While trying to get an overview of library services offered in my area, I spoke with a high school librarian who brought up an idea that seemed revolutionary to me. The librarian had previously been a special education teacher, so she purposely made her library services welcoming to this population.

Note: This particular high school still has a "Special Education" program. Most schools are inclusive, so students attend classes together, and those who have learning disabilities or special needs may have a tutor for certain subjects, or attend other learning activities to get extra help.

Because of her background, the librarian reached out to the current English teachers to form a book club for students with disabilities. She wanted to hold a weekly book club in the library during English class. Holding programs during school hours can be difficult, because there is already so much to do during a school day. But it increases participation, since many students ride the bus or have other after-school obligations, and often can’t stay late.

For the book club, students chose a book from three the librarian suggested—no required school reading, but instead books that were of an appropriate age level, deemed “fun” reads. She read aloud one chapter a week, and they were responsible for reading the next two chapters on their own, to discuss at the beginning of the next week’s meeting.

The librarian used the rest of the period to relate the book to skills that would help the students in English class. Sometimes they would have informal quizzes to help with reading comprehension. Students also learned how to pick a thesis and write a short critical essay, which the teacher accepted at the end of the semester for bonus points.

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Write It!

Step six is the actual writing of your grant. Many grants will ask the following:

  1. Your organization’s mission
  2. The details of your proposed project
  3. Why your project is needed
  4. Your expectations of the project
  5. How the project’s success will be measured
  6. How the project will be promoted and advertised
  7. How the funds will be used, what your budget will be

By this step, most of this information has already been identified. However, to articulately present it, practice concise and consistent writing. Many grant applications allow only so many characters or words for each section; however, there is no need to use the maximum number of words. If it can be said in fifty words, then say it in fifty. More words do not equal more importance. There is no need to give the grant writer and the reader unnecessary work. Don't lose your audience.

Consistency is rule number two. This applies to the name of the project, the titles of staff involved, and so on. For example, a project titled “Battle Bots in the Library” is different than “Library Robotics Club.” Comparatively, “Teen Librarian” is different than “Youth Services Specialist.” Decide on what titles will be used, and stick with them. A similar approach applies to acronyms. The first time an organization is mentioned, spell out its full title, followed by its acronym in parentheses. Afterwards, use only the acronym. Flipping back and forth from full title to acronym throughout the application will appear confusing and unprofessional.

Most importantly, recruit several peer editors. Typos are everywhere, and it can take several pairs of eyes to catch them. Coworkers from the same or different departments, a supervisor, and state library consultants all make great editors. Having a diversity of editors may also give the grant writer helpful feedback. A colleague in the same department may already know the details of a project and therefore subconsciously gloss over sections of the application. A fresh pair of eyes can help pinpoint the application's problems and inconsistencies. Remember to be gracious with all peer editors. Reading a grant can be as mind numbing as writing one. Let them know how much their help means. In other words, tell them thank you.

There are countless grants out there, but here are a few to get you started:

Federal and State:

Associations & Foundations:


For more grant opportunities, visit YALSA's wiki.  Last but not least, don't let the grant kill your spirit. The final results make all the work worth it. Keep organized copies of all paperwork. For a first time grant, consider smaller grants, which are sometimes called "minigrants" or "contests." If one application is denied, do not give up. Use that idea for another grant. If it is a great idea, fight for it and the funding will come. Remember, it never hurts to ask.

Jaclyn Lewis Anderson is the youth services director at the Madison County Library System.

What insights can the busy YALSA member glean from the new volume in The Handbook of Research in Middle Level Education: Research on Teaching and Learning with the Literacies of Young Adolescents (Malu & Schaefer, 2015)? This research-based handbook is the focus of this blog, which is the 3rd installment in a series of blogs being published by members of YALSA’s Research committee. I used two basic criteria to decide which ideas from this handbook were worthy of sharing with the YALSA community. First, the featured concept had to have some parallel relationship and/or applicability within Library and Information Science research and practice. Second, the concept has, in my opinion, not been fully integrated into in LIS research and therefore warrants more attention by YALSA scholars and practitioners. My aim is to synthesize the common threads in literacy research across the disciplines of Education and Library and Information Science in hopes that either YS practitioners or scholars alike might be interested in furthering their knowledge of this concept or incorporating it into their repertoire of practices.

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A little less than two years ago YALSA published the "Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action" report. (Often referred to as the Futures Report.) At that time YALSA also started talking about how to help library staff working for and with teens to develop programs and services that align with the recommendations in that report. Some of the projects YALSA launched to support that work include futures-focused webinars on topics related to the recommendations made in the report, the Programming Guidelines and Programming HQ, and a wide-array materials for library staff to use to better understand and advocate for the library services discussed in the document.

Now, YALSA is taking the next step in supporting the future-focused ideas of the report and in helping library staff support the lives and needs of teens in 2015, 2016, and beyond. That next step is in the development of an up-to-date vision and plan for YALSA (the current strategic plan runs through the end of this year). It's a great opportunity to think about all that YALSA does and make sure that the programs and services provided to members are those that will best help them support teens today.  And in this latest round of planning, we're doing much more than updating a document.  We're looking broadly at where YALSA is and where we want and need to go.  That's exciting because:

  • There is a teens first focus. That means that YALSA is keying in on a strategic plan that makes sure the work the association does supports the needs of today's teens as they prepare for college, careers, and life. Read More →

YALSA wants to know what you’re doing for and with the teens in your community around the topics of: 1) teaching tolerance, 2) building cultural competence, 3) facilitating dialogues about race, equity and inclusion; and 4) welcoming and serving immigrant teens. If you’ve developed services, programs, resources or partnerships to facilitate any of these activities, and are willing to share your information with the library community, please let us know by filling out this brief form by no later than Dec. 1st. We’ll compile and share out the examples we receive so that other libraries can benefit from your great work!

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

International Games Day (IGD) took place on Saturday, November 21 as libraries worldwide hosted an array of gaming events. Now in its eighth year, IGD is guided by the American Library Association (ALA) in collaboration with Nordic Game Day and the Australian Library and Information Association. Participation is free, and libraries can request game donations from sponsors or opt to join online international games such as this year's Minecraft Hunger Games tournament and the telephone-style game, Global Gossip.

In addition to highlighting another way that libraries offer more than books, IGD provides an opportunity for teens to participate in an intergenerational program that is social, educational, skill-building, and fun! Participating libraries offered a variety of activities from tabletop games to life-size versions of Twister, checkers, and Scrabble. Some libraries also provided an opportunity for teens to try their hand at new technology  through video games, virtual reality gaming, Lego Mindstorm activities, augmented reality sandboxes, and iPad games. The Future of Libraries for and with Teens report suggests that libraries give teens the chance to experience technology tools and devices in an informal setting, and IGD can provide such occasion.

Did your library participate in International Games Day? Have you hosted teen gaming events at your library? Share with us in the comments section below!

Please visit the International Games Day website for more information about this worldwide event.

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The YALSA Executive Committee met in Portland, Oregon, on Nov. 8 and 9, and one of the items on the agenda was to discuss Board Member Exit Interviews. As a result of the discussion, some changes are going to made in the Board Leadership Training. Evaluation of the training is nothing new--changes are usually made fairly regularly in order to continue to improve and fine-tune this effort.

During the Board Leadership Training that will be held at 2016 Annual in Orlando, we will make more of an effort to discuss board member expectations and procedures.  Often, board members have varying degrees of board procedure knowledge in their background, so we'll need to get all members on the same page.  If you're new to board process, it might be a shock when process takes a bit longer than it does at your library. The word "quickly" for a national organization and "quickly" for a library can be two different things! Things can move a bit slower at the national organizational level, but being deliberate means that multiple people are fact-checking, complying with policies, and thinking things through in order to ensure the board is making informed decisions.  My experience on my state school library organization introduced me to working with boards, and the various task forces and committees that go with it. Committee chairpersons are vital because they drive the group to get things done. In YALSA, board members serve as liaisons to task forces and committees and help move things along, too. Then the board members serve on standing board committees that meet on a regular basis to ensure that the smaller groups are effective.

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Congress is poised to act definitively on the federal education bill, ESEA, very soon. This is the first new education bill in 14 years​!​  The last time Congress passed an education bill, school libraries were left out. This resulted in widespread cuts for school libraries, and nearly an entire generation of our youth have suffered from a lack of access to experts and materials they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce. So, at this moment, we are at a very critical juncture, and it's up to all of us to speak up for youth now!

Congress's goal is to have a draft bill by Nov. 30th, but it could be out as early as next week. Once the bill is out, Congress will move very quickly, and will most likely vote on a final bill by mid-December. There are two steps that will happen in the next couple of weeks: first the House votes on the bill, and then the Senate.  These next few weeks are a window of opportunity for us and our advocates to help youth through support of school libraries.

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