Sunday, March 29, 2009

Libraries for the Future, National Non-Profit, Closing After 17 Years

LFF Leaves Working Programs, Innovative Approaches in Hundreds of Libraries

NEW YORK, NY—March 18, 2009— After nearly two decades of leadership sparking innovation and investment in the nation's public libraries, the national non-profit organization Libraries for the Future (LFF) has announced that it has ceased operations.

“We have accomplished so many of our initial goals to re-establish the role of libraries at the center of our communities,” said LFF Executive Director Bruce Astrein. “There is more work to be done and it is unfortunate that the current economic climate has made it impossible for us to continue. That is especially true now, as we’ve been hearing from many libraries that the economic downtown has increased demand for library services just as it is squeezing library funding. We are hopeful that public libraries can draw upon LFF’s legacy of programs and resources to mobilize community support for their critical services.”

LFF was founded in 1992 during a time of deep funding cuts to champion libraries at the national level and to help individual libraries become leaders in technology, community development, cultural vitality and democratic participation. Built upon the vision of writer and activist Harriet Barlow and a small group of library advocates, LFF was the first national citizen-advocacy group to uphold the free, public library as a vast potential resource in our midst. In subsequent years, LFF helped libraries navigate the transition to the digital age, build community partnerships, and expand their services to patrons across the lifespan under the leadership of Diantha Dow Schull, a member of the organization’s initial planning team and LFF’s executive director until her retirement in December 2008.

In addition to continuing its founding advocacy work, LFF hosted forums connecting experts across disciplines, published influential reports on library use and potential (including Long Overdue), and developed and oversaw programs that have run in close to 400 libraries in 33 states—most of which will continue to run. LFF programs help libraries address a wide array of issues including early childhood literacy (Family Place Libraries), physical and brain health across the lifespan (Fit for Life), the desire of active older adults for meaningful work and community connections (Lifelong Access Libraries), and the urgent need for free, reliable consumer health information (Health Access Libraries). In addition, LFF is proud of statewide networks of libraries trained in its “EqualAccess” approach, strengthening the role of libraries as vibrant community centers.

Through LFF, the nation’s libraries have benefitted from the support and vision of close to 100 funders, including major support from the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund, the HKH Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation, Metropolitan Life Foundation, the Petersmeyer Family Foundation, and the Pritzker Early Childhood Foundation. We are also grateful to partners such as the Middle Country Public Library, which will continue to oversee Family Place Libraries.

On behalf of our past and current national board and council members,” said Jeffrey S. Scherer, Chair of the LFF Board of Directors, “we want to express our sincere gratitude to the staff, consultants and funders who have ensured that meaningful and important services and programs were delivered to the libraries of the United States. Without their resources, dedication and intelligence, LFF's mission could not have been accomplished."

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