Friends of the Public Library

Vines on a library column

Madison, South Dakota has a beautiful Carnegie Library, with the original building hailing from 1906.

It’s an easy library to love, both as a building as an institution because it is a non-commercial, democratic meeting place and source of knowledge, information and culture for patrons of all ages.

If you enjoy books and learning, you probably have a library in your present or past that calls forth strong, positive feelings.  If you do, consider yourself a friend of that library.

Library friends do things for their library.  If you haven’t started actively befriending your library and would like to, consider the examples of individual and organized service as seen in Madison, South Dakota.  If you already do the “friend thing,” please share your ideas in response to this program.

Individual acts of library friendship

  • One woman carries library materials every two weeks to residents at an assisted living center.  The library has a sizeable large-print collection
  •  Two other volunteers read library books to a man with visual impairment.
  • Teenagers help with children’s story time and summer reading activities
  • Volunteers help reshelf DVDs on a weekly basis.
  • An avid library patron writes letters to the editor of the local paper in support and appreciation of the library.

Organized acts of library friendship

AdvocacySome library patrons in Madison had a strong desire to form an organized group, so they joined forces with the head librarian and discussed how to start a friends group, then went public and invited all to join and take leadership positions in the friends group (abbreviation:  FOMPL—Friends of the Madison Public Library). FOMPL is less than a year old and is going through the steps to become an IRS-recognized nonprofit, but is already working in four areas to support the library:  advocacy, volunteer service, material support, and programming.

  • During February (“Love your Library Month”) FOMPL encouraged patrons to write “valentines” to the city and county commission as well as the newspaper in support of the library.
  • FOMPL has a Twitter feed (@Friendlibrary) as well as a Facebook page as well as a Twitter presence.The Facebook page is a forum for promoting library activities and expressing appreciation for libraries, librarians, and literacy in general.

Volunteer Service

  • The FOMPL volunteer coordinator has asked the librarians what they need help with and has put out a call for volunteers through SignUp Genius.  Volunteers have helped with children’s programming, as well as decorating and undecorating the library for the holidays                                            

Material Support

FOMPL sent a fruit basket to the librarians for Christmas 

  • FOMPL has created “giving tree” posters based on requests for specific material items the librarians suggested; many items have been budget-friendly, so patrons can more easily give to the library.
  • FOMPL put up food request posters for two family meals the library hosted.  Patrons donated pre-made items such as packs of hotdog buns or juice boxes.



lecture by Estonian Academic Sirje Kiin about the poet Marie Under.The Madison Public Library sponsors fine programs of its own, such as Celtic fingerstyle guitar player Jerry Barlow.  Additionally,  FOMPL has coordinated with other groups and individuals to present at the library.  So far, all the performers and lecturers have shared their talent and knowledge free of charge; their generosity strengthens the library’s cultural influence and is a gift to the community.  Examples of programs include:

  • A demonstration on Odissi dancing by Shreelina Ghosh, a local professor.
  • Lego parts swaps hosted by DSU digital arts professor Wayne Madsen (who also did the awesome poster).

  • FOMPL coordinated with Dakota State University art instructor Angela Behrends to display student artwork made from discarded books at the library 
  • An open-mic poetry night plus featured readings from two local poets for National Poetry Month
  • A lecture on Chinese history by Eve Fisher, an emeritus professor from SDSU.
  • Local author Eric Johnson reading from his mystery novels and talking about his craft.
  • The Madison High School Jazz Band performing a brown bag concert.


In the end, Madison is a small city with a relatively small library, but the human richness of the library and of the community come together nicely through acts of library friendship.   Once again, if you are already a friend of your local library, keep up the support!  If you want to deepen your friendship with your library, either as an individual or by creating or joining a friends group, go for it with best wishes and please, share your success stories.  (LINK:  starting a friends of the library group: )


Madison Public Library, June 2014



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