The Fund for America's Libraries

By Gaughan, Tom | American Libraries, February 1995 | Go to article overview

The Fund for America's Libraries


Gaughan, Tom, American Libraries


An independent fundraising arm will help ALA provide "a margin of excellence for libraries and librarianship."

When ALA Executive Director Elizabeth Martinez unveiled ALA Goal 2000 (AL, Jan., p. 17-21), most Association members understandably focused on the immediate action plans to make librarians prime players in the Information Age. ALA's much-respected Washington Office would be getting some badly needed additional help in its efforts to keep libraries and library patrons in the forefront of national information policy. A new Office for Information Technology Policy would be created to advise the Washington Office and ALA members on the crucial national information issues such as copyright and intellectual property, the scope and purpose of the information infrastructure, technical standards and protocols, intellectual freed information media, and citizen access to government information as it migrates to electronic media.

A second, equally exciting component of ALA Goal 2000 is the Fund for America's Libraries.

In the introduction to "A Prospectus for the Inception of the Fund for America's Libraries," Martinez notes that ALA has been involved in fundraising since 1899 when Melvil Dewey began to cultivate the support of Andrew Carnegie to establish an endowment for ALA. Dewey's efforts bore fruit in 1902 when Carnegie gave his first gift of $100,000.

Since then, the document continues, ALA has looked to fundraising to address a host of initiatives:

* During World War I, ALA raised some $1.5 million to provide library services to the armed forces;

* In 1944, ALA members contributed more than $87,000 to support the ALA Washington Office;

* In the 1950s and '60s, ALA won major grants from the Ford Foundation for intellectual freedom and from the Knapp Foundation for landmark work with school libraries.

The introduction also notes that in the 1980s some steps toward systematic fundraising took place: * a communications audit of ALA recommended creation of a foundation;

* in 1989, ALA launched a scholarship campaign to build the endowment;

* in 1990, ALA's Development Office was created.

Now, the prospectus states, "ALA is ready to embark on a future where all its philanthropic activity is focused for maximum effect. As the Association moves into the next millenium, it can use contributed revenues to develop innovative programs and services without risk to general funds. It can deepen member commitment to its priorities through a variety of giving programs can raise die national visibility of libraries in the philanthropic community at a time when information is a gigantic force in American society."

The prospectus observes that association foundations are a growing phenomenon and cites a study by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) that reports that associations use foundation revenues to support research; build endowments; fund model programs; offer re-grants, scholarships, honors, and awards; and make capital improvements. The ASAE study also revealed that associations frequently create foundations when a "cumbersome and restrictive bureaucracy prevents it from effectively raising funds and administering gifts."

A prime reason for creating an independent nonprofit foundation is the need to position ALA as a charitable organization. Such a position will better enable the Association to promote the social, cultural, and economic relevance, utility, and importance of libraries and library resources in a nation driven by information. The target audience of an independent foundation is made up of decision-makers in the philanthropic community, and the foundation will be able to effectively create communications tools specifically designed to tell the library story to those donor populations.

The prospectus notes that a board made up of leaders from outside the library profession is the "critical missing ingredient in ALA's development efforts.

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The Fund for America's Libraries
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