Interview with Mary Jo Ketchum
  August 30, 2000

Do public library trustees have a responsibility to fundraise for their library?

Let me begin by affirming the four primary roles of trustees:

(These roles are further defined in the TRUSTEE HANDBOOK, issued by the New York State Association of Library Boards, in conjunction with NYS Dept. of Library Development. To obtain a copy and for information about the association go to

A couple of distinctions are necessary before proceeding: A. operating funds, vs. supplementary income/assets; and, B. the means to obtain them, i.e., developing operating funding sources, and supplementary fund-raising.

While it is often necessary for trustees to develop funding sources, it is always important for trustees to be pro-active in talking about their libraries to the people in their community. This is marketing, or advocacy, and the return will be the eventual support for funding, be it in a vote, or by a grant from the local service organization, or a private donor. Raise awareness before attempting to raise funds!

As for the responsibility to work directly to raise funds, it depends on the type of library they serve. In our system the operating funds come from the county property tax. Supplemental dollars for extras come from gifts and the sale of discarded or donated reading materials and software. Many libraries are completely independent of outside funding, and must continually scrape for operating funds. In these cases, the burden is definitely on the shoulders of the trustees.


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