Crowdfunding is when individuals come together as a crowd to fund projects by other individuals and organizations. Often funders get perks or rewards for their contribution, ranging from small benefits like a thank you post card or a tote bag to original artwork or a private concert. The two most popular crowdfunding platforms are Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Recently there have been some amazing projects produced as a result of crowdfunding. Musician Amanda Palmer crowdfunded over a million dollars for her independent album and tour through her Kickstarter campaign. Crowdfunding has repeatedly proven itself as a way to fund creative projects like Palmer’s as well as literary magazines and documentaries. Technology and science have also jumped on the crowdfunding bandwagon. Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, launched a triumphant campaign to buy back the former laboratory of scientist Nikola Tesla that will eventually be turned into a museum. Over the weekend evolutionary pharmacologist Ethan Perlstein successfully crowdfunded a meth lab…for research! Data from the lab’s research will be openly available and the research will eventually be published in an Open Access journal.
But what has this to do with the library world?
The library world and its friends are already a part of it! Unglue.it is using crowdfunding to share books with the world by paying publishers and/or authors to publish ebooks in Creative Commons. In September, Annie introduced you to EveryLibrary. Two weeks ago EveryLibrary got 78 new donors during a Twitter librarians vs. Tumblr librarians. Librarians Justin Hoenke and Kate Tkacik headed up the fundraising by fueling the competitive side social media users resulting in $1,700 raised for the library advocacy organization. Utilizing social media can also help crowdfund donations to aid libraries in a time of crisis, for example when rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Crowfunding gives the individual power to make change happen and to involve others in the adventure.
One current and exciting crowdfunding library project is the Antelope Lending Library, which is campaigning on Indiegogo to get $20,000 for the future library’s first year of rent. The idea began with Cassandra Elton, a current LIS graduate student at the University of Iowa (one of us!). The majority of Iowa City events are held downtown, which requires traveling by car or the city bus for residents from the southeast side of the city. Elton saw a need for the community who weren’t able to easily access the great events the city has to offer. The Antelope Lending Library will provide a destination for community events, educational programs, and of course borrowing books all within walking distance. As Elton describes, “For the children growing up on the Southeast side downtown is a destination for special trips, not a common occurrence. By having a library in a place where children can walk on their own after school, we increase their chances to participate in events and activities designed to promote literacy and learning.” You can follow along with the Antelope Lending Library’s progress on Twitter.
The best crowdfunding projects are about community. Amanda Palmer’s campaign was successful because the relationship she has cultivated over the years with her fans, and people wanted to be part of something awesome like establishing a Tesla Museum or funding a meth research lab. The Antelope Lending Library is a prime example of why community matters and it’s reminding us of the following: do it for the kids.
Maybe not all libraries will be crowdfunded like the Antelope Lending Library, but libraries can use crowdfunding as a tool to supplement their regular funding or grants. Crowdfunding creates an opportunity for learning, reaching out to further involve your local or internet community, and moving forward through innovating ideas. Maybe it could be for Science Saturdays at your public library, hosting a youth slam poetry festival, an archive finally getting to digitize its collection, or funding materials to record oral histories of locals. If you have a good idea and can match that with a strong budget and a great marketing plan, you can successfully crowdfund for your library.
What do you think? What projects have you supported through crowdfunding? Do you have any library crowdfunding ideas?