Many Funding Options: Where to Find, Apply for, and Get Library Grants


Grants and loans via paydaychampion may make a difference in a time of low library budgets. Grants and loans help librarians increase services and improve technology.

Financing options exist, whether a substantial federal funding or a small municipal award. Densely populated areas need specialized grant writing, project management, and follow-up skills. Here’s what librarians came up with and how they’re implementing it.

Stephanie Knop (left) wanted to reach underprivileged people in Orange County (NC). Northern rural regions have inadequate public transit and high poverty rates. Knop, a child outreach expert, needed a significant financing source to make an effect. A Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services was approved in 2018. Knop claims she earned $50,000 for her proposal, which aimed to increase access.

The donations went for the Boxmobile, a moving library consisting of Knop, a computer, books, and containers. It regularly runs at community centers and school activities in selected locations. Knop also aims to expand STEAM and literacy initiatives at community centers. She works with after-school school coordinators to develop resources and events for pupils. So that kids with disabilities may use these programs in a safe and accessible atmosphere, she wants the offerings to mirror what the library offers. Knop is advertising the Boxmobile to parents at social and health care groups.

Knop undertook an extensive study to prepare for the lengthy grant application. A colleague librarian and grant winner who “talked to me about the process and strategies to ensure my submission was competitive,” recalls Knop. “I wanted to highlight that we couldn’t grow our outreach efforts beyond what we’re doing now without the cash.”

Meeting a need

According to Youth and Family Services Manager Jennifer Brown, a USDA-sponsored lunch program at Suffolk (VA) Public Library led to all-day library use. Brown envisioned a field trip program to expose these youngsters to more of the world.

She proposed her suggestion during an annual grant coordinator and library management meeting. Brown felt pushed by the Association for Library Services to Children/Candlewick Light the Way award because of its outreach emphasis. The non-traditional outreach was prominent. “I was quite deliberate” in defining outreach in the application. Brown anticipated questions from the grant review panel. Instead, they congratulated.

One hundred seventy-one young people visited an aquarium, took ukulele lessons, saw movies, and went to a beach this summer. Brown included informal learning, including social skills, with each excursion. She also proposed creating a link between the library and the children’s family by modeling the local parks and recreation department’s guardian authorization framework. Post-summer, “We still see these youngsters in the library,” she adds.

Its success influenced library governance: “Our Friends of the Library sponsor our summer program, so we have rationale for sustainability,” she adds. “Our money fueled a great pilot project.”

Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown, PA, is obtaining a $5,000 Lowe’s Toolbox for Education award, matched by the local school system.

Dawn Rein’s photo

Adding to a plan

A lecture at the Massachusetts Computer Using Educators annual conference encouraged Alexandra Caram, library media specialist at Summer Street School in Lynnfield, MA, to create a Books for Babies initiative in spring 2017. With a handwritten letter and a favorite board book, students provided families at the adjacent Lynnfield Public Library’s toddler storytime a reading on CD. Books for Babies had a successful first year, but Caram saw room for improvement.

Caram earned a $1,500 MassCue award in 2018. She utilized the money to buy more iPad minis, tiny microphones, and board books to give away at the year’s end storytime event. “Those tiny microphones were huge,” she adds. Our studio is quite open, so other sounds are caught up. Student voices are now considerably clearer.” More library iPads meant more pupils could use the library, including those participating in Books for Babies. “Don’t be scared to ask for tiny things,” Caram advises. The need for grants is excellent, but they don’t have to revolutionize your job.

Big box chances

Or they might be genuinely transformative. A Lowe’s Toolbox for Education award is helping Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown, PA, update its library. The Bristol Township School District matched the $5,000 prize, giving Dawn Rein $10,000 for structural and aesthetic improvements. “Our engineering students designed our future library,” adds Rein, who plans to zone her huge open library. The money went to hire an architect to start work on blueprints. Rein also made immediate modifications, such as removing shelves to improve sightlines, creating a more appealing selection, and painting the walls. “Kids notice,” Rein explains. It is hoped that this would increase community engagement and obtain additional funds or contributions.

Truman High, a Title I school, has a district grant coordinator who offered the Toolbox grant. (Currently by invitation only.) “Those enormous applications may be a bit too much for my time and energy,” Rein explains. If you see a need, start small—a new chair, a new smartboard—it all adds up!

Libraries may apply for best Buy’s Community Grants. The Orion Township (MI) Public Library’s Adult and Makerspace Librarian, Dan Major, claims he was Googling grant prospects. “I found it. I went for it since we have a Best Buy shop nearby.” Major won $6,500 to spend within a year. The monies bought a Glowforge laser cutter, a Cricut Explore Air, a picture slide and film negative scanner, and Adobe Creative Cloud software.

The grant also included monthly afterschool programs with electronic devices and STEM activities. “We applied for the money to introduce and teach students on new technology,” Major explains. “We want kids to have fun while learning.” Major examined grantees’ youth towards the conclusion. “One youngster thought the library was uninteresting and asked why he would even go,” he continues. He was bringing pals to library programs towards the end.

“Sometimes it might cost money [in staff time] to get money,” Major said. The library’s maker space continues to serve not just kids but all library customers.

When cash finds you

Gretchen Kolderup, the youth librarian at the St. Helens (OR) Public Library, had great success through networking with area educators. Kolderup earned $20,000 from the Northwest STEM Hub, whose purpose is to “create and improve STEM opportunities across the region.” While the funds were to be spent by August, Kolderup estimates they will last three to four years.

“I live in a tiny town and I work extremely hard to be at the table for local meetings,” she adds. To promote her Make-It! Activities for kids, Kolderup brought fliers to a meeting. Then Myronda Schiding, the Northwest STEM Hub director, phoned Kolderup. Schiding inquired whether Kolderup’s library would be interested in getting a grant.

The grant was used to extend and improve Make It! programs. “We purchased a genuine green screen and got rid of our painted cardboard backdrop,” she explains. The monies paid for a 100-hour adolescent intern recruited from the local high school. “She helped arrange and deliver events, tripling our Make It! staff,” Kolderup explains. The grant money also paid library support workers overtime, allowing Kolderup to focus on planning, preparing, and executing the project. Kolderup is now working on a curriculum that the Northwest STEM Hub may employ throughout its network.

The award increased the library’s community prominence. “I told our municipal council about the idea and how we earned this award for the job we already do,” she adds. “They know more about the library now.”


Comments are closed.