July 19, 2017

LYRASIS Names Recipients of Leadership Circle Catalyst Fund

 

LYRASISLYRASIS last month named the first recipients of its $100,000 LYRASIS Leadership Circle’s Catalyst Fund, created to support new ideas and projects by LYRASIS members.

“Our goal is to fill a void, to work in conjunction with other foundations and institutions that have a high rate of success for developing ideas on their own but can’t sustain those ideas on their own,” said LYRASIS CEO Robert Miller of the new fund, which was announced in January. “Our role is to help by being an aggregator, collaborator, connector with other organizations. If we carry out our mission correctly as a membership organization, the tide we create will lift more boats than just the one with the original idea.”

The recipients were: Columbia University, which received $30,000 for its Feasibility Study for a Copyright Education Center; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), which received $29,500 for Advancing 3D Digitization and Metadata Conventions; Johnson C. Smith University, which received $25,000 for its Digital Map of the Historic West End project; the University of Nebraska, Omaha, which received $5,550 for Mobile Digitization for Rural Community Archives; the University of North Carolina, Charlotte’s Leveraging IoT Devices to Aid in Discovery and Use of Collections, which has approximately $18,000 earmarked for testing through LYRASIS; and Washburn University, which received $26,548 for its From Information Literate to Information Fluent project.

LYRASIS anticipates fine-tuning the Catalyst Fund criteria over time, but the criteria applied this year focused on whether the proposal/idea solves a well-defined problem or addresses an opportunity; whether the idea/proposal advances an important objective of the library, archives and/or museum communities; what potential the idea/proposal holds to serve the broad LYRASIS community; and whether the idea’s outputs would be scalable beyond a single institution.

“The most important criterion for consideration was community impact,” said Meg Blum, associate director of marketing and communications. “Will this idea or project be a benefit to the wider community of archives, libraries, and museums? We wanted the Catalyst Fund to be useful not only for the institutions who won the awards, but for all of our members and beyond.”

This year’s fund received 61 submissions, far exceeding organizers’ expectations. A simple two-page application required basic information about each project and how it would benefit the field.

The new fund was promoted through direct communications with members, email campaigns, an active conference presence, social media and web promotion, webinars, and LYRASIS’s new Leaders Forum series, a series of regional in-person meetings for leaders in archives, libraries, and museums, providing access to more than 300 institutions over the past 18 months.

To determine the winners, the Leaders Circle, a new member program at LYRASIS composed of members who are seeking deeper engagement, collaboration, and leadership opportunities, reviewed and voted on the 61 applications.

“What really struck everyone the most,” Blum said, “was the wide variety of proposals we received. It speaks to the need for this kind of fostering and funding in the community.”

Blum said one theme that reviewers noticed in the applications involved connecting technology with user needs. Examples included voice technology to help users with sight limitations (UNC Charlotte), a DIY model of crowd-sourced labor resulting in copyright freedom (Columbia University), and mobile digitization—literally taking technology to the place of need (University of Nebraska, Omaha).

“In all these cases, it’s about identifying the need at the micro level and giving it the care and feeding it needs to then be useful at a more macro level in the wider community,” Blum said. “These ideas weren’t necessarily ready for major grant dollars, but were more expensive than could be covered by the organizations’ operating budgets. That’s where LYRASIS saw the need, and that’s been our goal, to fill the funding gap for members where they need it.”

Miller pointed out Columbia University’s unique idea of combining copyright clearance with a DIY volunteer model to digitize orphaned works and print them to scale for anyone to use.

“While it’s not revolutionary,” Miller said, “you could argue that it is evolutionary. This idea will spark other ideas that flow from the thought of, ‘If we did that, then can we look at this?’ It helps organizations aggregate and connect to push the ball a bit further down the road, to flip a few more pages. Before you know it, you’ve finished the entire book.”

Blum explains that the Catalyst Fund is just one part of a four-step program that begins with the Leaders Circle, continues to the Leaders Forum, presents the Catalyst Fund, and finally culminates in the Member Summit to increase the flow of ideas from within a broad, diverse community of archives, public libraries, academic libraries, museums, galleries, and knowledge communities worldwide.

“This year we are focused on innovation, both internally with the creation of these Leadership Initiatives and for our members with the Catalyst Fund,” Blum says. “To further sponsor that idea, we’ll be hosting what we’re calling a ‘friendly shark tank’ at our Member Summit in October—a no-teeth forum where members can share and vet new ideas right in the moment with their peers and other experts.”

Blum promises there will be no shark bites.

The Catalyst Fund winners will present their progress during the upcoming Member Summit on October 11-12. 2017, where input will help determine new direction and major changes to the criteria for next year’s Catalyst Fund.

“There’s a winner for everyone in this program as we go forward,” Miller said, “for everyone to participate in some part of the process. Maybe it’s to conceive the idea. Maybe it’s to frame the idea, or grow it, or implement it. Or maybe it’s for someone who never knew where the idea started to benefit from it. We want everyone to see the rainbow.”

LYRASIS serves archives, libraries, museums, and any knowledge community through services, content, and leadership. Members pay dues to save on eResources, supplies and products, member pricing on training, the Leaders Forums, and services like ArchivesSpace, CollectionSpace, and Islandora hosting, digitization collaborative, consulting, and fiscal services, and more. For more information, visit lyrasisnow.org.

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