I saw a great project a couple of days ago from a small town called Northlake (30,000 residents) near Chicago which shows how imagination and the internet can be used together in order to, at next to no cost, publicise a library and raise funds for it.  The plan, you see, is to purchase a nine-foot-tall statue of the Incredible Hulk for the library.  That, I think, would be reason enough but that is actually only the “hook” to get funding for a lot of new technology for the place.  Technology that will spectacularly position the library at the forefront of provision for its area. Why the Hulk? Well, the branch itself prides itself on its graphic novel collection (it was 2,300 but it’s even bigger now – someone saw the publicity and donated 1,000 more) but also, I think, it’s the sheer incongruousness of the concept that’s the winner.  It’s relevance to the UK is that it shows clearly what can be done with no resources.  Even if they don’t get their Hulk statue, Northlake has gained more publicity than ever before, probably revolutionised its image and gets to keep whatever money has been raised, which already runs to a couple of thousand dollars.

I hope after reading the words of Tom Mukite, a trustee of the library, who is intimately involved with the project, that you will agree with the Ron Marz, known for his work on Silver Surfer and Green Lantern,  that “Every library should have a hulk”


“Bring the Hulk”: the actual statue

What first gave you the idea for this project?

I’m a trustee now for the library but at the time back in August I was helping the librarian who takes care of our graphic novel collection with coming up with ideas of how to really call attention to our collection. Then one night someone tweeted out a link to a Hulk statue. I figured I’d have no room for him in my home but he would be great for getting people’s attention at the library.

What are its aims?

We have a few aims for the project. Obviously if we hit our goal we’d be able to get a ton of technology that the library would never ever be able to afford. As well as give our graphic novels a huge shot to the arm. Currently our budget has been cut due to foreclosures so we’re not getting as many funds that the library would normally get so this is the only way we have currently to be able to afford anything we’re trying to get. The aim for the Hulk statue is to inspire everyone to read more. We see him as the fun side of the library with Bruce Banner you have the slightly nerdy doctor that would represent the current views of libraries as a place to study. The Hulk is the fun side of Bruce Banner that we feel really represents the fun side of the library that people may not have discovered. Some of these things like our graphic novel collection, cooking classes, games, dvds. These are things that a lot of people who may have stopped going to libraries after they finished school might not know that we have. Furthermore, the Hulk should inspire reluctant readers that might not want to even be in the library to pick up a Hulk graphic novel or another one. What kid would not become curious about the giant Hulk standing in the middle of the library?

“Currently our budget has been cut due to foreclosures so we’re not getting as many funds that the library would normally get so this is the only way we have currently to be able to afford anything we’re trying to get.”

Would you be happy if it failed in its target but still raised publicity for the library?

The great thing about indiegogo is that if we fail to bring in the full goal we’ll still get the money that we raised minus Indiegogo’s fees and the cost of the perks. We are thrilled with the publicity we’re getting but we really want to hit our goal and maybe pass it by. Like I said earlier this is the only way for us to add to the budget for technology or even the graphic novels.

Have Marvel given permission?  How deeply did you need to go into the legal side?

We are actually purchasing the statue which is fully licensed. We tried to contact Marvel’s legal people but they never rresponded. Mark Waid the current writer of the Indestructible Hulk series loved the project and even donated copies of the first collection with his scripts that we’re using as a perk. Once we launched the campaign we heard from a couple employees of Marvel that liked it. We aren’t selling anything with the Hulk on so we’re avoiding any problems.

I see you’re using a crowdfunding site.  How easy is it to use and do you have any tips for any librarians out there wanting to do likewise? 

We’re using Indiegogo but our project video does mention Kickstarter. This is because it was set to be on Kickstarter but they denied us. That was the most difficult part of the project so far. However with moving to Indiegogo we actually lucked out since the site allows you to collect money even if you don’t reach your goals. This if we unfortunately fail, will help make it not be a total waste as we’ll be able to at least buy more graphic novels or whatever portion of the project we can afford. As far as setting up the campaign itself the hardest thing to do is figuring out the perks or incentives. We managed to get a lot of help from the comic and local community. You don’t want to set yourself up where a bulk of your money is going to the perks. The most expensive perks we have for ourselves are the random packages of comics that we have to purchase and mail.

“the hardest thing to do is figuring out the perks or incentives”

Do you have any tips for librarians that want to do a project for their library ? Don’t do it by yourself. We have a team of about half the library staff and our friends of the library group behind this and it still sometimes doesn’t feel like we have enough people.  Give yourself plenty of time for setting up the campaign we’ve been working on this since August before we were ready to launch. Things will come up, you might even get rejected by the site you wanted to use. For rewards/perks look to your community and see if anyone is able to donate something our most talked about perk was a fire truck ride that our fire department donated. We also reached out to many comic professionals who most were thrilled to help out.

“Don’t do it by yourself”

99% of crowdfunding is marketing so make sure you are comfortable with it. As libraries we generally think we don’t have to market ourselves but when you do a crowdfunding campaign you have around a month to raise all the money you can get used to asking people to donate or share the project even if you feel bad about it. Most people will not mind and will enjoy helping their friends.

How much staff time did the project cost?  Do you have a marketing/publicity officer that is behind it?

We have an incredible marketing committee of librarians and our director that have met frequently to get everything together. Now they’ve all be fantastic with promoting the project. Without them willing to take this crazy idea and run with it this wouldn’t of had a chance. We do have a designated person to do our promotional material but we’ve been pretty good at sharing the workload. The staff have been working very hard with this project and really deserve a ton of praise for not once being afraid of trying something new and maybe a little crazy.
Press coverage for the Hulk so far


      • Culture is what separates us from the rest of the living world – New Statesman / AC Grayling. Culture, including libraries (specifically mentioned) gives us a lot: “I focus on the good side of culture because that is what differentiates us, and gives us our best reasons for being hopeful that we can master the destructive sides of our nature, and make life and the world something that is ever closer to utopia.”

      • Contribution of Australian Public Libraries – Research shows 31,000 jobs traceable to libraries, with $2.90 benefit for every $1 spent.
      • Ebooks in public libraries…ssshhhhhh – Good Library Blog.  Short post from Tim Coates pointing out e-books are good for readers.
      • Innovation, Inspiration and Creativity Conference: Using Positive Disruption to improve libraries – I2C2. “We’re pleased to announce a new, exciting conference to be held 6th/7th March 2014, Manchester (UK). Innovation, Inspiration and Creativity Conference: Using Positive Disruption to improve libraries. We want to bring together a bunch of people next year for a two day conference of inspiring each other to innovate and be more creative in our libraries. There will be talks, workshops, fun and games galore. We’ll talk to each other about successes and challenges, thinking about how we can use what we learn from one another to improve libraries.”
      • Millions spent to revive council libraries – Brisbane Times (Australia).  “Brisbane’s council libraries will receive $33.2 million [£21.5m and it is slightly larger than Birmingham – Ed.] worth of new books and magazines just a few months after a report showed a massive slump in library visitors.”,  However, floods and other problems blamed for this with a claim that there has been an increase in visitors”.
      • ‘Nightmare scenario’ as Welsh councils fear violent cuts to services after Treasury spending review – Wales Online. Cuts to Welsh budgets may mean the days of “small scale savings” are over and there will be large cuts, with “non statutory” libraries mentioned three times as potential targets.  The LGA statement saying that 90% of budgets for libraries etc may be cut in England is repeated.
      • Random House and Foyles triumph at Bookseller Industry Awards – BookSeller. “The Library of the Year title was scooped by two joint winners based at opposite ends of the country ­ Devon Libraries and Dundee Library Service. Judges praised Devon libraries for the huge range of services it offered beyond books and managing to shrug off budget cuts to increase visitor numbers and loan figures. Dundee Library services launched an impressive digital participation programme.”


Local news

      • Blackburn with Darwen – ‘Back to the future’ refurbishment of Blackburn Library begins – Lancashire Telegraph. £2m upgrade “While the inside continues its transformation to an online information hub as well as store of thousands of books, this week the 1970’s crumbling concrete facade started to be taken off.”
      • Brent – New ‘libraries’ councillor says community engagement is at the heart of her priorities – Brent and Kilburn Times. “Cllr Roxanne Mashari ousted Cllr James Powney to become the new lead member for environment and neighbourhoods … The councillor who has taken over the responsibility of the borough’s libraries has hailed the approach to reading rooms in Camden and said “community engagement” in Brent will be at the heart of her priorities.” Brent previously anti volunteer libraries.  Article concentrates on libraries aspect of the job, noting previous councillor’s unpopularity with library campaigners.
      • Halton – Residents offered free workshops to learn how to use the internet – Runcorn and Widnes World. “Talk Talk has teamed up with Halton Council to provide experts to show people how to use email, social networking, access multimedia, Word/Excel, understand the internet, shop online, PC basics and safety on the internet.”
      • Herefordshire – Hereford at risk of library closures – BookSeller.  Details proposals.  Useful comment: “It’s interesting but, as usual, dispiriting to observe the now routine softening-up process adopted by a council – Bomb the populace mercilessly in the first instance then, once panic has set in, cajole or coerce people into ‘community-led’ delivery of the little that remains:”
      • Herefordshire – Library and museums cuts prompts petition – BBC. More than 2000 have signed petition against the proposed cuts. “There are currently 11 council-funded libraries in the county, as well as about half a dozen community libraries set up by volunteers after a mobile service was withdrawn in 2011, as part of council savings.”.  Council is looking towards having more volunteer-run libraries rather than paid ones.
      • Isle of Wight – Libraries to host free music gigs – Isle of Wight Radio. “A series of free music gigs will be on offer as part of the Shhh…it’s a library tour. Isle of Wight Council-run libraries will stage the gigs, featuring folk musicians Chris Quinton and Ben Johnson, plus Floella Grace and PhreakAudio.”
      • Liverpool – Liverpool’s revamped Central Library is a cathedral of knowledge – Liverpool Echo. Liverpool’s new library due to open this Friday.  “Something for everyone” with historic facade hiding light bright modern space, 100% wifi, cafe, bespoke storage for local history archives given great prominence.

“it’s now so heart-gladdeningly splendid, I can easily imagine it becoming a tourist attraction in its own right alongside its William Brown Street neighbours. Perhaps author Frank Cottrell Boyce summed it up best, and in inimitable Technicolor fashion, when he described setting foot inside the new library as going to visit your grandma to find she’d “turned into Beyonce”.

“Northenden Library is more than just a building,” she said. “I do not understand the council’s determination to close six of our valuable local libraries. “Residents feel keenly that the decision-makers are utterly unwilling to listen and that they cannot see beyond the basic structure.”

      • Slough – Free online courses launched for library members – Slough and South Bucks Observer.  “more than 350 online courses and 80 foreign language courses free of charge. The Universal Class courses offer learning topics from hobbies, technology, business skills and health.”
      • Suffolk – Grabbing the Grabbits! – Suffolk Libraries (press release) “Suffolk Libraries book displays are popular with young readers – “Of the 1690 Grabbit books on display since Easter, there have been 2,000 issued so each book has effectively been borrowed at least once and library staff have reported they have been very popular.”

Shona Bendix, Chair of Suffolk Libraries, said: “I’m thrilled that this idea has been such a success and it was a great idea by our Stock Team. We launched the idea during the school holidays hoping that more young people would have the chance to visit their local library and hopefully it’s an idea we can develop in the future. Libraries have a vital part to play in improving literacy and in encouraging children and young people to read, particularly during school holidays.”