• 25 Jan 2019 11:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The FOCL Fundraising Expo will be held Saturday, March 23, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the University of Hartford.

    More information. Print registration form.  Register online.

  • 25 Sep 2017 9:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The FOCL Annual Fall Conference will be held at Central Connecticut State University on Saturday, November 18, 2017.  Information is available on the website and online registration will be available soon.  If you have any questions, email

  • 01 Jan 2017 11:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Time To Talk Library With Your Officials

    For almost 20 years Kate Robinson has been a lobbyist for Connecticut nonprofits.

    “I represent an army of people in every community in the state,” Robinson said.

    Now “we’re in the worst economic situation we’ve ever been in in my career” with a budget deficit forecast at $1.5 billion. It’s a very stressful time for all, she said.

    In 2017 the state government will set a budget for the next two years. In 2016 the General Assembly had to revise budgets down because of the economy. The state had asked every agency to cut its budget request by 10 percent.

    This is how it works: In mid-fall agencies submit budget requests to the Office of Policy and management. In late fall the governor and that office devise a budget request to submit to the General Assembly on Feb. 8.

    The appropriations committee hears testimony for agencies Feb. 13-24. Then the finance and appropriations committees have to reconcile what agencies want with the money available.

    That’s the “room where it happens,” Robinson said, referring to a song from the popular Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

    Spring is the crucial time for Friends to speak up for their libraries. “Everyone is going to be fighting for survival,” she said.

    The Connecticut Library Association will be organizing people to testify before the appropriations committee. But even if you aren’t the one addressing the committee, you can support libraries by just going to the hearing when the issue of libraries comes up. If everyone dresses in the same color — in 2015 time red was chosen — it shows a visual presence.

    You can also call or meet your local legislators and advocate for libraries. Friends could organize a meeting at their library with a group of patrons to discuss funding.

    In this past election, 33 new people were elected.

    “It’s important that you reach out to these freshmen,” Robinson said. Get to know them and their priorities.

    “Don’t get nervous about meeting with them,” she said. “Legislators are people, too!”

    Congratulate them for winning their election. Follow up by meeting with them in their district or at the State Capitol. Introduce yourself and wear a nametag.

    Find out what you have in common with your legislator — sports team you both follow, a school you both attended, a book you both like. These elected officials represent you so you need to build a relationship with them.

    Make sure they know that libraries provide core services to their communities and help solve local problems. Quote facts — the number of items borrowed, the number of computer hours, the programs for the elderly, for children. If they ask you a question that you can’t answer, tell them you can get that for them later.

    If you can’t talk with your elected official, speak to her aide. If you call and get a recording, leave a nice message and ask for them to call back, Robinson said. Expect them to do so.

    In addition to the Friends, ask any community groups that use your library to speak with an elected official on your behalf. Write letters to newspapers because that’s what your local legislators are reading.

    Friend your legislators on Facebook. If they are featured in a news story, cut it out and send it to them with a note because personal notes matter.

    “Just because we’re good at what we can do doesn’t mean we’re going to get all that we need,” she said.

    One Friend from Granby, Jane Reardon, said she also talks with legislators on behalf of the American Lung Association.

    “One thing they coach us on is to present only one fact (per meeting),” she said, “but also tell a personal story.”

    Don’t forget your local elected officials, said Frank Ridley, president of FOCL and the Meriden Friends group.

    “Once you develop that relationship you can build on it,” he said. “I meet regularly for coffee with local and state legislators.”

  • 31 Dec 2016 11:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you believe in the value of your library, you need to advocate for it. That could mean going to a rally like the one last year at the State Capitol.

    But it also means speaking up for your library whenever you get a chance, whether at your town council meeting, to your friends and family, or at your business.

    “If you don’t do it, nobody is going to do it for you,” said Libby Post of the firm Communications Services of Albany, N.Y.

    That was her message at an advocacy workshop Jan. 20 at the South Windsor Library. It was one of six free workshops she offered library Friends, staff, trustees and the public. Four workshops have already been held and two more are scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 27 — 10 a.m. to noon at the Oliver Wolcott Library in Litchfield and 2 to 4 p.m. at the Easton Public Library.

    Back up your support with statistics, which you can get from your library or the Connecticut State Library at

    Funding is always the issue, Post said, but people need to start thinking in terms of how much money their libraries save them. Circulation staff could put a dollar amount to each person’s check out — 5 DVDs or books are saving that patron $100.

    Libraries serve two-thirds of the public using less than 2% of all tax dollars. And every year their budgets are cut.

    But, “we can no longer afford to do more with less,” she said. Many school libraries have closed so students depend even more on public libraries.

    A Pew Research study showed “people love their libraries even more for what they say about their communities than for how libraries met their personal needs,” Post said “What would it say about your community if you let your library close?”

    The Pew study said that 90% of Americans, age 16 and older, say closing their local library would impact their communities and 63% said it would have a mayor impact. And 18- to 34-year olds are the fastest growing number of library users, she said. They use the library to find out if what they read online is true.

    “Libraries give people a tremendous chance to succeed, and people say they realize that,” Post said.

    Libraries have a great reputation for customer service and can build on that to advocate. Staff should want to because it’s their salaries on the line.

    People who have extensive economic, social, technological and cultural resources are most likely to use and value libraries. Library supporters need to target the others — people who don’t use technology, don’t have pride in their community and are less likely to take part in cultural activities.

    Libraries need to make sure the public knows of all they offer, including doing this through their websites and other social media.

    Does your library partner with the schools? Serve veterans and immigrants? Help local businesses and job seekers? Teach technology including the latest things such as 3-D printers? Let people know.

    Once you have gathered facts about your library, you need to get them out to the public and elected officials, Post said. Start by figuring out who in your community are the leaders. Officials will expect to hear from your library board but what about the head of the Rotary, the hospital president, the chamber of commerce?

    “Reach out to groups [and invite them to] use your meeting rooms,” she said. “And while they’re there, talk about information you might have on their subject in the library.”

    If you have Little League sign-up at your library, have a display on baseball books, maybe even buy a sign at the ball diamond. That way you might be reaching people who haven’t been using your library and turning them into supporters.

    “Volunteer messengers not directly affiliated with the library can be more powerful,” Post said.

    If you are doing a campaign for an issue, whether it be to expand or whatever, she said it’s important to have a strong, clear message. “Giving away bookmarks [with a few facts about your issue] at the circulation desk is one of the most potent ways of reaching people,” she said.

    Get officials to come to libraries when there are a lot of people there, maybe a kick-off to summer reading. And once you give your pitch to people, don’t just say, “I hope you’ll support us.” Instead ask, “Will you support us on this?”

    Don’t apologize that libraries need funding. In many towns, they are part of the government. They are as essential to a community as schools, health care and the police.

    Appeal to emotions when you sell your library. Post said one library she worked for used a successful grandma campaign, saying such things as: “Grandma says everyone has to pay their fines.” “Grandma says you can renew your books by phone.” “Grandma says be responsible about what you view online.”

    Counter any claims made by anti-tax people with facts about how libraries are essential, both for the items they provide and the space they offer.

    You can bring advocacy to your library, Post said, using these steps:

    1. Don’t get overwhelmed
    2. Have a plan
    3. Determine your brand
    4. Be bold
    5. Be clear and concise
    6. Look at other successful libraries

  • 30 Dec 2016 11:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Friends groups can support their libraries by more ways than financially. They can also support them by talking with officials about what the library means for their communities.

    Libraries “set the community spirit for a town,” said Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague. Osten spoke at the Friends of Connecticut Libraries Fall Conference in November at Central Connecticut State University.

    Real estate agents will tell you that if a library is dingy, it isn’t inviting for someone considering moving to town.

    “When you ask them why people move there, what attracts people, the library is always mentioned as a key asset,” she said.

    Her local library in Sprague came up with a booklet, using statistics available from the state, to explain how many people use the library and for what reasons.

    “It’s not just that repository (of books) but used for job searching,” she said. It’s where senior citizens and Girl Scouts often meet, where middle-schoolers hang out and where she often meets with constituents.

    As the first selectwoman of Sprague, Osten is also in charge of local funding for her local library.

    She said they got more than $1 million from a variety of funds to renovate an old grist mill that houses the library, which included installing an elevator.

    Talk to your state legislators and let them know that you, as a constituent, want them to support libraries. Tell them why your library is important and deserves more funding. But keep your message short.

    “Don’t write long emails to people because they won’t be read,” Osten said. Instead use simple bullet points and get to the message.

    Contact people in different ways — one-on-one, at a public meeting, at some board meeting. You can’t expect others to do this.

    “If you want your library saved in the state budget, you need to be active. You can’t just let lobbyists do it,” she said.

    “Usually it takes twice or three times to get people to respond to you.”

    In response to a question about the most effective way to get legislators’ attention, Osten said the

    worst time is in the middle of a crisis. The upcoming special legislation session from February to May won’t allow much time.

    You could band together with people from nearby towns and meet with two or three legislators at the same time. Or host a breakfast for your legislators to come talk with constituents and hand them a one-page report with your key points.

    One area vital to small town libraries is borrowing items from other libraries. It gives them access to books they might never be able to see without it. The state funds this service.

    Advocacy training for Friends groups is available from the state, said Dawn LaValle, director of library development for Connecticut.

    “We already know how well (libraries) serve our community,” LaValle said. “We just need to get the word out.”

    Another place to find out how to help is a free online course called “Library Advocacy Unshushed,” said a Friend from Canterbury. He found it on by searching for the word “library.”

    The size of your group doesn’t matter, Osten said. Just present your message in a clear and concise way to show the value of your library.

  • 29 Dec 2016 11:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The average price of a hard-cover book at Connecticut library book sales is $2.

    The average price of a mass market paperback is 50 cents.

    Those were just two conclusions from a survey that the Friends of Connecticut Libraries took this year of Friends groups. A total of 65 groups responded, said Carl Nawrocki, of the FOCL board, who presented results at the Fall Conference in November at Central Connecticut State University.

    The average price of DVDs is going up from $1 to $2.

    The average price of CDs — $ 1or $2.

    The average number of books at sales is 5,000 to 10,000.

    The prices charged for children’s books is pretty much the same as for adult books, although some libraries charge just 25 cents for paperback fiction.

    Some groups separate books into categories, such as mysteries, fiction, romance, business, cookbooks, politics, history, etc. The number of categories averages 20 to 30.

    For children’s books: young adult, preschoolers, board books, science, reference, animals, humor, etc.

    “We separated children’s books into categories and tripled sales,” said a Friend from Russell Library, Middletown.

    Others said sorting through a mass of books is part of the fun for buyers.

    Most libraries don’t charge for early admission to a sale, which Nawrocki said he couldn’t understand, adding it was an easy way to make money. Those who do charge often ask $5.

    A Farmington Friend said dealers told them they were happy to pay $10 to get in before the sale opened to the public because there were fewer people. The Friends group was glad to do it because dealers tended to buy more.

    Cheshire calls their early opening a “members-only preview;” that prompts many dealers to join the Friends, they said.

    Enfield Friends allow handicapped people to come in the afternoon before the crowds, saying it brought “really, really, really good press.”

    Two thirds of the groups hold bag sales the last day, with the average price of $5. However, South Windsor charges $8 a bag, said a member of their Friends.

    Granby doesn’t hold a bag sale on the last day because a lot of senior citizens can only afford a couple of books, said a member of their Friends. Instead they ask for donations per book.

    Profits from book sales range from under $2,000 to $50,000 a year, according to the survey. And most groups hold one or two sales each year, for an average of three days at a time.

    Other than book sales, 18% of Friends said they operate a book store year round. And 80% said they have some space set aside, such as a bookcase, to sell books where they sell books all the time.

  • 27 Dec 2016 11:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    You find a first edition of “Angela’s Ashes” in with donated books.

    Eureka! You think. It’s worth a fortune.

    But antique book dealer John Kehoe of Norwalk will tell you that not only is it not worth thousands, it’s not worth even $1.

    Kehoe shared a lot of other lessons about what makes a book valuable when he talked to the Friends of Connecticut Libraries at the Fall Conference Nov. 14 at Central Connecticut State University.

    The most important thing is the condition of the book.

    “Condition is to rare books what location is to real estate,” he said. “Collectors want a perfect copy.” A perfect “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” will sell for $750 but a bad one you can’t even give away. Three things that used to drive book values were scarcity, content and appearance. Now appearance is the most important.

    “The money is in the dust jacket,” Kehoe said. A book with a dust jacket in pristine shape can be worth 95% more. There is only one known copy of Theodore Dreiser’s “Sister Carrie” with a dust jacket and it is worth $100,000, he said.

    “Take care of those dust jackets!” Kehoe said. If a dust jacket is starting to chip, you might get a few dollars more for the book if you put it in a plastic cover.

    It’s even harder to find children’s books in good condition. A pristine copy of “Make Way for Ducklings” could sell for $12,000, he said. And very rare is a pre-1960s book with a dust jacket.

    He did find one valuable book in the 30 or so that Friends brought to him – one by Charles Darwin. “Any copy of Darwin before 1900 sells,” he said.

    One of the most important things you can do at sales is price items appropriately, Kehoe said.

    “You can’t run a sale with overpriced books. Buyers are too smart.” A successful sale has little left at the end, he said.

    People who try to find what a book is worth by looking it up on the Internet often get the wrong idea. Dealers will put up the price they would like to get for a book, not what it is actually worth.

    “What you see are the unsold books,” Kehoe said. “A first edition of ‘Valley of the Dolls’ will sell for $100. People who list it higher won’t sell it.”

    You can pay to get access to a site such as Rare Book Hub, which gives the actual selling price of rare books. And the site will show you what professional book sellers are asking for rare books.

    “If you have a really good book, price it so it will sell,” he said. “If you price it too high you won’t get it. The important thing is to just get more than you paid for it.” And remember, you got a book as a donation.

    A few other tips:

    • Don’t use stickers on books because they can damage the dust jackets.
    • Don’t stock unsaleable books such as “The DaVinci Code” or “A Day in the Life of America.” (Anyone who wants to read them already has.) “The idea of throwing out a book is not that bad,” Kehoe said.
    • Don’t waste time alphabetizing fiction because it has no impact on sales.

    The way to get better at pricing valuable books is just like anything else – practice. Set prices and see if books sell for what you ask. A few books on book collecting include “The ABC for Book Collectors” by John Carter and “Among the Gently Mad” by Nicholas Basbanes.

    Signed books can be more valuable unless it’s an author known for signing easily. Even if the signature includes a note to someone, that wouldn’t hurt the price.

    Who collects rare and antique books? Kehoe said he doesn’t know because it really isn’t a good investment. Books that were valuable 100 years ago often are no longer worth anything.

    “Some people collect books because they have a socially acceptable form of OCD,” he guessed.

    Kehoe said he got into book selling by accident, just wandering into second-hand bookstores and asking questions. When he found it more interesting than his job at the time – industrial construction management – he made it his career.

    He used to pick up books at library book sales but said things are changing. Libraries have gotten better at pulling out valuable books before dealers such as him can find them. And some people go through sales with scanners, picking anything valuable.

    Kehoe recommended not consigning books to an auction house because they generally take 25% of a sale and make you wait 90 days for the money. And dealers don’t like to buy at auction, so you’ll end up losing a lot of money.

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