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Crowdfunding Tips and Tools

Nancy Herther

Nancy Herther

Nancy Herther, Librarian at the University of Minnesota, presented a overview of how libraries and researchers are using crowdfunding to raise funds. Crowdfunding is a new tool available to us; we are in a new era of philanthropy. Collaboration is occurring everywhere, and we are crowdsharing to develop a new sense of community. (A 12-page PDF reviewing basic data is available here.)

Crowdfunding is still in its formative stages and is not regulated for individuals at present. For smaller communities, crowdfunding as a source of funds is a key factor. Many government agencies are currently providing funds to communities; educational organizations are having their budgets slashed. In this new environment, we must get people to realize that they will have to raise funds themselves.

Here is a definition of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding definition

The industry is expected to grow to over $300 billion by 2025. There are several types of crowdfunding: equity, donation-based, and reward-based.

What makes a compelling campaign? 

Effective Crowdfunding

It is important to complete every field on the application. You definitely should have a project with an attainable goal. Pictures and video are key. Emotional response will motivate people who believe in the cause to donate. Offering thank you gifts reduces altruism and increases donations.

It is good to start with your own internal network in promoting your campaign. Keep track of all your contacts for solicitations, and approach local groups, foundations, and societies. Use websites, newsletters, and other forms of communication to get tied into the community. Do background research and brainstorm compelling ideas for the use of the money you hope to raise.  Do an environmental scan to find out what else is going on; chat with other people about what they are doing. What is it about your proposal that makes it compelling? Virtually every college and university in the U.S. has a crowdfunding platform. Everybody needs money, and to be successful, you need to formulate a clear vision of your ultimate goals. The “sell” is the goal, not the process or the various elements of the plan.

Finding Your Social Media Voice

Social Media Voice Panel

(L-R) Kirsten Mentzer, Meghan Kowalski, Alex Zealand, Lennea Bower

This session was a conversation among the panelists:

  • Kirsten Mentzer, Technology Specialist, Northern Virginia Community College,
  • Meghan Kowalski, Head, Preservation, Catholic University of America,
  • Alex Zealand, Web Editor and New Media Developer, Arlington Public Library, and
  • Lennea Bower, Manager, Virtual Services, Montgomery County, MD Public Libraries.

If you are trying to figure out how to develop your social voice, where do you start? Determine your social media environment. Is there a policy in place or do you have to create one? What is the political climate in your town? Who do you answer to? Who is paying attention? Who will contribute? Survey all these things before you start.

Step away from the purely announcement mode and develop a personality. Know where you want to go. The stage where your accounts are has an effect on your social voice. It is good to have a vision of what you want to be in the library. Be engaging as contrasted to strictly informational. Everyone has a different case study, different environment, so what works for you today won’t work the same as next year. Constantly evaluate what you are doing. The way you do something probably won’t be what you expected.

How do you develop your voice? What does it say about you? What do you want it to say? Ask these basic questions as you look at your social media accounts. You can adapt your voice over time; determine how professional or casual you want it to be. Sometimes your users dictate what voice you want. A casual upbeat voice will attract undergraduates; graduate students tend to be more professional. Sometimes the platform dictates how you speak to users; Facebook is different from Twitter or Instagram, for example. If the library were a human being, how would it treat its users? Let your voice show its affection for users; the library loves its patrons and wants them to love it. Be respectful, kind, polite, and loving. Have a voice book for your social media platforms.

How many accounts and channels do you have? Match your platform and message, and tailor your voice to the channel. Twitter limits how much information you can discuss because of its 140 character limit; Instagram allows you to put up as much as you want. How you say something is governed by how you can use a platform. How many platforms do you need to be on, and how much time will you have to maintain them? There is a learning curve for people who don’t use social media. Think about what you can use and which platform does things well; many tools are available, and you can customize them for your use.

How many contributors do you have? Can other people use the site without you needing to spend a lot of time coaching them? If staff members tweet professionally, you can re-tweet them or create separate professional accounts for them. Try to get one librarian in each branch or each department to use social media so that you can have news from across the system which can be put on the main channel.

What is the sustainability of your voice? Who will take over the social media when you are no longer there? Will they take on your voice or create their own? If somebody is going away, make sure their voice is covered. Can you keep their voice going? Make sure your vocabulary and brand are consistent.

Social media environment. Know what is going on with:

  • Politics: local, national, internal
  • The activity level of your users: engagement vs. lurking
  • Who are you talking to?
  • Current trends, memes, and hashtags.

We are getting more scrutiny from the public because of the many changes taking place, which is strongly affecting us. Don’t use hashtags that can be easily searched on Twitter, and don’t use them unless your users are. Remember that this your social media voice, not your personal voice. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to remain neutral and unbiased, which can be difficult to do when you are passionate about something. You may feel like you are putting things out into the void, but there are usually many lurkers which you cannot see. Consider if this is the moment for something to be discussed. Know what a hashtag means before you tweet about it; you can put your foot in your mouth if you don’t know what you are tweeting about

If you have a team, you must ask if your organization will allow you to use personal account. You don’t want to invite trolls into your staff’s personal space; some people don’t want to have anything to do with work outside of the office.


Analyzing Collections for Decision Making

Analyzing Content Panel

(L-R) Diana Plunkett, Angie Miraflor, Lutgarda Barnachea

Being Lean But Not Mean: Weeding Print Collections to Improve Services

Lutgarda Barnachea, Assessment Coordinator, University of Maryland Libraries, described a comprehensive analysis of library collections at the University of Maryland. The goals were to reduce the footprint of the print collection and improve services to the community. They wanted the project to go as quickly as possible; it is now in its  second year. The main library is the focus of the weeding program; some branch libraries are also participating.

Motivations for weeding the print collection were:

Impetus for Weeding

Entering the building had become like entering a warehouse of books with the result that the collections were becoming disorganized. “Lost” materials were not really lost but were likely somewhere on the shelves. The result was a slowing of foot traffic in the library. The concept of the library as a space is changing.  In a series of interviews, students listed their needs and wants:Users' Needs/Wants

The research that was conducted had three phases:

  1. An ethnographic study with interviews, drawing sessions asked students for their ideas on what the ideal space would  look like,
  2. Users were observed inside the library. It was interesting to note that they wanted both quiet and noisy areas as well as flexible areas. They also wanted to be able to consult with library professionals. And the most surprising thing was that they wanted to  keep the books.
  3. The survey data was given to a graduate class in architecture who designed the “ideal” library building. They also consulted with an architect to assess current spaces and see which ones could be easily changed or reorganized.

Content analysis: They looked at big picture using OCLC WorldShare to see the uniqueness of the collection and found that only about 15% of the items held are truly unique to the library.  Studies of publication dates and subjects were also conducted.

Distribution by Publication Date

Subject Distribution

Usage: ALEPH reports generated charts of loan counts by call number, as well as shelf list reports by other criteria. Because of the wide variety of available reprots, it is important to have descriptive names for them. Collection development librarians marked items to be removed. Here are some strategies for weeding.

Strategies for Weeding

Other opportunities to reduce the collection footprint include moving items to a remote storage facility about 2 miles away from library. Here are others:

Reducing the Footprint

The results of this exercise were that a makerspace was created, rooms with laptops were set up. Some rooms have furniture that can be rearranged by users.

Results of Weeding

Lessons learned. Don’t be hindered by limited money.  Listen to users’ concerns.

Lessons learned

Angie Miraflor and Diana Plunkett described tools for data-driven decisions at the Brooklyn NY public library (BPL). 37.5% of the population of Brooklyn is foreign born which raises challenges for the library. With 58 branches, BPL is the 5th largest library system in the U.S. It serves more than 15 million residents and circulates more than 30 million items in 15 languages. It has the largest free Wi-Fi network in the borough.

BookOps is a shared technical service organization serving both the New York Public Library  and BPL. It does collection management for both organizations and researches technical services. It processes 800,000 items in-house. Because it is a combination of two services, constant communication is important. Libraries watch their communities and what they are checking out and communicate that to the BookOps staff. BookOps works with vendors and does negotiations and makes budget recommendations based on a system-wide view.

Collection HQ software is used to produce reports. BPL produces a list of “grubby” (well worn) and dead items, top authors being checked out, and a popular subject summary to detect areas were more items should be obtained. This is evidence-based decision making.

Future projects include a Grubby items refresh to transfer copies between branches and Floating rebalancing to know what branches are overstocked and understocked. It is important to be thoughtful and careful about when you make changes. Another future project is to create staff-friendly training to produce local experts.

Knowledge of the collection is very critical. Dashboards have been created in Tableau. Details of any item can be created in several formats. It is possible to compare monthly data for this year vs. last year, for example. The library’s historic data goes back to late 1800s. Here is an example chart showing  hourly visit data.

Hourly visit data

This shows that Wednesdays at 3 PM are a popular time, which helps figure out staffing levels needed, when to do programs, etc.

Right Place; Right Time at #cildc

In her keynote talk opening the second day of the Computers in Libraries conference, author and cultural analyst Patricia Martin had the audience on their feet chanting “Right place; Right time.” It’s the perfect time to be a librarian, she assured us. Digital is changing who we are as librarians and is affecting the role of libraries in the community.

Her research into identity and ambition stemmed from a NASA request for help in determining how to reposition NASA to reach out to younger people and get them interested in space exploration. After algorithmically mining several Big Data sources and following 90 young people for 5 years, Martin concluded that our institutions are losing their impact. Job status, family, location, and organized religion are losing relevance, which puts us into situation of role ambiguity. People are feeling stressed about their identity.

This led Martin to postulate that a new relationship between ambitions and identity had 3 parts: Rope, Edgepart, and Muster. Our identity today is more like a rope of many strands than a linear yardstick. As we change jobs, move around, and try out different personas, we’re adding strands to our ropes. Edgepart makes us good at change so we can survive. Muster encourages us to start small to achieve big goals. Start with small teams, not advisory committees of 50 people.

Librarians should concentrate on “who.” Who do we want our patrons to be? She thinks we should see the user experience as a path to discovery and that the library should be seen as a community. Identity rituals, such as getting a library card, can solidify the community ideal. Who do we want as colleagues for our small teams, big goals? Who do we want to be as librarians? It’s not about providing information anymore since nobody needs more information.

The job of the librarian is much broader than in the past. It’s about growing and building community. Librarians don’t have a job, they have a platform for change. People need to be inspired and, through libraries, imaginations that are raised and expanded.

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