague I don’t know very well that I’m taking a course in Nonprofit Strategy and Entrepreneurship, along with another called Leadership for Community Change, I always get the same reaction: Do you want to start a nonprofit?

The question behind the question is: What do nonprofits have to do with library school?

Quite a lot, in fact. I’m particularly interested in the nonprofit as a representation of a segment of our communities… ie: a patron with clearly defined information needs (it’s in their mission statements!). Nonprofits exist in a community, particularly the small scrappy ones, because they have identified a need within that community – they see a segment of the population who are being underserved, mistreated, or generally not getting a fair shake. Doing something about that is their mission in life. Helping them fulfill that mission is my mission in life.  I want to help give them the information tools that their segment of society needs.  Going beyond the reference desk… not waiting for someone to be bold enough to come up and ask me a question… but going out there into the community and answering the questions that are being asked all the time.

Beyond that, I decided to participate in the Nonprofit Studies program because I am so keenly aware that Library School often does not do enough to teach librarians how to be managers, or how to be leaders.   In the NP program, I can take courses in marketing for NPs, management, leadership… all the things I have a passion for. And everything I learn applies to libraries! We’re so very much closer to nonprofits than we may realize. Certainly libraries are often government organizations… particularly academic and public libraries. But funding is slipping all the time… we seek out private and corporate sponsorship. We have boards and volunteers… we operate successfully in large part due to the tremendous public trust in libraries. We also both rely heavily on public support, and advocacy/marketing/grassroots support (whatever you’d like to call it) must be a part of our plans for the future.

In this time of change and growth for libraries, I am particularly interested in seeing how the future leaders and CEOs of nonprofits seek out public support. My classmates are inspirations to me… each and every one will help build public support for a cause they believe in. And so will I. So can you… Keep your eye on nonprofits. They know where they’re going, and they have a good idea of how to get there.

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