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Crowdfunding a Library Makerspace

Ralph Bingham and Jomathan Amey

Ralph Bingham (L) and Jomathan Amey

Ralph Bingham, Head, Reference and Digital Services, and Jonathan Amey, Youth Services Librarian, Gloucester County Library System (GCLS), presented an excellent description (including many practical tips) of how they conducted a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a makerspace.

Gloucester Library is part of a county library system in southern New Jersey which has 5 branches serving 14 communities and serves over 100,000 people. There were almost 400,000 visits to the library last year. Its strategic plan drove crowdfunding program. The plan states that the GCLS libraries are part of an informed, engaged, and connected community. Its mission is to provide community welcoming spaces where people can gather to learn, create, and have fun.

Here is the library’s technology goals and objective.

GCLS Technology Goals

The Glassboro branch of the library serves about 15,000 people. (Glassboro is located about 30 miles south of Philadelphia and is the home of Rowan University, which is famous as the site of a summit meeting between U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin in June 1967.) Its library serves as a meeting place and internet cafe. Glassboro was a center of glass making in the 1700s, and even today, its residents are extremely interested in “learning by doing” and improving themselves.

The Glassboro library was fortunate to have  the space for the makerspace. Network connections were in place; they applied for a grant but did not get it so they started a crowdfunding campaign. Here are some of the reasons for the makerspace.

Why a Makerspace?

They began by surveying the community.

Survey the Community

Be aware of possible legal barriers. Then pitch your idea to the decision makers and stakeholders.

Know exactly what you need and how much you want to spend. This kind of project takes a significant amount of time for the crowdfunding. When the project is finished, have a grand opening party which will provide PR for the future.

Choose a platform. Kickstarter is the most widely known, but it may not be the right choice for a library. They chose, an extension of IndieGogo that caters specifically to nonprofits. Prepare your proposal.

Prepare the proposal

Create a video that explains the mission of the campaign. Set your financial goal. (See latest issue of Make that has an article about crowdfunding.) Tell the public about your organization and what you will do with their money. Letters of support for the library from businesses are extremely helpful.

The Campaign (1)

The Campaign (2)

Have a party to celebrate when the project is completed. Here is the poster listing donors that was created for the party. Incentive gifts were also given to the donors.

Party poster

Use all available outlets to get the word out. Don’t underestimate the role of traditional media. (They got a $1000 donation as a result from a couple who weren’t even members of the library Friends but who saw an article in the newspaper!) Make the first donation yourself; money in the pot adds incentive to add to it. Be sure to open the space on time because donors want to see the results of the campaign. You may need to talk to your financial dept to find out how they want donations to be recorded, etc. The crowdsourcing campaign was successful; they raised about $5,000.

For details on the resulting makerspace, click here.

Here are a few highlights of the session.


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