Mob Rule Learning

All You Have to Do Is Ask

Budgets continue to be a major issue for most libraries. Lack of funding for programs, books, and staff has caused many libraries to make major cuts. As librarians, we know that the worse the economic times, the more people need the resources we offer. How do we bridge the funding gap?

There are two crowdsource movements online that are changing the way people raise money for, well, everything. Indiegogo and Kickstarter are websites where you can raise money for anything from a new business idea to funding for a homeless shelter. If it costs money, there are people online asking for it and there are plenty of people giving them money.

There have been a few high profile successes recently:

Just last week, Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal fame, launched the Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum campaign at Indiegogo. As I write this, the goal for the Tesla fundraiser was $850,000 and the actual amount raised is currently $921,483. Inman is the same guy who famously raised $220,024.00 for charity after being embroiled in a huge online argument with a lawyer, the lawyer’s wife, and a website that was stealing Inman’s content. In both instances, Inman’s stated goals were met in a matter of days for the Tesla fundraiser and in a matter of hours for the charity campaign.

Musicians are starting to break from the need to have big labels by raising money on kickstarter. Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra raised over a million dollars to fund their new album, and tour, a travel visual art display, and a beautiful art book. You read that right. A million dollars. Neil Gaiman, writer extraordinaire and Palmer’s husband, collaborated on the book/art side of the project.

One of my favorite indie musicians, Marc Gunn, used IgnitionDeck, a crowdfunding WordPress plugin, to fund his next album. Compared to the examples above, his $4,000 might seem small, but the success of the campaign means he will keep making great celtic music for his fans and he can continue to do what he loves.

Santa Cruz Public Library ran a kickstarter campaign to raise money for an art installation of black and white photos that were taken at the library. They needed $5,000 for the materials and labor. Sixty-five people gave SCPL $5,150 to fund their community art project. The Heritage Public Library and the Montreal Children’s Library were the only two other libraries I could find on kickstarter or indiegogo. Both still need money to reach their goal.

Even with financial times being tough, people still want to give money to others. I think kickstarter and indiegogo have been successful because people like giving on a micro level. They appreciate knowing that their money is going to something local, a cause they deeply care about, or to a person whose story matters to them.

Libraries have stories that matter to people. We are part of the community. We are local. People care about their library. There are funding needs in libraries, big and small, that could be funded by a well publicized crowdfunding campaign. You’ll never know the answer, unless you ask.

About Michelle Boule

Michelle Boule is a geek librarian living in Houston, Texas. She went to Texas A&M University and received her MLS from Texas Woman’s University. In 2008, she was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker. Michelle has created online learning environments, taught in-person classes, presented on a wide variety of technology and training subjects, shelved books, read books, written articles, organized unconferences, and participated in subversive activities in an effort to save the world. Michelle can be found online at A Wandering Eyre (

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