The Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF), is losing its $56,000 subsidy from ALA. The subsidy currently makes up more than 10 percent of ALTAFF’s approximately $450,000 budget. However, before it ends in fiscal year 2015, Sally Reed, ALTAFF executive director, hopes the organization will have become self-supporting.
“I am feeling pretty confident that we’ll get there,” she told LJ, citing progress the organization has already made since Friends of Libraries USA’s merger with ALTA in 2009. Before the merger, ALA was subsidizing ALTA to the tune of about $90,000 and receiving $0 in overhead back, according to Reed. Today ALTAFF returns about $55,000 in payment for its overhead expenses to ALA, something which will continue even after the subsidy ends.
“We feel that our strongest, most stable form of income, and the one that has the most potential for growth, is membership. We think we have the potential to reach out across the country and bring in hundreds and thousands of friends and trustees,” Reed said. “That was [ALA Executive Director] Keith Fiels’ vision for us, to reach out beyond those who attend conferences and say ‘we have the tools and resources for you to be great advocates and great governors of your library.’”
Right now ALTAFF has about 1200 individual members, who belong to both ALA and ALTAFF, and about 1500 group members, who don’t belong to ALA. “They are just receivers of our services, trustees and friends groups, and those are the two areas we want to grow,” Reed said. Today corporate sponsorship, membership, and products and services all bring in about the same amount of revenue for the organization, but those proportions are part of what Reed hopes to change. One reason Reed is so sure more members can be found is that she’s done it before: before the merger, Reed headed Friends of Libraries USA, which had about 3500-4000 group members.
As part of the bid to substantially increase its membership numbers (and revenue), ALTAFF has changed its name to United for Libraries, a name it feels has far more resonance with local groups. The full name—United for Libraries: the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends, and Foundations—will become official on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
But the drive for more members isn’t merely financial. “If we can really bring together all the lay groups, we could be the AARP of libraries; we could have such a strong voice,” Reed said. “Librarians do so much advocacy, but their voices carry that self-interest. If we could get citizens to be the voice, I think we could turn funding around entirely.”