Awesome Libraries Chapter provides seed funds for library innovations

Joshua Finnell

A commitment to library innovations led a small group of librarians, including iSchool alumnus Joshua Finnell (MS '07), to create the Awesome Libraries Chapter. The chapter originated from a working group of the Library Pipeline, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting structural changes by providing opportunities, funding, and services that improve the library as an institution and librarianship as a profession. Finnell, head of research and instruction and associate professor in the University Libraries at Colgate University, started the chapter with group members Bonnie Tijerina, researcher at the Data & Society Research Institute in New York, and Robin Champieux, scholarly communication librarian at Oregon Health & Science University.

"We wanted to provide an easy, no-strings attached seed fund for library projects and ideas that often fall outside of mainstream funding models," explained Finnell. "We chose to become a chapter within the Awesome Foundation because it provided us with ready-made infrastructure, a recognizable brand for publicity and marketing, and the flexibility to create and run a chapter in line with our principles and with a global reach."

In 2017 the chapter was launched as a six-month pilot project. According to Finnell, the Awesome Libraries Chapter is one of only four themed chapters that accepts applications from any geographic location.

"Most Awesome Foundation chapters are geographically located in an individual city and consist of approximately ten trustees (often ten friends), all of whom contribute $100 month to fund one project a month for $1,000," he said. 

Many of the chapter's early financial sponsors came from the Library Pipeline. Trustees are tasked with discussing and voting on projects each quarter and providing the funding for each project, which will amount to a $300 contribution per trustee for 2018. However, in recruiting and accepting new trustees, the chapter is committed to expanding opportunities for participation.

"Through the generosity of many individuals, several of whom wish to remain anonymous, we were able to create 'sponsored trustee' positions, alleviating the financial barrier of interested and qualified individuals from serving as trustees. As a result, we currently have trustees from around the globe and from almost every sector of librarianship," said Finnell.

The first project that received funding from the chapter is a collaboration between The Warehouse Project & Gallery, a teen arts center, and the Summit (IL) Public Library, in which teens will celebrate the library's upcoming centennial by photographing and interviewing one hundred local residents about the library’s importance and impact on the community. The exhibit will be mounted in the library for the celebration. 

One of the international projects funded by the chapter is TchadEducationPlus, which aims to collect and digitize materials and distribute them free of charge to reduce the educational divide for approximately 800,000 secondary education teachers and students throughout the country of Chad. 

The chapter is currently seeking projects, trustees, and sponsors; more information is available on the chapter's website.

"At the Symposium on the Future of Libraries at ALA Midwinter, Bonnie, Robin, and I will talk about the success and challenges of the chapter and how we envision this model affecting change in libraries and communities," said Finnell. "We will also hold our first-ever live pitch event! We have eight participants from the around the country pitching their best library idea."

Research Areas:
Tags:
Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

Meet Rahul Chandran (MS/IM ’20), Product Manager at Yahoo!

After receiving his bachelor's degree in computer science from Visvesvaraya Technological University in India, Rahul Chandran joined Deloitte Consulting as a business technology analyst. It was there that he realized how much he enjoyed solving customer's problems. This experience motivated Chandran to further his education in a master's program that would best complement his professional goals.

Rahul Chandran

Kathryn Harris named Illinois Library Luminary

Kathryn Harris (MS/LIS '71), former director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, has been inducted as an Illinois Library Luminary. The Illinois Library Luminary program, an initiative of the Illinois Library Association (ILA), recognizes those who have made a significant contribution to Illinois libraries.

Kathryn Harris

Noble named MacArthur Fellow

Internet studies and digital media scholar Safiya Noble (MS '09, PhD '12) has been named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Noble, an associate professor in the Department of Gender Studies and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), is among 25 fellows who will each receive $625,000 in unrestricted support over the next five years.

Safiya Noble

iSchool to host JCDL 2021

The iSchool at Illinois will host the 2021 ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL), which will be held virtually from September 27-30. JCDL is a major international forum focusing on digital libraries and associated technical, practical, and social issues. The conference will feature paper and poster presentations as well as a wide variety of tutorials and workshops offering hands-on experiences with different digital libraries and online archives.

JCDL logo 2021

ISAA seeks nominations for annual awards

The iSchool Alumni Association (ISAA) is seeking nominations for three distinguished awards. The awards are given annually at the iSchool alumni reception held at the American Library Association conference. The deadline for nomination is October 15, 2021.

Alma Mater