American Libraries invited Joseph Sanchez of Mesa County (Colo.) Libraries to talk about a project he has been working on: a wildlife app managed by the library. Like fly-fishing? See photos of fish, flies, books, river locations, upcoming seminars, as well as other content in the app, all eventually to be cross-referenced in the library’s catalog. Outside partners such as professional photographers and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department, will help with initial entries. Sanchez predicts that many wildlife enthusiasts will help keep it current with many crowdsourced entries.
Most library apps focus on existing services—common examples include e-reader and library card apps. In western Colorado, Mesa County Libraries is blazing a new trail with Wild Colorado, a wildlife discovery app. Users will be able to create collections of animals, add notes and photos, and share their experience with friends and family via social media. Photos are licensed from Colorado photographers, and the library has partnered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to provide species-level information. The app goes beyond traditional field guides, with its personal and social functionality—combined with reliable species-level information—to help make it a more accurate, up-to-date, and user-friendly guide.
Colorado is an outdoor state, and Mesa County is an outdoor county; rather than developing an app for a service that is already available, our library created an app for unmet needs in the state. Traditionally Mesa County Libraries services to the outdoor demographic have been limited to reference books, maps, and the like. With Wild Colorado’s unique mix of reliable information and social functionality, we are confident it will attract new library patrons and connect Coloradans to the outdoors and to one another.
Every Coloradan who downloads the app experiences the “library” in a radically new way. The simple and intuitive interface will allow teachers and students to work together to enrich the education experience, while biologists, rangers, and hiking clubs can collaborate in real time. We see it as a social, interactive, and educational library experience with no due date.
Because the app is a public resource, it’s available to all Coloradans with a mobile device. Libraries have always offered free public information, and the app is simply expanding the scope of library services. The only significant difference is that the app can be offered to the entire state just as easily as to the local community. No annual fees and population calculations will be necessary.
Early on, the library recognized the challenge of providing a statewide resource using local funds. While the app may eventually be handed off to a statewide agency, it was decided to activate the state at a grassroots level using Kickstarter to raise the necessary funds to fully launch it. If the Kickstarter event nets close to both fundraising and app download goals, the initial costs will be almost the same as the annual cost of a book circulation. Kickstarter was chosen because research suggested a tantalizing opportunity to develop a broader network of support than the traditional regional networks of most rural libraries.
Colorado is home to many outdoor companies and organizations, all of which recognize the value of the app and are eager to support something everyone can feel good about. Dozens of partners across the state are posting and sharing the fundraising campaign on their Facebook pages, email lists, and websites. In addition to funding and creating awareness, this network will be used for distribution when Wild Colorado launches next spring.
Mesa County Libraries’ “Wild Colorado App—Share the Adventure” is live during the month of November on Kickstarter, where we’re seeking $15,000. Regardless of the fundraiser, the library intends to continue to develop the app, though some features may be added at a later date if funds are not raised in the campaign. To share this project or for more information please visit: mesacountylibraries.org.
Update: The Wild Colorado Kickstarter fundraiser passed its goal on December 11, 2015, raising $17,526.