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Managing the Group:
Growing Your Group Library

Meg Sondey
Mentor, Ohio, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 37 No. 3, June-July 2001, p. 58

Have you taken a good, long look at your Group Library lately? Is it a vigorous resource, well pruned, maintained, and growing?

You probably responded with a firm "Yes." Or you may have hesitated a bit, thinking of the crates of books you meant to go through before the last meeting. You may have even shuddered a bit and thought "oh, if I could only get the time."

No matter where you or your Group Library fit into these responses, a myriad of opportunities are available to help "grow" the resources that you provide to the mothers coming to monthly Series meetings.

Whenever Group Libraries are discussed, several concerns are frequently brought up. How do I know what should be in our library? How can our Group afford to put new books in the library or replace the ones that am outdated. I can't keep up with the Group Library by myself, where do I find help? I really don't want to add to our Group Library, but how can we keep our books from disappearing over and over again?

The LEADER'S HANDBOOK has a good section on Group Libraries, providing information on everything from what to put in the library to how to cover a book. (Pages 172-85, 187, and 221-24.)

Knowing exactly what books to have in your Group's Library depends to a great extent on your resources and the needs of your Group. Every Group should have the most recent edition of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, a nutrition-oriented book such as WHOLE FOODs FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY, a book that presents an overview of childbirth, and a book on parenting that supports loving guidance. Beyond those suggestions, other books and resources may be selected from the LLLl Bibliography, LLLI 2000, Publication No. 174-13. Please consider other LLLI published books to round out your library, as these are most representative of our organization, and then choose other books from the Bibliography as desired.

As you are trying to evaluate the current condition of your library, remember these tips.

  • Don't be afraid to contact retired Leaders to ask for donations of books, not only those in your immediate town, but also those in surrounding towns unserved by any other LLL Group.
  • When Groups disband, books from that Group's Library are to be returned to the Area. Contact your Area Coordinator of Leaders or appropriate Affiliate equivalent.
  • Check the LLLI Bibliography for lists of outdated books. Call mothers who have overdue books so all available books are accounted for when you're deciding what books need to be replaced.

Some books may need to be pruned from Group Libraries. It is important to remove books that are indicated on the LLLI Bibliography as deleted as they become or are no longer circulating. In many instances, the books have been deleted because the information has become outdated or newer books have been published with updated information. For Leaders with access to the Internet, the most current edition of the LLLI Bibliography is found on this page of the non-password protected file section of the LLLI Web site: www.lalecheleague.org/BEC/BEC.html*. Leaders without home computers may be able to access these files through computers in public libraries or on a friend's computer.

Once your Group Library is updated, you might discover gaps in the topics covered by your current collection. Some Leaders feel stymied at this point - how do you acquire new books when funds seem limited? Selling the deleted books at a nominal price may be one way to acquire funds. On pages 175-76 of the LEADER'S HANDBOOK, other proven ideas are discussed, including asking businesses to donate books or holding a fundraiser specifically for book purchases.

LLLI also provides significant discounts on books purchased in bulk. Purchasing books as a Chapter may increase your Group's ability to purchase new books at lower cost. If your Group is not currently part of a Chapter or a Chapter is unavailable to you, you might consider contacting nearby Groups to pool your orders to increase your savings.

With a selection of new books, your library will suddenly take on a new well-groomed look. However, you may notice that some of the existing book covers are torn or that the phone number of a current Leader is not noted in the front of books. A Leader may feel overwhelmed when there are phone calls to make and meetings to lead! If you have a co-Leader, you may wish to discuss one of you taking on the special task of organizing the library. Another idea is to find a Group Librarian if your Group does not currently have one. This ideal position for either a Leader Applicant or an interested mother can provide opportunities to discuss LLLI philosophy with her as you discuss how books are chosen for Group Libraries.

It's very easy to become possessive of a Group Library into which you and your Group have put a great deal of energy and effort. But remember the Library is there to be used - you want mothers to read the books. But you also want mothers to return the books. So how do Groups manage to keep the books so carefully purchased and maintained available for future mothers to use and enjoy?

First, make sure a checkout system is in place.

  • Have a checkout box and a pen available.
  • Ask the Group Librarian to explain checkout procedures before every meeting.
  • Ask someone to assist a new mother who wishes to check out books for the first time.
  • Make sure that every book is clearly marked as belonging to 'LLL Group X' with contact number(s) for Leader(s) clearly visible. This could be in the form of a sticker on the front cover, or inside front cover, or stamped along the pages' edge.

These simple steps often alleviate many difficulties associated with wandering books. But what if you follow all these suggestions and books are still overdue? Many helpful suggestions can be found in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK. If you are prompt in following up on overdue books, the vast majority will be returned after only one or two reminders. If a book remains out longer than that, there is a sample overdue book letter included in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK requesting either the return of the book or a donation to cover the cost of replacing it. Leaders have found this letter has helped return chronically overdue materials.

Your Group Library can be grown mto a wonderful resource. It just needs a little time, a little weeding and pruning, and a little care - just like any garden. And that's exactly what your Group Library can be--a delightful garden of breastfeeding and parenting resources!

Note: web address updated 11/17/06

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