Hi, I am Susan Smith, Director of Research, Instruction and Technology at Z. Smith Reynolds Library, WFU and co-race director of WTL5K!During the next few minutes I’d like to share a story about how an out-of-the-box idea was tossed out to raise funds for a popular student program, and over the next three years transformed into something much bigger and longer-lasting than a simple money making project.
WFU is a private co-ed liberal arts university in W-S, NCWe describe ourselves as a “collegiate university”.under 5,000 undergraduates, total including graduate and medical school: under 7,000ZSR Library is the 2011 ACRL Excellence in Libraries winner in the university categoryOur mission is simple: “to help our faculty, students and staff succeed.”The race is one way we helped to meet our mission
Wake the Library is a semi-annual exam week event that evolved from a decision to keep the library open around the clock for the duration Even better than staying open, why not schedule a break where we feed all of the studying students at midnight? At first, we turned to other university departments to feed 300 students each evening.What we thought would be a nice gesture for a few semesters immediately became wildly popular, so much so that last year it was declared a “tradition”!After 5 years, departmental money dried up
It was important that we continue the tradition so it was time to find a new source of fundingThis picture shows our graffiti board that is part of WTL, where students can blow off steam during their hours of study in the library!We decided to hold a 5K do to raise the $8k per year required to fund WTLYear one, it was all about the money. And that’s a good story, but not today’s storyThe co-race directors, Erik and myself, knew how to run races - we didn’t know the first thing about putting on a successful raceBut we are librarians, and we know how to do research/1
And we found in our inquiries what makes a successful running event is through the cultivation of strong relationships and partnershipsWe quickly discovered that Campus Recreation had a wealth of knowledge about putting on sporting events. This picture shows the aquatic director, Jes. She and her colleagues gave us the ABC’s of putting on a race in general and specifically, at Wake ForestOther campus groups that were valuable were the food service, campus police, the alumni association and university events.
It takes a lot of people to staff a raceWhat resource do academic libraries tap into provide our services?Our students, of course!Students manned the water stations, as shown here, guided racers along the course, served as EMT support, worked the registration desk, and prepared the food.
We also found that it is very important to build external relationshipsAlthough putting on a race was new to us, we already had personal relationships with local running and biking stores. Many of these businesses work with groups to promote sporting events and so the first year, we partnered with the local “Fleet Feet” franchiseThey provided invaluable planning help when we needed the most guidance, and became a sponsor that provided prizes and race numbers the first year.In return, we provided them a venue to expand their presence in the community and perhaps recruit new customers!
One of the most important decisions to make when putting on this type of event is what to do yourself, and what to outsource.On a shoestring budget (that was us!), we opted to do most of the work ourselvesBut we were smart enough to realize that a successful race is totally dependent on accurate, speedy timing and resultsThis was not our core competence!Our second biggest cost was to hire a timing company. We found ours in our local running club.This picture shows the great group of guys from the Twin City Track Club. They set up the timing database, measured the course, ran the finish line and calculated the results and winners.
This slide gives you a glimpse of all the internal and external sponsors that helped our races be successful. From cold hard cash, to food donations to prizes (Lenovo donated netbooks!) to manpower - sponsors are central to underwriting a successful event. When the relationship is established and nurtured, it can become an ongoing one, that often extends to an annual participation and beyond the sponsored event.
We couldn’t afford to outsource much, so we looked to our ZSR staff to fill many of the roles necessaryThis image of race t-shirts seems straightforward. But if you only knew the complexity of managing the selection and design of the shirt (our biggest expense) - so that you only buy the correct number of each sizes, have reproducible logos for all your sponsors and get the rock-bottom price to boot - you would know that it is a process requiring someone with project management skills, tenacity and a thick skin!This is a prime example of the types of skills we discovered in our staff over the 3 years of this race.
It fell to our staff to handle all the race marketing, course signage, volunteer training and coordination, registration management, package pickup, event photography, food donation solicitation and preparationRace day PA system and musicYou get the idea!
We are most fortunate that ZSR Library has one of the best group of staff in the worldI like this image because it demonstrates the length our group went to in making sure we had the best event possible. This image was post-rain, pre-race when we realized there were potential ankle-twisting potential on part of the course!
This is the registration desk on race morning. Our staff volunteers handle pre-registered racers, walk-ups and 3 different price points (students, 5K and fun run). It wasn’t a job for the faint of heart since the money had to balance and the racers had to be correctly entered into the race database so their results would be correct!It’s a good thing librarians are detail-oriented people!
Handling the post-race food for racers brought another opportunity for new skill development. It was not so much the food prep (although we had to explain why racers would prefer a quartered bagel to one cut in half with cream cheese slathered on it!). But our budget required that all the food be donated, and it was the first time Tim and Carolyn (in the middle) had ever done cold calls to business to ask for donations. By year three, they have become pros at this!
When we started with the idea of holding a race to raise funds for our program, we never anticipated what actually became the most important outcome : Fostering CommunityAt first we simply hoped to get some students up and out on a Saturday morning, pull in some of the Wake Forest community for a family fun run and maybe attract some of the local runners in town.
But as the event evolved, we found there was wider interest, for many reasonsIn the last two years, we held the race as part of homecoming weekend, and the event attracted alumni who found the race a “trip down memory lane,” enjoying a chance to revisit favorite parts of the campus and meet up with old classmates
We reached out to the community to involve a younger audience as well. In the second year, our race was marketed to the students of the Forsyth County public school system as part of a county healthy living initiative. The school with the most student registrations won books for their library.This image shows a group from a high risk school from last year. They trained for weeks and our race was the culmination of their journey to fitness. Their teacher won the race. What a way to set an example!
The event has become a place for old friends to reunite and enjoy a making a new memory together.
Wake the Library 5K transitioned from a fundraiser to an event that promotes partnerships and friends reuniting. We discovered that is a more desirable, future oriented outcome!
The success of our community building reinforced the role of the library in the university. This year we have been awarded continued funding for the WTL exam event, so the race is no longer required to support this event.The race may move to a spring date, but, one thing is certain: the next race’s goal will expand on the concept of cultivating long term relationships that can advance the university internally and in the wider community. This is its real value!
From Department Director to Race Director
From Department Director to Race Director<br />Susan Sharpless Smith<br />Z. Smith Reynolds Library/Wake Forest University<br />ULS/CLS Program, ALA Annual New Orleans<br />June 25, 2011<br />