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What can you do with an operating budget of about $175,000, one director and four part time staff members? A whole lot, if you’re Tully Free Library. The small public library in Tully has recently come up in the news for big reasons: they hosted a New York Times bestselling author for a book-signing, they hosted an Olympian for a book and t-shirt signing, and now they’re being lauded by Library Journal for a clever beach book buggy!

When Lorraine Tickner retired as director of the Tully Free Library in 2011, she continued working part-time and helped the new director, Matt DeLaney, learn the ropes. Matt came with library management experience from Troy and Albany public libraries, and immediately noticed a substantial difference in library use and culture. The rural environment of Tully, which has a population of less than 3,000, provides a quiet atmosphere where Matt, his staff, and 20+ volunteers can embark on fantastic new projects that get the community involved and active in the library.

Tully Free LibraryDirector Matt DeLaney

One popular project, the book buggy on the beach, developed when Matt and his staff reflected on the low turnout for their summer reading program. How can you bring teens to the library when the beach at Green Lake is only half a mile away? Instead of competing with the beach, the library teamed up with it. Matt found a used book cart on Craigslist, a local carpenter built it up to withstand the weather, and a local artist gave it a beautiful paint job, complete with a dragon and knight. Teen volunteers from the Teen Advisory Council replenished the book cart with donated books once per week, and the Parks and Recreation Department lifeguards at the beach opened and closed the cart each day.

Beach book buggy in action Pride of Tully t-shirt for Lopez Lomong's visit

Since Tully is known for having a passionate running community, the library developed a turkey trot fun run (which you can read more about here). A third of the village showed up to the event and helped raise over $3,000 for the library!

A particularly strong relationship the library has built has been with the local schools, both of which are conveniently right next door.  Students can return books at the library or the high school library, regardless of where the books were checked out.  Teens volunteer in the library’s Teen Advisory Council, others come in on a regular basis to help in the library, and still others come up with projects they can sink their teeth and their interests into.  One local high school senior has developed a marketing plan for the library, and another has helped found a journalism club.  This journalism club has evolved into a new plan for the library website as a community blog.  Matt wants to pursue this as a model for library projects: identify a community need (e.g. a centralized website to find local news for Tully), and match this need with a volunteer’s passion.

Matt is working on turning the upstairs storage area into a functional space for the community to useKeeping track of all those innovative ideas!

Check out the other amazing things Tully Free Library is doing in their October newsletter.

By the way, Matt recommends you check out Plank Road Magazine to keep up with the cultural events of Central New York south of Syracuse.