Frequently Asked Questions

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What is FOLA?

Friends of Libraries Australia Incorporated is Australia's peak body representing the interests of Friends of Library groups in Australia and citizens concerned with the well-being and development of libraries in our national culture.

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How do I become a member?

Simply complete the Membership Form on our Join FOLA page and send it to FOLA.

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What are the benefits of joining FOLA?

  • A quarterly newsletter NewsUpdate that provides information on FOL activities around Australia and overseas.
  • Special information on our web site, available only to FOLA members.
  • Discounts on merchandise, in particular, our Friends of the Library Resource Book (ed. Daniel Ferguson).
  • Discount at our biennial Australia-wide national conference.
  • Opportunity to receive invitations to and meet Friends from other organizations at our social functions, workshops and special events.
  • Knowing that you are assisting in the promotion and provision of excellent library services in Australia.

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I would like information on establishing a Friends group?

  • Talk to friends about the advantages of co-operation between library staff and users of the library, to promote and protect the library resources in your community.
  • Arrange a meeting with library administrators, to identify mutual aims, and to establish a working (and workable) relationship.
  • Prepare a draft constitution, statement of aims and objectives, and procedural guidelines.
  • Arrange an inaugural meeting at which the constitution will be confirmed: send invitations for this meeting to local councilors, community leaders, business leaders, library patrons, educational representative and the press.
  • Arrange for an experienced member of a Friends of the Library group to give a short talk and allow time for questions. FOLA can provide speakers if required.
  • Distribute handbills inviting membership, and advising of meeting date and place, including in the library, advertising as wide as possible.
  • Encourage people to offer suggestions for improving libraries. Acknowledge and consider every suggestion, even if not immediately practicable: feedback will encourage continuing contact.
  • More detailed information can be obtained by contacting FOLA: Locked Bag 1315 Tullamarine Victoria 3043.

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My library manager does not want and is not interested in Friends?

Libraries should not be forced to have a Friends of the Library group. However, find the reason for the negative feeling towards Friends - it often rests with a past bad experience, misinformation or something the Library Manager heard said about Friends.

Arrange a meeting with a near-by successful Friends group and invite the Library Manager.

Friends often fail or have bad PR because they have not taken account of:

  • Communication issues
  • Personality conflicts
  • Roles are not clear from the beginning
  • Lack of structure, purpose and goals
  • Lack of commitment
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of recognition and support
  • Lack of membership

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We have problems with lack of membership?

  • Define problem areas for the group. Confidential phone calls to lapsed membership will help.
  • Discuss with library manager.
  • Give a party for members and past members only.
  • Send out pre-event and post-event publicity with names and photos. Make the Friends look like a fun and meaningful group.
  • Re-evaluate your goals and objectives.
  • Review the committee, question the responsibilities of members of the committee, making certain that individuals do not have too great a burden.
  • Review benefits of membership, are they in line with community and library expectations.
  • Review communication with members; are they being kept informed?
  • Consider enrolment of new members as a year-round effort, establish a target, and celebrate when it is achieved.
  • Be sure to appreciate and recognize efforts of every kind. Recognition is a key aspect of survival.

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Should our Friends' Group become Incorporated?

FOLA strongly recommends all Friends of Library groups to become and Incorporated Association, as it allows your organization to:

  • Create a legal entity that is separate from the individual members.
  • Provide a certain amount of limited liability for members.
  • Continue regardless of changes to membership.
  • Enter into enforceable contracts including buying and selling property.
  • Sue (but also to be sued).

An excellent book on the subject is: Incorporation: An explanation of the Associations Incorporation Act by Graham Wheeler. Published by the Council of Social Services of New South Wales, 2002.

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We have a problem with public liability insurance?

The most economical and effective way for your group to obtain insurance cover is for your local library corporation or council to have an extension place on their existing insurance policy to cover your supportive activities.

If this is not possible we suggest you contact brokers Jardine Lloyd Thompson in your State and state you are a not-for-profit organization.

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FOLA Keys to Success - an Information Sheet to support your Friends' Group

FOLA has produced two Information Sheets to support Friends' Groups. It contains information on:

  • Library Management
  • Working with volunteers
  • Membership drive
  • Moving into the community
  • Incorporation
  • Growing Friends in the next decade

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