Friends of Tennessee Libraries

About FOTL

FOTL and Imagination Library

For over a decade, Friends of Tennessee Libraries (FOTL) has promoted Imagination Library.

In the fall of 2003, the first of several FOTL-sponsored workshops about the benefits of books for children from birth until the age of five was held in Dandridge. In a fruitful partnership with Imagination Library, private donors, and various public libraries, Maryann Bork and Frances Darnell built support for the program among teachers, principals, school board members, county officials, and interested citizens from East to West Tennessee. Their daylong workshops, dubbed “Catch ‘em in the Cradle,” often featured a presentation by Jinx Watson, librarian and professor in the University of Tennessee’s School of Information Science, who spoke of the value of age-appropriate books that children could call their very own (FOTL Newsletter Winter 2003–2004).

Maryann and Frances were invited to Dollywood for “National Homecomin’ 2003” in mid-December, when Dolly Parton thanked them for FOTL’s support of Imagination Library. A million books had been distributed to Tennessee’s children by that time (FOTL Newsletter Spring 2004).

Today FOTL encourages local Friends to support Imagination Library and the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation. Imagination Library books are free to children from birth to their fifth birthday, but donations at the local or state level make those free books possible.

Dolly Parton with Maryann Bork and Frances Darnell of FOTL.

Dolly Parton thanks Maryann Bork, left, and Frances Darnell for FOTL’s support of Imagination Library.

FOTL Stands Up for Literacy

Every summer Friends of Tennessee Libraries makes a financial investment in statewide programs that encourage children to read.

Workshops conducted by the Tennessee State Library and Archives equip Tennessee’s public librarians with ideas for events that are creative and fun to entice children and teens to enjoy summer reading. Promoted by Tennessee’s public libraries and underwritten by many of Tennessee’s Friends, reading during the summer slows or prevents the so-called “summer slide,” the loss of reading skills that befalls many children during their months away from the classroom. In 2013 children are urged to “Dig into Reading,” and teens are challenged to look “Beneath the Surface” as they stay mentally active with books.

Through its publications and postings on Facebook, FOTL publicized Lady Crissy Haslam’s reading initiative, READ20. At a meeting in Nashville with Friends and other leaders in the winter of 2011, FOTL President Susie Ries pledged that FOTL would stand behind Mrs. Haslam’s efforts to promote reading proficiencies among Tennessee school children.

Susie Webb Ries, Julie Webb, and then-First Lady Crissy Haslam

President Susie Ries, left, and Julie Webb met with First Lady Crissy Haslam about early childhood literacy.

FOTL Promotes Legislative Days

In Tennessee and in Washington, DC, Friends of Tennessee Libraries champions state and national legislative days, when citizens as well as professional librarians urge legislators to fund and protect libraries as institutions essential to a democratic society.

Every year FOTL joins the Tennessee Library Association, TENN-Share, the Tennessee Association of School Librarians, and the Nashville Public Library in sponsoring Tennessee Library Legislative Day. On February 19, 2013, FOTL officers Martha Gill, past president, and Carol Harris, president-elect, participated in a panel discussion led by State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill about effective techniques for advocates. In May, FOTL President Susie Webb Ries, Past President Martha Gill, and Julie Webb from FOTL’s advisory committee joined other Tennesseans participating in National Library Legislative Day.

The late John Nye of Crossville, a beloved Friend of Tennessee Libraries, once said, “I believe the greatest challenge facing libraries today is the need to make legislators and those who influence the funding of libraries aware of the value of library services to their communities.”—quoted in an interview by Scott Cohen in Tennessee Libraries, Vol. 56, No. 4, reprinted in FOTL Newsletter (Spring 2007), 3.

Susie Ries and State Rep. Jason Powell

President Susie Ries conferred with Representative Jason Powell at Tennessee Library Legislative Day.

FOTL Advocates for Libraries in Washington

Every year FOTL joins a Tennessee delegation in Washington during National Library Legislative Day, an occasion to ask Tennessee senators and representatives to support federal funding for public libraries and to enact other legislation that provides needed services to the American public through libraries.

Visit with Jim CooperOn May 8 the Tennessee delegation called on Representative Jim Cooper. Standing, from left, are Kent Oliver, director of the Nashville Public Library; Julie Webb, founding member of FOTL and member of the current advisory committee; Congressman Cooper; Vivian Wynn, coordinator of the Tennessee delegation; FOTL President Susie Webb Ries; Susan Earl, director of the Brentwood Library; and Ruth Kinnersley from Tennessee Library Association. In front are Jonathan Rummel, representing Secretary of State Tre Hargett, and Cara Huwieler from the Brentwood Library.

FOTL and the Tennessee Library Association

FOTLʻs affiliation with the Tennessee Library Association keeps us in touch with current developments in libraries and with the concerns of professional librarians as well. FOTLʼs president attends TLA board meetings, and for the past four years FOTL has made a presentation at the TLA annual conference. FOTL also has a role to play in planning and hosting the Trustees and Friends luncheon. Since 2011 FOTL and TLA have co-sponsored the Friend of the Year Award.

FOTL and United for Libraries

FOTL is a member of United for Libraries, formerly the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF). A division of the American Library Association, United for Libraries supports citizens who govern, promote, advocate, and fundraise for libraries; it brings together library trustees, advocates, friends, and foundations as they work to support libraries.