Libraries and Non-profits

Libraries and Non-profits

Libraries are well-known for supporting their communities in a variety of ways. Whether through welcoming spaces, useful information, or various services, this is one place that immediately comes to mind when people are looking for helpful resources. The cool part of how libraries function comes from the combination of knowledge, connection, and innovation. One example of this shows up in the way that libraries support local and national nonprofit organizations. Libraries help strengthen the nonprofit sector in unique ways that other institutions may not have the capacity to. Afterall, libraries themselves are nonprofits working to improve many problems and close a variety of gaps. When influential organizations come together to build up one another, exciting and impactful results come out of it.

sign the petition to vote for libraries


One of the core purposes that libraries serve is to be a place where anyone can access information. Libraries promote their services for all communities and all backgrounds, meaning anyone can step foot into one and explore interests and useful resources without having to worry about affordability.

Databases hold vast amounts of information in organized and structured collections. These databases cover any topic you can think of and make it easy for people to find information and research topics. Many databases come at a price and are only accessible on the internet. The library helps close the gap for many who may not have the ability to afford subscriptions to a bunch of databases, have internet access, or own a computer. These databases are especially useful for nonprofit organizations. They can be used to find information on grants and other funding opportunities that may be crucial to helping a nonprofit carry out its mission.

The Memphis Public Libraries give patrons free access to Foundation Directory Online (FDO). This is a directory that is currently managed by Candid, an organization that merged with Foundation Center and Guidestar to create useful research tools for organizations to utilize. A quick visit to the library’s Business/Sciences department gives community free access to these nonprofit resources as well as many others.

The Michigan State University Library also has resources and information related to grants available for nonprofits to use. The university is a member of Candid’s Funding Information Network (FIN) which is a “network of libraries, community foundations, and other nonprofit resource centers providing database access and support to local nonprofits.” These partnerships are very useful and help nonprofits search for funders that fit their exact needs. These databases allow nonprofit organizations to browse based on background, funding trends, funders related to specific issues, and funders based on location. They even include a compilation of nonprofit resources organized by state, making it quick for nonprofits to find local help.

The library also supplies a variety of tools that help to support nonprofits in their inception and growth processes. Nonprofit organizations benefit from guidance in a variety of areas. Grant writing, for example, is a major route nonprofits take to find the funds necessary to complete their work. Many nonprofits are run by a small group of staff and volunteers who are already juggling many tasks and wearing different hats. Grant writing is not an easy thing to add to a nonprofits to-do-list and can be confusing, competitive, and difficult. The Anchorage Public Library houses a collection of books and resources for nonprofits looking to build grant writing skills. Along with access to the Foundation Directory Online, the Anchorage Library also offers books and courses on grant writing for anyone looking for help. In addition, this library has also curated other useful collections that nonprofits take interest in from fundraising to leadership and management to social media and marketing. These collections contain a mixture of books, magazine subscriptions, and online courses. The price of using all of these resources to build an organization can add up. Luckily, nonprofits that are already on small or tight budgets can access these tools for free at their local public library.

Many libraries specifically have Nonprofit Resource Centers in place for organizations rooted in philanthropy and outreach. Libraries all across the country like the Forsyth County Public Library in North Carolina, the Tulsa City County Library in Oklahoma, and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

These libraries hold training events, develop programming, and house print and digital collections. The Carnegie Library provides monthly programs and training on different topics for local nonprofits interested in building their organizations. They are able to sign up for a free monthly eNewsletter that has updated information on upcoming programming. In addition to the varied topics discussed each month, the library also created a free orientation that introduces nonprofit organizations to the resources and programs available.

It is very common to find libraries connecting with local nonprofits and finding ways to support their missions. Libraries serve as meeting and event spaces and push out programming in partnership with organizations.

Culinary-based programming is on the rise in public libraries.The Cuyahoga County Public Library at Syracuse played a role in teaching culinary literacy and nutrition to the community with the help of the city and local chefs. These cooking programs were met with plenty of enthusiasm by the public. Recently, a virtual event with a skilled chef was held for more than 200 guests who received food kits and cooked alongside the Chef. This event raised almost $100,000 towards youth literacy programs.

Libraries have also focused on partnering with health-related nonprofits. Those in Atlanta and Baltimore work with Vision to Learn, an organization that offers vision screenings, eye exams, and glasses to underserved youth in the area. Each event screens dozens of kids and provides free glasses to those who need them. The Cobb County Public Library in Georgia was able to help distribute 136 pairs of glasses to children in 2019 and the partnership has been growing since. Libraries in Dayton, Ohio paired the desire to meet health needs of the community with literacy. By partnering with local healthcare practitioners and nonprofit health providers, the library was able to distribute early literacy gift boxes to children in the area through the Love Them Out Loud program. Each book contains an original storybook that is used to entertain and engage children. It also includes a tip book and interactive activities for parents and caregivers to use.

Libraries have always taken steps to partner with nonprofit organizations. Whether nonprofits are needing guidance or partnerships, libraries are there to fill the role in whatever capacity they can. They help build nonprofits up so they can impact communities in the best ways.