Spring 2017

Kickstarting a far away library

background

The Rocky Mountain Land Library is an outdoor-themed library and arts center breathing new life into a former sheep and cattle ranch outside of South Park, Colorado. Its collection of over 50,000 natural history books will one day line the shelves of old bunk houses and barn lofts, offering visitors a place to camp, create, study and explore.

SUMMARY

In the spring of 2017, the nonprofit launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $125,000 to renovate the library's first building, a weather-worn ranch house that would become the property's first habitable structure, complete with a kitchen, dormitory and food library.

My Role

Research, Copywriting, Media Strategy + Outreach

Strategy Responsibilities

  • Assisted with stakeholder and user interviews
  • Researched successful Kickstarter publishing projects
  • Led media outreach

Design Responsibilities

  • Developed key messaging for campaign
  • Wrote Kickstarter page copy and project description
Project homescreen for Land Library Kickstarter.

Project Challenges

In order to run a successful campaign, we discovered several challenges the project page should address:

  • With so many programs and features envisioned for the library, the campaign ran the risk of confusing readers with too much information.
  • The ranch and library are located in Colorado, so we needed to find creative ways to engage non-local audiences.

My Goals

Capture the larger project and Kickstarter goal in a concise and compelling way, crafting a heartfelt and adventurous appeal that would resonate with different audiences.

process

Meetings + Slack

Working with a team of a dozen key stakeholders, I designed and oversaw the development of our Kickstarter project page, writing and editing for an audience of book and nature lovers. Our team met in person at a Denver architecture studio, and virtually on Slack.

Research

Interviews

Through informal interviews, I gained a clear understanding of what had drawn existing supporters to the project, and might persuade those just hearing about it to become backers. I also considered the specific angles that might interest editors at different news outlets, magazines and blogs.

Projects Review

Our team reviewed successful projects at Kickstarter, such as +POOL and The LowLine Park  and noted what they had done well, including multifaceted digital outreach and frequent project updates.

Synthesizing research

Rustic Beauty + A Sense of Home

One clear selling point of our campaign was the ranch's scenic location, which Kickstarter backers would get to experience firsthand if we succeeded, so it was important to include our best photos of the ranch. Another theme that stood out was the sense of purpose that the library offered, combined with a feeling of home.

The silver-sided stables at Buffalo Peaks Ranch under a cloudy sky.

designs

After my first idea for a tagline— 32,000 books at 9,200 feet — was rejected by our team, I decided to adopt the phrase "home on the range," from the old cowboy song, to describe our project and goals. Hailed by Wikipedia as the unofficial anthem of the American West, it seemed to fit a library focused on the region's history, that would also house guests overnight. The song was written not long after the ranch's establishment in the 1860s.

Volunteers working on the roof of the bunk house under a cloudy sky.

With the concept of a rustic home in mind, I wrote emails pitching our story to a wide range of publications, highlighting different aspects of the project that I hoped would appeal to each.

Results

The media strategy was a success, earning us stories in print, digital and TV, including a front-page article in The Denver Post, and stories in the LA Times, Outside Magazine, Curbed, Apartment Therapy and on Colorado Public Radio.

The campaign surpassed its original goal, raising $140,000 from over 1,000 backers.

takeaways

Finding unique solutions

Even with a strong member base and good press, reaching our goal was a process that required creative thinking every step of the way. Our team was made up of an incredible mix of people from different disciplines, including architecture, art, library science and landscape design. Working alongside them, I learned to approach challenges from new angles and discover unique solutions.

Garo

To keep up the momentum as the library grew, a group of volunteers and I started Garo, a literary blog publishing original stories, poetry, interviews and artwork from the library's growing community. Garo was active for two years, and featured work from around the world, including paintings from Swedish artist Benjamin Björklund, and poems by former Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason.