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ALA Conference 2016: Preparing for Philanthropy

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      Dreams, Dollars & Donations: Preparing for Philanthropy

      Developing a vision that demonstrates how your library’s interior and exterior spaces can support your organization’s mission will help potential donors and stakeholders see the value of investing in your capital needs. Debbie Moss (assistant director of the Orange County Library System), Paula Beswick (director of the Bozeman Library Foundation), and I addressed this topic in a presentation we gave at the annual American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Orlando, Florida, on June 27th. Our talk focused on illustrating ways that a library can engage the community, library building, and site to get the most out of any-sized donation.

      My portion of the program touched on the importance of creating a project vision and how to go about doing so. I discussed three primary points:

      The building is a tool.
      Libraries have many tools in their toolkit that allow you to optimally serve your customers, such as programming, collections, staff, outside partners, and technology. The building and grounds also serve as tools for achieving success. Indeed, a building that is misaligned with an organization’s goals can hinder success.

      Aligning your library building and grounds with your mission involves incorporating them into your strategic planning discussions. Building and site, collections, technologies, staff, partners, and programming function as cogs in a well-oiled machine. All must work together to effectively move your organization forward.

      A clear vision is critical.
      The critical first step in creating alignment is to craft a vision for your project. It takes time and space to consider the big picture. An effective project vision should be aspirational, describing an ideal future state for your building. It should be inspirational and connect on an emotional level with stakeholders and potential funders so it is memorable and compelling. And, of course, it should be aligned with the organization’s mission and values.

      The process of establishing a project vision is nearly as important as the end result itself. The process of discussing goals and defining success gets stakeholders on the same page regarding what constitutes success and may also help to identity what is not important. The visioning process must stay focused on the big picture to be effective, rather than getting mired in details.

      For example, when envisioning a new central library for Madison, Wisconsin, we asked the stakeholders to imagine several “What Ifs” (e.g., “What if the library was voted the coolest spot in Madison for an outdoor concert, art opening, or wedding?” and “What if the library could positively impact global climate change?”) to get them thinking outside the current state. This exercise led to deep and fruitful discussions about what would resonate with the community to make the renovated library a true downtown destination—the measure of success for this particular project.

      Visual representation is key.
      A picture is worth 1000 words. Never has that statement been more true than now, with ready access to icons, imagery, and infographics 24/7. Putting your project’s vision and goals into graphic form—plan, image, mood board, sketch—will exponentially increase your chances for success by capturing the spirit and impact of the project.

    • the McAllen Main Library serves the needs of its community with multilingual collections and program offerings
    • the Madison Central Library renewal aligns with the Library's vision to support the next generation of leaders
    • a great example of "a picture is worth 1000 words," this rendering of the Tulsa Central Library shows how a new garden will support library programming
    • About the Author

      Traci Engel Lesneski

      • Interior Designer / Principal
      • traci@msrdesign.com
      • 612 991 7764
      • View Bio