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The Alliance of the Friends of the DeKalb County Public Library

DeKalb County Public Library, GA
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Innovation Summary

The Alliance is an umbrella organization representing 15 Friends groups from throughout DeKalb. Members joined forces to get collective tax-exempt status, thus eliminating much duplication of effort while serving to support, build and strengthen struggling friends groups and to create groups where they did not exist before.

Problem Statement

Obtaining 501(c)3 status is a daunting task for any volunteer organization that is struggling to operate effectively and legally. Many of the DeKalb library branches had friends’ organizations that did not have this essential status. Many of them lacked consistent leadership, officers and had very few members. Some library communities had never had a friends group. The Alliance gathered the scattered and uncoordinated resources and individuals with these groups together so that the essential legal status could be obtained. The Alliance also facilitated the creation and resurrection of struggling, dormant and non-existent groups by engaging community interests and helping to provide a host of tools and resources to support member groups for the long term.


The innovation of the Alliance is in providing leadership and strong support to communities of library users and supporters throughout the county and library system with the essential and difficult step of formation and incorporation as a legal friends of the library organization. Most of these struggling, dormant or non-existent groups would simply have been unable to do this alone. The Alliance served to be a coordinating and supporting organization for local groups and communities that respected and nurtured the integrity and character of each local community. The Alliance was not a top down initiative but a grass roots effort. The Alliance did not seek to replace local organizations by forming a county wide friends group but to do community building throughout the county. The individuals who created the Alliance excited other individuals in local communities. People wanted to get involved and to take on leadership roles. The Alliance has served to engage communities surrounding local libraries. It has provided these organizations with the resources and tools to function better. The Alliance has created shared financial reporting documents, by-laws and useful membership and other forms. It facilitated training opportunities, such as how to conduct effective and productive book sales. The Alliance has created a website to share information and also a Facebook page. The Alliance provided an organization where library supporters and users could come together, meet each other; share their stories, their information and their needs. It provided the ongoing kind of support necessary to sustain volunteer organizations for the long term.


The intent of the Alliance was to build, support and strengthen friends’ organizations within the DeKalb County Public Library service area. The successful granting of 501(c)3 status to the Alliance in February of 2013 was the essential platform from which the local friends groups involved could really begin to move forward. This outcome was achieved. Local groups were revived, re-energized and new groups were formed. Library users and supporters were engaged and encouraged to get more involved. The support provided by the Alliance and the resources created by the Alliance have created powerful connections and tools for each group to grow and to develop. Vital and successful friends groups serve to link the local library with the surrounding community. This creates mutually supportive relationships that help to improve the local branch and to support the growth and development of a healthy community. These groups provide ample opportunities for individuals to get involved in their local library and community. Friends groups fund library programs for every community demographic, they help to purchase books for their collections, and they help to purchase needed equipment and supplies. This is occurring when library budgets have been cut and severely stretched and local communities have experienced the withering effects of a recessed economy. The Alliance of the Friends of the DeKalb County Public Library is an important resource in combating these threats to libraries and individual communities in DeKalb.