Category Archives: Yes We CAN

FREE eBOOK: SCHOOL LIBRARIES: WHAT’S NOW, WHAT’S NEXT, WHAT’S YET TO COME

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the over 50 authors who contributed to School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Yet to Come, we are delighted to announce that our crowdsourced eBook is now available for free download!

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/96705

We hope you will enjoy downloading and reading these diverse perspectives on where school libraries are and what school librarians are doing to redefine, stretch, and expand traditional services.

Please feel free to share this link with your colleagues, administrators, professional and union organizations, Board of Education members, and more. Help us spread the word and build the conversation about the possibilities of school libraries!

We have it available for free download in three formats:

  • PDF for those who want to read it on a desktop/laptop
  • .mobi for those who want to read it on Kindle software or a Kindle device
  • .epub for those who would like to read it on Adobe Digital Editions software, iBooks, Sony Reader, the Bluefire Reader app, Nook, and most other eReaders

While you can find the eBook on Smashwords now; in about 2-6 weeks, Smashwords will send it out to the major eBookstores (including Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony Bookstore, and others, although Amazon is in negotations) for free distribution.

With deep thanks,

The Authors of School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What Comes After

Editors:
Kristin Fontichiaro, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Buffy Hamilton, Creekview High School, Canton, GA

Foreword:
R. David Lankes, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY

Photographs:
Diane Cordell, Retired Teacher Librarian, Queensbury, NY

Contributors:
Kelly Ahlfeld, Mettawee Community School, West Pawlet, VT
Diane Erica Aretz-Kernahan, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Emilia Askari, Living Textbook Project, McCollough Unis School, Dearborn, MI
Kathleen Atkin, Louis Riel School Division, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Robert Baigent, National Library of New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand
Susan D. Ballard, Consultant and Simmons College, Boston, MA
Angela Washington-Blair, Emmett J. Conrad High School, Dallas, TX
Dan Bowen, ICT Learning and Teaching Consultant, Surrey, England, UK
Holli Buchter, St. Vrain Valley School District, Longmont, CO
Jennifer Branch, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Len Bryan, Cedar Ridge High School, Round Rock, TX
Jennifer Colby, School of Information, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Diane Cordell, Retired Teacher Librarian, Queensbury, NY
William Cross, Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Meg Donhauser, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, Flemington, NJ
Joanne de Groot, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Stacy Dillon, LREI – Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School, New York, NY
Andrea Dolloff, Ethical Cultural Fieldston School, New York, NY
Meg Donhauser, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, Flemington, NJ
Laura Fleming, Cherry Hill School, River Edge, NJ
Lorna Flynn, American International School in Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus
Elizabeth Friese, University of Georgia,Athens, GA
Rachel Goldberg, East Middle School, Plymouth, MI
Beth Gourley, Western Academy of Beijing, Beijing, China
Dorcas Hand, Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston, TX
Alida Hanson, School Library Teacher Program, Simmons College GSLIS, Boston, MA
Violet H. Harada, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
Heather Hersey, Lakeside School, Seattle, WA
Valerie Hill, Ethridge Elementary School, The Colony, TX, and Texas Woman’s University School of Library and Information Studies, Denton, TX
Kimberly Hirsh, Butner-Stem Middle School, Butner, NC, and G. C. Hawley Middle School, Creedmoor, NC
Shannon Hyman, Byrd Middle School, Henrico, VA
Pamela Jackson, East Wake High School, Wendell, NC
Melissa P. Johnston, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Jesse Karp, LREI – Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School, New York, NY
Sara Kelley-Mudie, The Forman School, Litchfield, CT
Tricia Kuon, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX
Neil Krasnoff, New Tech High School at A. Maceo Smith, Dallas, TX
Jennifer LaGarde, New Hanover County Schools, Wilmington, NC
Teri S. Lesesne, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX
Margaret Lincoln, Lakeview School District, Battle Creek, MI
Kate MacMillan, Napa Valley USD, Napa Valley, CA (see also Chap. 9)
Adrienne Matteson, White River Elementary, Noblesville, IN
Kathleen McBroom, Dearborn Public Schools, Dearborn, MI
Walter McKenzie, ASCD, Alexandria, VA
David Meyer, TMC Furniture, Ann Arbor, MI
Ben Mondloch, Cherry Lake Publishing, Ann Arbor, MI
Leslie L. Morgan, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
Cathy Jo Nelson, Dorman High School, Spartanburg District 6 Schools, Roebuck, SC
Beverley Rannow, Otsego Public Schools, Otsego, MI
Howard Rheingold, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Nikki D. Robertson, Auburn High School, Auburn, AL
Daniella Smith, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas
Evan St. Lifer, Scholastic Library Publishing, Danbury, CT
Jennifer Stanbro, South Portland School Department, South Portland, ME
Caitlin Stansell, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Jeff Stanzler, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Carolyn Jo Starkey, Buckhorn High School, New Market, AL
Wendy Steadman Stephens, Buckhorn High School, New Market, AL
Michael Stephens, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA
Linda Straube, New Trier High School, Winnetka, IL
Cathy Stutzman, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, Flemington, NJ
Mega Subramaniam, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Margaret Sullivan, Smith Systems, Plano, TX (see also Chap. 6)
Joyce Kasman Valenza, Springfield Township High School, Erdenheim, PA
Karen Villegas, Grosse Pointe North High School, Grosse Pointe, MI
Jeanna Walker, Portage Public Schools, Portage, MI
Donna Watt, Invercargill City Libraries, Invercargill, New Zealand
Holly Weimar, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX
Senga White, James Hargest College, Invercargill, New Zealand
Erin Drankwalter Wyatt, Highland Middle School, Libertyville, IL
Amanda Yaklin, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Alice Yucht, Retired/rewired Teacher-Librarian, NJ
Marci Zane, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, Flemington, NJ

PS – Want to create a Smashwords book of your own? We recommend the Smashwords Style Guide (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52).

Leadership and the school librarian: Take Control of Your Space

When I was in college getting my undergraduate degree – a B.S. in Commercial Music Recording and Production – I took a class through the psychology department simply titled “Leadership.” The professor was a woman who chose to guide the class with The Tao of Leadership  by John Heider. If you go to http://www.amazon.com and look up the title you will find this description: “The Tao of Leadership is an invaluable tool for anyone in a position of leadership. This book provides the simplest and clearest advice on how to be the very best kind of leader: be faithful, trust the process, pay attention, and inspire others to become their own leaders. Heider’s book is a blend of practical insight and profound wisdom, offering inspiration and advice. This book is used as a Management/Leadership training text by many Fortune 500 corporations, including IBM, Mitsubishi, and Prudential.” (http://www.amazon.com/Tao-Leadership-Tzus-Ching-Adapted/dp/0893340790/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1305638259&sr=1-1; accessed 5/17/2011). 

I have owned that book since 1991 and I still refer to it 20 years later. Not because it is a “how to” type of book but because it is timeless in its wisdom. It isn’t about how to run a company and it isn’t about how to take control of a group. It is, however, a guidebook for the personal journey to that place in ourselves that is confident (not arrogant), joyful (not ignorant), and intelligent (not elitist). I think it should be required reading for the school librarian. Why? Because I  consistently hear from colleagues who complain that teachers “won’t collaborate,” administrators “don’t get it,” and legislators and lawmakers think “we’re expendable.” All true. But I rarely, if ever, hear those same colleagues talk about where they are making changes within themselves or their programs to address these issues. Rarely do I see that there is an acceptance of some personal responsibility for this state of affairs. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist and I’ll even go out on a limb and say that those who are making the effort to read this blog are not the librarians to whom I am referring. But if you’re reading this blog, you know I am speaking the truth. We are surrounded by those that blame “the other” before ever taking a critical look at their own contribution to the problem.

In the May/June issue of School Library Monthly there is an article titled “Success is an Attitude” by Kara Fribley. This article is part of the magazine’s “Taking the Lead” series and, in my humble opinion, a must read. Ms. Fribley opens her article by saying “School librarians can be leaders who positively impact the tone for the entire school” (p. 34). The article is about how Ms. Fribley looked critically at the physical space of her library and made changes that altered the feel and usability of it. Isolated seating areas were opened up and made more accessible. Individual study carrels were removed and open tables with flexible seating were put in their place to foster collaborative learning. In some areas the changes cost absolutely nothing but a little sweat worked up by moving some furniture around. According to Ms. Fribley, “…it ultimately falls to the librarian to encourage or discourage patron usage of the library” (p. 35). Truer words are rarely spoken. The words spoke to me directly because I am putting thought into action by changing my library space, too. I am taking on the leadership needed to improve my space and it is already paying off.

For starters, I painted a rainbow of colors on the cinderblock columns that surround the collection space. Suddenly, the beige and cream color scheme (if you can really call beige and cream a color scheme) was brightened up and brought a little joy to the library. What did it cost? About $60 for paint, brushes, and painter’s tape and a couple of my days during the summer. Then I looked at the entrance – more beige and cream, nothing inviting students in, nothing that said I welcomed them. So, I came up with a quote and stenciled it on the walls of the entry way in the same rainbow colors I used on the columns. As you walk in you see the first part of the quote “Enter with Curiosity…” and as you leave you see the second part, “Exit with Knowledge.” It looks professional but was beyond easy and anyone who wants to know how I did it can send me an email and I’ll explain. I am a creative problem-solver, not an artist!

Next, I tackled my Reference collection. Surrounded by overstuffed shelves and no teaching space I had to think critically about how to rearrange that area. I did some very necessary weeding and opened up some of the shelving. I had the county come in and remove the tall shelves that took up one entire wall – those were distributed to grateful teachers for classroom use. I then did some serious negotiating with our county warehouse and found a dry-erase board sitting unused that they were willing to install on that wide open wall. Now my reference collection is updated and the area is more like a small classroom. How much did it cost? Nothing (although I did offer our warehouse manager a plate of brownies for his help – he declined).

Finally, I looked at the flow of traffic in my media center and did not like what I saw. This school is only 10 years old and there are still many “opening items” here that had to go. I had rows of shelves that had never held any books and, quite frankly, it did not make sense to just fill them up because they were there. I began looking at the emptiness and began thinking in terms of efficiency. My clerk, my intern, and I began rearranging the collection. No shelf is stuffed but the Dewey categories are now closer together. By tweaking the shelving arrangement I ended up with 16 double-sided bookshelves that were completely empty right in the center of the collection. I asked the county to come and pick them up (they did), I asked teachers to let me know if they wanted any of them (they did), and asked the rest to be taken to the county warehouse for storage (done). Now I have this open area with a couch and 2 chairs, 4 beanbag chairs, and a round table with 4 chairs where those empty shelves used to be. And you know what? That area is full of students every morning and has been since the shelves were removed. I didn’t advertise, I didn’t make a big deal about it – but they came and they sat together and they read books and worked on projects together. And they seemed happy! I have a lot more transformative projects up my sleeve and I will let you know when (notice I did not say “if”) they happen. You can click on the pictures below to get a better view of what I’ve done.

The Tao of Leadership tells us that the great leader knows when to listen and when to speak. It tells us that the great leader understands that s/he becomes empowered by empowering his/her team. It tells us that leadership is sometimes quiet and evolutionary rather than vocal and demanding. It is an ebb and flow of action and assistance. It tells us that if we want to make a change we must begin with ourselves because clarity of thought and action draws others to us more powerfully than anything else. So… start rearranging!

 

 

 

 

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Pogo said it well, didn’t he?  But what did he really mean? Allow me to muse on this since it’s been on my mind as I look at the continuing dismal picture that is Georgia’s K-12 public education.
It is this writer’s humble opinion that Pogo was commenting on the fact that we are all personally responsible for the polluted waters in which we live. It reminds me of a concept in Zen Buddhism that says (and I’m paraphrasing) if you meet an obstacle in your path that does not yield in spite of your every effort to overcome, then you need to understand that you put it there yourself.
Every single day I see emails and hear stories from teacher-librarians about how things don’t work in their schools. The culprits range from uncaring administrators to micro-managing central offices to incompetent clerks to not enough money to… You get the picture. Yet in nearly every one I yearn to hear the suggestion of a solution. Take a look around this state at the teacher-librarians that are making their programs work and are making a difference in their schools and the one thing you will NOT find is an absence of any problems like those mentioned above. They work in spite of those things, folks. So what makes the difference in programs/teacher-librarians that work and those that don’t? I belive it is a kind of divergent thinking exhibited by those who are successful.
Do you have an uncaring administrator? Okay…maybe you’ve talked until you’re blue in the face but nothing has changed. Have you thought of a different approach? Maybe that administrator needs to be shown what you do, not asked if you can do it. Maybe that’s a person who will be impressed with results and turned off by complaints. Maybe you should take a moment and re-examine how you’ve dealt with this person in the past and get suggestions from your successful colleagues about how they’ve overcome this issue. It IS possible but the possibilities begin with YOU.
Do you have a micro-managing central office? How have you approached your building level staff for ideas and suggestions on implementing successful programs? Is there a colleague at your school that is able to get innovative lessons/ideas into practice that you could collaborate with? Sometimes approaching successful staff members with an attitude that includes admiration, respect, and “how can I help you make it even better” will go a long way to changing the status quo.
Do you have a clerk that has no training or experience in a media center? First and foremost, ask yourself what you have really done to bring that person up to speed. Maybe you’re working with someone who needs their duties spelled out in a list format prioritized by daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. Is it extra work? Yes, but isn’t it better than simply complaining that the assistant isn’t assisting? Working with someone who carries a bad attitude with them is probably the most difficult thing in the world and will bring you down quicker than almost anything else. Does that mean you throw up your hands and give up? Well, you could but how does that make YOU look? Find a spot in your school or your media center where you can go and center yourself. Take some deep breaths and repeat “I can handle this. I can rise above this. I can smile and do my job.” I’m not a Pollyanna, folks. I’ve been there. It’s hard. It’ll make you question if you’re really doing what you were meant to do and it’ll make you question whether you even want to get out of your bed and show up every day. But keep one thing in mind – you serve a purpose that is more global and far-reaching than just about anyone else in the building. Allowing one person with a bad attitude to subvert that purpose is ultimately on you. And, who knows, if you can find a way to shift your focus from problems to solutions you may find an administrator willing to entertain suggestions on solving the issue. Show that administrator how your program works, how it affects every single stakeholder in your school community, and how appropriate personnel makes a difference and you just might get some relief from an untenable situation.
These are difficult times made more trying by the economy and a social climate that places public education and public school teachers somewhere in the spectrum of used car salesmen. What are WE doing to change that? Look critically at your situation and determine where your realm of influence ends – then work backwards. Change your world and change the world of a student. That’s why we’re here, after all, isn’t it? To improve student achievement? To help them navigate the tangled overload of information thrown at them every day? To help them think critically about what they see or hear or read? Yes, there are problems – deep problems – but look at them in terms of solutions and you will soon find your focus in a different place. You do indeed have the power to move the obstacles, my friends. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you and don’t be afraid to tackle it head-on. You make a difference when you choose to do so. What will you do differently today?

Yes We Can!: Using Donors Choose to Locate Additional Funding

Around our nation and even in our own state, school libraries are facing cuts in funding and personnel.  One way to face this adversity is to be overcome by a feeling of hopelessness.  However, as school librarians, we need to reign in our creative powers and look for alternatives to funding, while at the same time advocating for the restoration of funding at the national, state, and local levels.  We must be transparent about the kinds of learning that takes place in our media center walls and what resources and funding are needed to support this 21st century learning.  In this post, two librarians share a resource for obtaining additional funding in these tough times.

From Andy Plemmons:

One way that I supplement my media center budget is through grants.  In the past three years, I have received local grants from the CCSD Foundation for Excellence and the Athens Area Community Foundation.  The newest grant resource that I am exploring is Donors Choose.  This site started in 2000, when Bronx Social Studies teacher, Charles Best, sensed that the general public would like to supportive innovative classroom and school projects that couldn’t be funded with the limited resources available to schools. Oprah named Donors Choose as one of her favorite things for 2010.  Donors Choose is based on 3 easy steps:  1.  Donors give to a classroom project posted by educators  2.  Donors Choose delivers the materials to the classroom  3.  Kids learn in innovative ways and share photos, updates, and thank you letters from the project

Just a few simple steps sets up an account.  Once registered, you can begin creating projects.  Donors Choose works on a points system.  As your projects get funded and you follow through with writing thank you letters and submitting photos, you earn more points to create additional projects.

To start a project:

  • Choose your type of project and create a title
  • Shop online at Donors Choose-approved sites.  Your saved shopping cart will be imported into your project
  • Tell the story of your project.  Donors Choose walks you through each step of description and provides examples along the way.  A key to your description is explaining the need for the project and the impact it will have
  • Once you submit your project, you wait a few days for it to be approved.  Once approved, you can begin promoting your project via facebook, twitter, email, and your own personalized webpage.  You can view my page of projects here.
  • As donors contribute to your project, you can post thank you responses on your project page.  Once your project is fully funded, you will need to complete a thank you package for your donors.  Failure to do this will cause you to lose points in the Donors Choose system.

Donors Choose is user-friendly.  The site provides help on each step of project creation and offers multiple sources of tutorials.  So far, I’ve created two projects.  Transliterate students is a project that I’m hoping will kickstart my efforts to offer reading in a variety of formats for my elementary students from print materials to audio books to e-readers.  Visiting author book club is a project to support an author visit this year with author Laurel Snyder.  Students will read her books in book clubs to prepare for her visit.  These projects will remain on the Donors Choose site for up to 5 months.

I posted these 2 projects when Borders offered the Waiting for Superman promotion.  All shoppers who shopped at Borders on a particular weekend were given $15 gift cards to donate to projects on Donors Choose.  Several parents at my school received these cards and wanted to know what to do with them, so I created two projects and they donated their cards to the cause.  Since then, I received an additional donation to each project from the wonderful Kathy Schmidt of the Library Stew Blog.  I’m still awaiting full funding on either project, but I will continue to promote my Donors Choose page through social media and my monthly newsletters in the hopes of gaining the funding needed for these two projects.  If these projects are successful, I will continue to use Donors Choose as another option for library funding.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com

http://www.clarke.k12.ga.us/webpages/aplemmons

From Tori Jensen:

I am always looking for ways to obtain more resources for the library.  My budget is currently about $8 per student and includes all supplies, subscriptions, books, etc. for the library. Our free and reduced lunch rate is about 25% which does not qualify us for many grants. The small, local grants available to us are always aimed at new, innovative programs and the organizations behind them are usually not interested in just buying the things they believe the district should cover.  It is frustrating just trying to keep new books on the shelf to encourage reading.

Just before the holidays in December, one of my teachers made me aware of a Borders campaign. Borders would give folks that shopped in one of their stores a $15 gift certificate to give to a Donors Choose project.  I decided to create a project and see how the Donors Choose site worked.

Submitting a project to donors choose is fairly simple. They want to know about the students you are serving and the purpose of your project.  It is sort of like a mini grant application/sales job. When preparing your project, you are asked to choose the materials you need from the Donors Choose vendors.  When I registered, they still had Barnes & Noble as one of their suppliers.  Since my project was funded, they have switched to AKG books (I have never heard of them) and they were able to buy all the books I selected.

When I put my proposal together on Donors Choose, I went a little crazy selecting books for my “Teens Read Too” project.  The organization uses retail prices when totaling the amount requested and I chose about 34 books.  The total for my proposal came to a little over $400.  One thing I found out, though, the site adds an “optional” donation to Donors Choose to the bottom line.  I have pasted a copy of the totals listed on my project here:

Vendor Shipping Charges $0.00
State Sales Tax $0.00
3rd Party Payment Processing Fee $5.58
Fulfillment Labor & Materials $35.00
Project Cost Excluding Donation to Support DonorsChoose.org $412.45
Optional Donation to Support DonorsChoose.org $72.79
Project Cost Including Donation to Support DonorsChoose.org $485.24
8 Donors -$485.24

When people donate to your project, the default setting automatically takes part of their donation and gives it to Donors Choose unless the donor reads the small print and deselects the automatic donation. I don’t like this. It seems to me that the site is trying to “pull one over” on the folks donating.

I linked my Donors Choose project to my Facebook wall which was easy to do through Donors Choose. Any time someone donated, it posted to my Facebook page which added publicity to my project. I could also just click a button to re-post my Donors Choose project to my Facebook page for a little more advertising.  I’m not sure where each of my donors found out about my donation page, but I know at least one saw the posting on Facebook. I think it is a good way to get noticed.
One other thing about Donors Choose that I didn’t find out until after I had submitted my project; your entire project must be funded within 5 months.  If your project expires before it is fully funded, Donors Choose will contact all your donors and give them a choice of what to do with the funds they donated. I sent a message to nearly every contact on my personal email list.  This is not something I do lightly, but I didn’t want to lose any of the money folks had already given to my Teens Read Too page. When will I ever learn to read everything, even the very small print?

I think this organization can work for libraries, but I don’t like some of their practices.  If you decide to give it a try, I would love to know how it turns out for you.  You may also put my email on your possible library donors list when you get close to the end of your term 😉

Tori Jensen
Spring Lake Park High School

tjense@district16.org

Information Goddess
Minnesota Educational Media Organization
President


Andy Plemmons is the school library media specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA.  He holds a BSED in Early Childhood Education, an MED in Children’s Literature and Language Arts, and an EdS in Instructional Technology/School Library Media.  After teaching 3rd grade for 7 years, Andy Plemmons transitioned into the media center to support elementary students, teachers, and families in celebrating the joy of reading, exploring information in a variety of formats, and creating new types of information via web 2.0 technology.  Andy is the proud Dad of Alora, a curious toddler who teaches him new things every day.  Andy enjoys spending time with his wife Denise and daughter Alora going on any adventure that comes their way.  He also enjoys exploring new technology and has just ventured into the world of e-reading with a Nook Color.  All adventures and explorations usually find their way back into the media center in some way.

Tori Jensen became a school library volunteer mom at her daughter’s elementary school in 1995.  That school was her elementary school in the ‘60s and the librarian there in 1994 was HER 6th grade teacher.  She had worked as an MBA in the ‘80s and then stayed home with her kids.  While volunteering at the Snail Lake Elementary library, Tori’s 6th grade teacher told her that he would be retiring and she could have his position if she wanted to.  Tori went back to school and earned her Master’s in elementary education and her certification in media. She has been a school librarian for 12 years and has never been happier!

Yes You Can! Library Girl’s Tips for Getting That Grant!

With mandated library funding rapidly becoming a thing of the past, grant writing is no longer just a nice skill to have.  Rather, it is a necessary and important part of the school librarian’s job description.  While I certainly haven’t received every grant I’ve ever applied for, these strategies have helped me earn over $30,000 of supplemental funds for my school library over the last several years.  I hope they will help you too!

Think Locally: There are tons of great federal and corporate grants out there and some of them offer big pots of money.  However, with big pots come big competition and, sometimes, big strings attached.  Plus, local foundations, businesses and civic organizations have something the big boys don’t -and that’s a potential tie to your community.  You’ve got a better chance at making a personal connection with your application, if the folks reading it *know* your school or even just your community or region.  Regardless of the grant you’re applying for, it’s important to use the limited number of words you’ve been given to paint a picture for the team reading it. Taking a shot at winning some homegrown grant dollars, makes doing that a little bit easier.

It’s Okay to Put the Cart Before the Horse: While it may seem logical to identify a need in your library BEFORE hunting for grant monies, sometimes locating the grant first can yield better results.  Let’s face it, most organizations offer grants, at least in part, to further their own agendas.   In addition to whatever tax benefit an organization receives for giving you their money, publically aligning themselves with certain causes can also serve as a potential shot in the arm for the donor.  The reality is that grant committees consider more than just your needs when deciding which applications to fund, they also look at which proposals best meet their needs.  Therefore when you’re hunting for a grant, try to look at it from the donor’s perspective.  Do you have a need that furthers the mission of the funding organization?  Is there a programmatic match between your library and the company donating the money?  Besides the obvious boon of philanthropy, what does the donor get from giving their money to you?  In other words, ask yourself not what this grant can do for you, but what you can do for the grant provider.

There No Such Thing as One Stop Shopping:  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something akin to a grant supermarket out there?  A free money mega store, where you could simply stroll down the “grants for great libraries” aisle, read a few labels and then fill your cart with all the items on your list!  Alas, no such place exists in either the real or virtual world.  However, what we have is even better: we have each other!  When I was asked to write this post, I spent some time thinking about where I’d found grants over the years.  Through that reflection, I realized that all of the grants I have received were brought to my attention as a result of being involved with my professional community.  Whether stumbling across a grant in the pages of School Library Journal, in a post on a library listserv, posted on one of the blogs I subscribe to or while sharing resources on twitter, it’s that involvement with my colleagues that always leads me to the best stuff.

Put Those Research Skills to Work: As research specialists, grants provide us with the opportunity to follow the very advice that we give our students every day.  Regardless of the grant you are applying for, be sure to: proofread, (you only get one chance to make a first impression and spelling and grammar mistakes do not convey professionalism), follow the donor’s instructions to the letter, (a failure to follow instructions is often the first criteria used by the donor to eliminate applicants from consideration), and, if possible, cite research that supports the program for which you are requesting funding.

Be Prepared: Back in library school, Dr. Karen Lowe told me to begin each school year by preparing  an up to date personal statement – as though I was, at that moment, applying for a grant.  Although they are sometimes called different things, every grant requires this step:  a statement (usually a few pages) dedicated to telling the donor about your school.  Most of the information they require is statistical, but sometimes you are asked to describe your school or the types of learners you serve.  What Dr. Lowe suggested turned out to be some of the best grant related advice I’ve ever received.  Each year I update this personal statement with the most recent enrollment, demographic and socioeconomic information at my disposal.  Then I spend some time thinking about my school and our learners, tweaking each descriptive element as necessary.  Then, when the grants come along, I’m ready.  An aside:  this proved very true just last year when a $6,000 grant for art related library materials was brought to my attention only 2 days before the deadline.  Thanks to Dr. Lowe’s advice, I was able to submit an application on time – and what do you know?  We got it!

Be Fierce! Joyce Valenza recently declared 2011 the “Year to be Fierce,” encouraging all school librarians to “own power, clearly define our roles, [and] design our future.” When it comes to supplementing our dwindling budgets with grant monies, we must also be fierce.  Fierce librarians never say “I can’t.”  There’s no doubt, times are tough.  But we are tougher.   So… go get ‘em!

Jennifer LaGarde (aka Library Girl!) is the Lead Media Specialist for New Hanover County Schools as well as well as the Teacher Librarian at Myrtle Grove Middle School in Wilmington, North Carolina. After 10 years as a middle school Language Arts teacher, in 2007, Jennifer traded in her red pen for a classroom with a lot more books, when she began her career as a Media Specialist/Teacher Librarian. Jennifer is a confirmed gadget girl with a penchant for reading, learning and rabble rousing who believes the world would be a better place if only it were run by librarians. When she’s not blogging, tweeting or playing Words with Friends, Jennifer can be found making mischief with her husband and two dogs.