Crowd Funding

What could you do with a bit more money? Have a project idea? Get investors.

I’m in the midst of a cool experience thanks to Kickstarter. I was transfixed by the “People’s Library” that sprouted up during the Occupy Wall Street movement. So much so that when I heard someone wanted to create a book about the phenomenon I followed a Facebook post from a friend that led me to the opportunity to be a part of the creation of the book, as an investor. I ponied up along with 282 other people to make this possibility a reality.

I believed in this project, I thought it was a good idea and I wanted to help.

I bet many people feel that way about things you’d like to do at your library, they just don’t know about your plans.

Greening the WOMM Experiment

This month marks the launch of a little experiment at our System. I’m using our Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM) Experiment to spread the word about what a good investment the library is in the context of “green.”

Our WOMM Experiment started last year when our Marketing Committee decided to put into practice what we kept hearing is the simplest, most effective (and cheapest) way to get the word out – word of mouth.

So our 66 libraries agreed to all promote one product/service/idea System wide for an entire month with a little centralized help. To help them out we’d do a little 30-second training or 5-question quiz to raise frontline staff awareness. We gave each library a circ desk poster with talking points on the back that staff could use as a cheat sheet if patrons asked questions (feedback on this was that it was simple yet brilliant!) and supplied libraries with sample newsletter blurbs, press releases and web graphics.

This was pretty easy to track when we promote a database but how about with concepts?

So this month is “Save Green by Going Green @your library”:

Our Marketing Committee agreed to this topic after my System-wide Green Your Library Challenge idea got shot down by one of our five counties. (Why yes, I was incredibly bummed about this!) So I sold it as a one-month commitment rather than a full year by demonstrating that this topic not only gives libraries the opportunity to convey to their communities how cost effective/efficient they are, it also gives libraries an opening to focus more internal attention on sustainable building and operations choices. This helps us transition our statewide advocacy message through the timeline for the passage of the NYS budget and allows for a new “tweak” on the messages we’ve been using for the past two months that libraries are a good use of public tax dollars. (If you’re not in NY you may not know but we’re battling a 10% cut that ultimately puts our funding level back to 1994 levels…)

We showed libraries three different ways to approach the sale of our message, “Save Green by Going Green”:

1. Patrons who use libraries “save green” by minimizing the volume of “stuff” they purchase, and “go green” since they reduce what they are having shipped to their home, drive around less to purchase “stuff” and dispose of less “stuff.” Check out these videos for more on this:
o The Story of Stuff
o Collaborative Consumption

2. Patrons can learn how to live a more sustainable (aka green) lifestyle through the library’s collection and programming. We’ve provided a list of display and programming ideas for libraries to use when planning.

3. Libraries that have invested funds into sustainable building features (solar, geothermal, daylighting, etc.) can use this opportunity to spotlight themselves as a model for people to learn from and to tout the cost savings earned through the use of these features, reinforcing how well they’ve used tax payer dollars. If the library is interested in exploring their sustainable facility options, I’m conducting a “10 Ways to Green Your Library” workshop to coincide with the release of the State Construction Aid applications in April. Energy efficient projects are eligible under the construction grant application guidelines.

The circ desk poster is a bit experimental – for the first time ever I incorporated a QR Code. I embedded a link to the New York Library Association’s Library Value Calculator to give patrons a chance to see how smart they are for using the library!

I’m coaching libraries to keep it simple. Pick one of the three themes and go with it but drive home the message that as tax payers and regular library users – whether by personal use or good, sustainable facility choices made by the library – we all save green when we go green through the library.

Think Spring

Here in the Northeast the gardening buzz is starting to pick up. I can actually see daffodil sprouts near one of our basement windows. It looks odd next to the 12 inches of snow and ice still piled up on most of the lawn.

I just caught wind of a library out in Kansas doing a community wide Green Fair and it made me start to think of all the programming libraries can be planning right now to ride the wave of people’s joy over the promise of spring.

Programming is a centerpiece of marketing. At MHLS we’ve developed targeted marketing tools over the years through our Building Your Base projects and programming to reach a specific audience and targeted programming has been one of the most effective. Marketing yourself as the hub of “green” can draw in new audiences and build your support in the community – and that makes good “sustainable sense.”

Here’s a list of spring-ish themed programming ideas:

  • Spring Cleaning
    • Reduce & Reuse @your library: a program to introduce all you have to offer in your collection (books, movies, music and magazines) and through your web site (downloadable content, magazines, newspapers) that can help people buy and store less.
    • Natural Cleaning Products
    • Recycling Showcase: Invite your county’s Solid Waste Department to come in and talk about how to get rid of household “stuff,” e-waste, yard waste and more without dumping it in a landfill.
    • What to do with…. (how to dispose properly of ewaste, household chemicals, batteries…)
  • Gardening
    • Rainwater Catchment
    • Preparing the Garden
    • Edible Flowers
    • Low-Maintenance Gardens
    • Community Garden (@the library?)
    • Landscape Design
    • Hanging Gardens
    • Container Gardens
    • Learn from a Master Gardener
    • Garden Software
    • Youth Garden Grants Program [National Gardening Association]
  • Food
    • Eating Local & In Season
    • Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)
    • Growing Your Own
    • Canning
  • Home Maintenance/Improvement
    • Natural Lawn Care (mulching, killing weeds without polluting your local ecosystem, non-gas powered lawnmowers…)
    • Less Toxic Choices for Maintaining Your Home (low-VOC products – paint, sealants, caulk)
    • Is Solar Right for your Home?
    • Wind Power Generation
    • Tool Lending Library
  • Programs for Kids – childrens’ services staff are some of the most creative people around! Challenge them to come up with programs that instill a love and wonder for nature, environmentally friendly crafts, “save the planet” education
  • Movie Night:
    • Blue Vinyl
    • Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
    • Erin Brockovich
    • FernGully: The Last Rainforest
    • Hoot
    • No Impact Man
    • The End of Suburbia
    • The Warriors of Qiugang
    • The Yes Men Fix The World
    • Wall-E
    • Winged Migration

Got more ideas? Send them my way either in the comments below or via email. I’ll create a master list of green programming ideas and share them!


Book Donation Policy

Every year I get a lot of books for Christmas and I’m at the point where my shelves are at capacity, I’m trying to stick to a “one in, one out” policy at home now which means I’ll end up with a box of books to donate to my local library. I try to think to myself, “would someone else actually buy this?” Like if it’s a travel book that’s a decade old or a classic that’s a little too classic and is falling apart, those I will not foist on my library I’ll recycle them myself.

But many community members are not as thoughtful as me… maybe that’s because they are not the facilitator of the MHLS Friends Support Group and they haven’t heard how much the volunteer book sorters loathe donors who drop off moldy, musty, damaged books that no one would actually pay money for.

Each time this subject comes up at the Friends Support Group meetings it is news to at least one group that they can recycle books, I follow up with an email to the group about where to recycle the books and wonder how many others are doing the midnight dumpster dumps (because everyone knows we get yelled at for throwing away books!) rather than recycling what they can.

If you haven’t already, create a policy that defines what you take and what you will not, check out this example from the Plymouth Public Library. Here’s what I like about it:

  • Defines when the library accepts donations
  • States the library’s right to dispose of donations that do not meet the needs of the library or their book sale
  • Defines what is accepted, in terms of format, currency and condition
  • Expresses gratitude for thinking of donating to the library

In a perfect world your library would also have written sorting criteria for volunteers that would include what to do with books unworthy of the book sale, it would be great if it defined recycling as part of the procedures and instructions for what to do to prep materials for recycling and what condition an item would have to be in to be unacceptable for recycling in your community. Call your recycling center or transfer station (usually municipal or county based) to understand their rules.

For Disappointed Donors: I like the idea of creating defined times of year for when the library will accept donations. This helps the library manage storage of donations and schedule volunteers in a more streamlined way. But just because you have the policy doesn’t mean everyone in your community will have read it or follow it (I know, scandalous!) So occasionally a well-meaning citizen will arrive at your library with a trunk full of their unwanted treasure for the library when you are emphatically, but politely, not accepting. Help out by having a list of alternate organizations that are open to accepting donations. Check out this “Re-Use Guide” put out by the County of San Mateo.

Targeted Marketing

The Cumberland County Public Library in Fayetteville, NY has a pathfinder on their web site called “Thinking Green, Working Green” to support “Consumer, Developer, Builder and Other Business Professionals.” The site provides suggested search terms to use in the library catalog and beyond and a concise list of web sites.

This is a good example of targeting those in your community that might not think the library has anything for them. It demonstrates a level of consciousness not only about the topic but about marketing to a definable segment of the community that may already be sharing information amongst themselves. Great example of how to tap into an existing group and make the library relevant to them

“What does it mean to “be green”?

Nice, concise summary from Tufts University’s Office of Sustainability:

Being green is a commitment to:

1. discover best practices
2. innovate when solutions don’t exist
3. reduce waste and inefficiencies
4. adopt and embrace new habits
5. measure and celebrate progress.

You do these things every day; now try doing them with a green lens.

#4: Visit Your Local Library

The Daily Green shall be forgiven for calling us a “surprising” way to save money, it’s great that they included us in their best tips for “getting more out of life while helping the planet.” We’re #4:

“Instead of buying small mountains of books, CDs, DVDs and even magazines that you barely use, check materials out of your neighborhood library, or relax inside the quiet halls and browse on site. Over time, you can save a nice pile of cash, and you’ll help divert paper and plastics from landfills.”

Go Green Cheer (includes directive for a “rabid frenzy”!)

As I poked around library web sites in MA to find out what they were doing in conjunction with their Summer Reading Program theme of “Go Green” I came across this gem – the “Go Green @your library Skit” which includes a number of “cheers” that I would pay good money to see done in my libraries!

Favorite line from the script? “(Continue for as long as it takes to whip students into a rabid frenzy of excitement. Teachers will love you for this. Conclude with lots of cheering and jumping around)”

Here’s a teaser:

Encore Bonus Cheer:
Lib 1: Global warming got you down?
Lib 2: Go to the library in your town
Lib 1: Soon there won’t be any school.
Lib 2: But books will always keep you cool.
Lib 1: Recycle a can or plant a flower
Lib 2: Knowledge is a sustainable power!
In Unison: Reduce Reuse Recycle and READ!!!

Go Green @your library in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is doing Go Green @your library as their Summer Reading Program theme this year! “Reading Helps Grow Big Ideas” is their tag line. Teen theme: tnk grEn.

Some of the programs that caught my eye:

Looks like the Memorial Hall Library (Andover, MA) is extending the theme into the Fall, they’ve got some great programs lined up:

  • Greener Living Fair
  • Mercury Thermometer Exchange
  • Community Shredding event
  • Green Transportation program with featured speaker John F. Paul, AAA’s Car Doctor
  • “Climate Change in New England” Led by Tina Woolston, Project Manager for Sustainability at Earthwatch Institute.
  • “How to Live a Greener Lifestyle” presented by Dan Ruben, Executive Director of Boston Green Tourism

This line up gets you thinking – who in your community could come and do a presentation at your library? You don’t have to live near a major metropolitan area to find experts in the fields of conservation, energy efficiency, natural habitats, recycling, eating local… Most speakers in these fields are looking for opportunities to spread the word – invite them in!

Green Music Group Challenge

This could be a cool program idea, particularly with teens:

Current challenge deadline is coming up fast, July 30, but it looks like there are more challenges to come!

Challenge #8 just asks you to film yourself and your friends outside, not to too tough, particularly for those smart libraries that invested in a Flip Mino.