Showcasing The Best: Murrindindi Library Service - Junior Friends Of The Library
Junior Friends of the Library was developed in response to a lack of non-sporting recreational opportunities for youth in our small remote country town. There was also a need for a comfortable affordable gathering place for young people to meet. The library is ideally placed to engage with young people, it is neutral territory - anyone can hang out there and itís free.
Building on these attributes our experienced staff (with a combined total of 30 years working with youth) provide a range of interesting activities to encourage young people into the library space. They are invited to contribute suggestions for future activities, excursions and fundraising opportunities. These ideas are then developed into a yearly program of events. The Junior Friends of the Library program aims to develop the necessary skills and interests in our young people to build social capital within our community.
1.2 Target Group
The target group is 10-16 year olds who are not necessarily interested in sport. Sport is the main recreational pursuit in our small country town and very little is provided in the way of resources or buildings for those young people with other interests and skills.
1.3 Funds and Resources
One focus of this group has been fundraising, so to a degree they have been self-funded. Raising money, counting money in fact anything to do with money has real appeal for this age group.
Grants for special projects have been received from:
- Murrindindi Shire Council
- Friends of the Library Alexandra Inc.
- Gouldís Timber Mill - a local industry
- Bolinda Publishing Melbourne
In kind donations of goods and services have been received from:
- Fallons Bus Service
- Reddrops Supermarket Community Cash Project
- The library provides staff, food and materials for all activities. Staff and parents also donate their time for special projects.
A key staff member is responsible for liaison, planning, project development and promotion. Other staff and volunteers are co-opted to assist with implementation of projects as needed.
What Have You Done?
2.1 Key steps and activities
In 1990 through observation and anecdotal evidence it was noted that many young people were hanging out in the library after school. Some sort of group activity was needed to consolidate these young people and validate their interest in the books and the library.
It was felt that a straight book appreciation group would have limited appeal to this group so a JFOL was formed as a library support group which would provide positive social interaction, a bit of fun and food, while raising money for the library.
A public meeting was called inviting anyone over 130 cm who loves books, money and power to come to the library and form a group. Over 40 young people attended and these aims and objectives came out of the discussion:
- a legitimate reason to hang out at the library
- to have things to do in the library
- to raise money and buy stuff for the library eg audio books, more Asterix books, a TV and video player
- to create a committee with executive roles
- to fund more author visits
At this meeting a formal committee of youth was formed which became Junior Friends of the Library Alexandra under the auspices of the adult Friends of the Library group
JFOL provides meaningful participation and has grown into a group of supporters and fans of the library that meet monthly, follow a published program, discuss themes and books make plans. Each year the committee develops an annual plan of monthly activities, plus two or three major events, fundraisers, activities or excursions per year.
The incumbent committee influences the direction the group takes for that year eg one year the group had a philanthropic focus raising money for their peers in need locally and internationally eg East Timor, Africa, Aboriginal Australians. Other years theyíve focused on writing and authors, the arts including an art show, music and performance and of course fundraising for library resources
Staff have basically learnt on the job. This gave them the flexibility to respond to the ideas and suggestions coming from the youth group.
2.2 Partnerships and community involvement
- Friends of the Library Alexandra - Administrative support
- Friends of the Library Australia - presentation of conference paper, journal article, marketing of JFOL publication "JFOL in Your Library"...Themes Games and Plans and Ideas for Running a JFOL Group"
- Friends of the Library USA - JFOL submitted a journal article
- Rotary Club of Alexandra - JFOL co-hosted a concert and fundraising evening for East Timorese female musicians
- Continuing Education and Arts Centre Alexandra - JFOL designed and produced a mural for the Community Mural Painting Project
- Alexandra Hospital - Combined Community Market with JFOL
- Alexandra Agricultural Show Committee - Marketing of JFOL Show bags
- Alexandra Community Market - Childrenís Activities
- Great Victorian Bike Ride - Childrenís Activities
What Have You Achieved?
These events were planned, funded, manned and attended by JFOL members.
- Artrageous Youth Art Show: - 200 entries 400 attendees
- Warhammer Expo & Painting Competition: - 20 entries
- Family Music Festival (3 years): - 300 Parents and children
- Theatrix suite of professional theatre performances - 200 all ages
- Author Visits (7 years) - 1750 attendees
- Annual Community Halloween Festival - 1400 attendees
- Themed Trivia Nights (5 years) - 250 attendees
- Summer Reading Scheme Party (10) - 400 attendees
- Archimedes Science Club (5 years) - 300 attendees
- Annual Themed Dinner Parties (4 years) - 100 attendees
- Pizza and Poetry Nights (4 years) - 60 attendees
- Shakespeare in an Hour (3 years) - 5 attendees
- Book Buying in Melbourne (2 years) - 50 attendees
- Group trip to Adelaide to collect FOLA award and present paper - 10 attendees
- Melbourne Libraries Tour - 15 attendees
- Antiquarian Bookshop Award Night - 6 attendees
- Local History Mystery Tour - 20 attendees
Fundraisers (involving 20 - 30 people each time)
- Book Stall
- Fairy Floss Stall
- Baked Potato Stall
- Hamburger Stall
- Handmade Library Bags
- Original Gift Cards
- JFOL T Shirt Sales
- Hand printed Original Calendars
JFOL Fundraising achievements (resources purchased for Alexandra library)
- 18 Volumes Science and Technology Encyclopaedia
- 2 couches
- Books, audio books and DVDs
- Complete Tintin series
- Computer games
- Charities Supported:
- East Timor Musical Foundation
- Aids orphans in Namibia
- World Vision
- Books for India
- Books to Central Australia
- Halloween Festival for the whole town
- Science Trivia Nights
- Local Talent Concert
- Theatrix (3)
- Battle of the Bands for local fledgling youth bands
- Artrageous Youth Art Show
- Archimedes Summer Science (6)
- Family Music Festival (3)
3.2 Impact on the community
- The diverse range of cultural events facilitated by JFOL has extended the outreach capacity of our library to the wider community
- The Library has an enhanced community profile
- Program has provided a voice in the community for local youth
- Community now has an ever-changing, highly motivated group of local youth who meet monthly in the library
- Young people involved in planning and implementing projects for all young people and families within our community
- Fundraising provides an opportunity for meaningful participation in the wider community both local, national and international. It encourages active citizenship and develops social capital
- JFOL have provided events and projects for the whole community that would not have happened otherwise
3.3 Impact on staff
- The Junior Friends have boundless youthful energy, and it flows both ways. Planning a program with a group of young people and tapping into community resources is enlightening and inspiring
- The connection forged via JFOL provides staff with a privileged and unique insight into the current mindset of youth
- JFOL events and themes are used for displays, activities, reading lists, media releases and publicity
- JFOL focuses staff on the needs of youth in the community
- Ready-made focus group - it provides a direct link with youth for forums and future planning
- Young people currently have a key role in the libraryís book selection process
3.4 Unexpected outcomes
- Staff have noticed a marked difference when connecting with secondary school groups with JFOL members in them. We have increased our credibility with many and a have point of reference for conversation
- We receive vibrant and succinct feedback about the library from an unexpected source
- These young people have become passionate readers and advocates for the library within their peer group
- A constant reminder of the mercurial nature of childhood and that stereotypes do not apply
- Providing youth with opportunities to do things for others builds self-esteem and positive memories
- JFOL provides opportunities to explore positive friendships across age groups and sexes
- Youth in our community have had their ideas accepted, supported and applauded and have won support from unexpected directions
3.5 Future Benefits
- Building a core group of people who will have a lifelong relationship with libraries
- Youth realise that planning and implementing successful events can have long-term benefits to themselves and the community
- Youth in our community have had the opportunity to form relationships with non-custodial adults
What Have You Learnt?
4.1 Key factors of our success
- Staff are very aware of their non custodial role, we are not teachers or parents - we are all in this together to have a good time!
- JFOL is all-inclusive and adapts to accommodate all personalities and abilities. (the noisy, loud, rude, impertinent, somnambulant, overwhelming, are all welcome)
- Long term planning in consultation with youth
- A variety of projects and objectives both short and long term
- Annual fundraising objectives
- Food - plenty of food at everything
- Dedicated and enthusiastic staff committed to ongoing training and new ideas
- An annual plan
4.2 Main challenges, their impact and management
- Never knowing how many people will attend - we never cancel and soldier on regardless of numbers. Staff have learnt to be infinitely adaptable.
- Wide age group and diverse interests overcome by involving everyone in the planning stage so that people are prepared to compromise
- Challenge of keeping it relevant, attractive and fun, we address this by providing staff with training and networking opportunities statewide and by involving young people in annual planning
- Program has to constantly evolve; participants usually stay for around 3 years before they move on. We address this by reinventing ourselves often!
- Challenge to maintain the pace of the session and stay within the timeframe, we address this by being well prepared and staffed (at least 2)
4.3 What would we do differently?
- Involve youth in book buying (trips to Melbourne bookshops) earlier than we did
- If we had more time we would have sought more external funding sources
- Raised our profile as conveners of great program for youth, but we didnít realise how little was out there
4.4 Advice to libraries implementing a similar strategy
- Empower an imaginative staff member with a generous heart to develop the program with young people
- Consult with young people via formal meetings with standard meeting rules. Train young people in public speaking and meeting procedures, help them realise what a useful tool this is.
- Develop an annual plan with short and long-term objectives
- Plan both small and large-scale events
- Be generous and welcoming, provide heaps of food
- Advertise widely, never cancel, include any who turn up, be very careful not to become an exclusive club
- Try and have meetings in the library when itís closed to create a sense of privilege, inclusion and trust. There is something very special about being in a library when itís closed.
- Remember itís not school or home, having fun is enough and there wonít always be a measurable outcome
- NEVER EVER cancel, the essence of a program may need to be altered if only a few turn up but the event must always go on. Kids love to plan and look forward to events, they put in energy convincing their parent to bring them along donít disappoint them.
4.5 Anything else
JFOL is a group of highly motivate local youth who meet monthly in the Alexandra library. Each month has a different theme and meetings are promoted via local media, attractive flyers, posters and school newsletters.