Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Southard

Friday, January 12, 2018 1:00 am

Library's non-profit assistance moves in different direction

Greta K. Southard

Greta K. Southard is director of the Allen County Public Library.

At the Allen County Public Library, our reference librarians pride themselves on their ability to provide information on almost any topic. But if you ask them, most will admit that they have a subject area in which they specialize. It might be repair manuals for 1970s muscle cars. Two of our librarians focus on anything and everything related to Abraham Lincoln. One former librarian was also a master gardener, and she was known to jot down notes for customers, sharing suggestions of exactly which plants or flowers would best suit their yard or flowerpots.

Since the early 1980s, the Allen County Public Library has also had staff members whose area of passion was providing information to non-profit organizations in our community. It started out as a personal interest for one librarian and over the years developed into a collection of materials, database resources and trainings.

Almost 20 years after the library began focusing on serving non-profits, the Foellinger Foundation provided funding that greatly increased the scope of services the library was able to offer. Foellinger's generosity expanded the library's institutional capacity to provide grant research, assistance and workshops to nonprofits. It also provided dollars designated for new staff with backgrounds in nonprofit management, fundraising and grant writing to oversee the new center.

Foellinger Foundation's financial support was soon joined by that of the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. Their contribution of operating dollars brought with it a new name for the department: The Paul Clarke Non-Profit Resource Center.

In the years since, the staff and interns of the center have continued the work first begun in the early 1980s: providing resources and assistance to customers seeking information about non-profits. How do I start one? Should I even start one? How do I handle difficult board members? And how on earth am I ever going to raise money?

It's hard to believe, but more than three decades have passed since that first librarian with the interest in non-profits. In October 2017, ACPL was recognized for 35 years of outstanding performance and partnership with the Foundation Information Network. Together, we have provided knowledge and resources to individuals and non-profit organizations across northeast Indiana.

I'm willing to bet that if that first librarian came back, she would probably recognize some of the questions still being asked about non-profits. And yet, so much has changed about how information is delivered and what our customers need from us today.

With that being said, the Allen County Public Library will continue to offer resources and information about non-profits to individuals and organizations. I know there has been news coverage and chatter on social media that indicate otherwise. You might have read or heard that the Paul Clarke Non-Profit Resource Center is closed. That is not true.

It is accurate to say that the library has moved to a new staffing model for the center. We have been able to provide designated staff for the center over the years thanks to the generosity of local funders. We appreciate the many years of financial support that the Foellinger Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne have provided. Their generosity has helped the Non-Profit Resource Center to grow, both in terms of resources and our ability to serve the community.

We also recognize that every organization, whether it is the funder or the fundee, should from time to time ask whether the current way of doing things is still the only way or the most efficient model. While some of the same basic questions that our customers ask might remain unchanged, much has changed regarding the delivery of services and information to local non-profits. Individuals and organizations have direct access to more resources than they did in the early 1980s or even in the early 2000s when the center was established. There are more trainings available both online and locally. There is also a wealth of fundraising tools online, including databases and search engines. There are also a number of local fundraising professionals to draw upon.

Without the dedicated grant dollars that have funded staff positions in the Paul Clarke Non-Profit Resource Center, the Allen County Public Library will be returning to our original service model. We will again be drawing upon our highly skilled reference librarians to assist customers who have questions regarding the non-profit sector. With the new staffing model comes a new name: The Allen County Public Library's Non-Profit Resource Collection. What has not changed is our dedication to providing information and resources to those who come to the library seeking answers.