In 2009, the East Bay Children’s Book Project had a great idea but almost no presence apart from a few paragraphs buried deep in other organizational web sites. Founded in 2005 by former kindergarten teacher Ann Katz, its mission was simple: to give away free books to kids.
Ann met Anca Mosoiu in the spring of 2008, before Anca founded Tech Liminal. “She was helping out at a neighborhood center just when I was starting the book project with a couple of other teachers. No one knew about us then. Anca said, ‘Why not build a web site?’ ‘Oh, that’s too hard,’ I said, but she set us up on WordPress and coached me on how to do it myself until I could.”
At Tech Liminal, Ann first learned how to build out her own web site in WordPress in only a month of weekly meetings. “It’s an amazing model. I update my site all the time now, including the blog. There are a few sections that only the Tech Liminal team can touch, but the rest I can do on my own. The best thing about what Anca did was – she made me do it myself. She’s a natural-born teacher: patient and willing to help you figure it out.”
Ann applied for various grants, and got on Facebook. Then Ann took a second class at Tech Liminal on Social Media for Social Activism, and now uses both the web site and Facebook to reach an audience many times the size of what it was formerly. She found out that Google offered free accounts to non-profits, and went through their rigorous qualification process.
The EBCBP grew fast, as measured by number of books collected and given away. Ann doesn’t even remember how many books they collected prior to getting online - “Maybe a few hundred.” The first year after getting the web site up, they gave away over 12,000 books. By last year, they were giving away over 135,000 books, and Ann estimates that this past year they will have given away 200,000 books in over 100 cities and even in foreign countries. Ann tracks every single book that goes through her organization, using a system created by Ann’s grown children, who are both accomplished IT developers themselves.
How do people find her? “Every week I get cold calls from new groups who found me online,” says Ann. You can search for “free books” or “children’s books” and find me.” The organization runs on staff of 20 volunteers. Some of them meet biweekly to sort through donations, others do pickups, or provide graphic design services and other support. The organization runs on a shoestring, with minimal hours.
“I adore Anca,” said Ann. “I couldn’t have done it without her.”