Secrets of Grant Success: Give Your Community The Chance To “Unleash Your Story”

Serving on the Teen Read Week committee has given its members the opportunity to read numerous applications submitted for the TRW mini-grants. This valuable experience has provided us with handy tips to improve our own future grant writing endeavors, and we wish to share our insights with you for the purpose of strengthening your own 2017 YALSA/Dollar General Teen Read Week Grant application.

First, align your concept with YALSA’s Teen Read Week theme “Unleash Your Story”. Be sure to demonstrate how the funds will support teens as they write, tell, and share their own stories. Will the grant help connect teens with the numerous stories, biographies, autobiographies, and folktales in your library? If not, what purpose will it serve? Refresh yourself with The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action to ensure or adjust your proposal to better align with it.

Be sure your purchases meet the grant requirements. Funds must be used to enhance activities and services for teens. Seek alternate funding in your community to purchase snacks, decor, or signage for the event. Be specific in your application about your purchases, as the grant reviewers will want a complete breakdown of fund allotments. Explore other YALSA grants, such as Baker & Taylor/YALSA Collection Development Grant or YALSA’s Great Books Giveaway, for the purchase of collection development materials.

Consider your community. Gather statistics from credible sources like the United Census Bureau or your state’s Department of Education. Use the data to illustrate the need the grant funded program will fill for your teens. Include under-served teens in your idea as well. How many teens live locally? What are their interests? Contact a local local organization and partner up on the project. A clear narrative of your activity must be provided. Explain your vision and define your purpose. Break down the steps of preparation and implementation. Incorporate best practices as outlined in YALSA’s Teen Programming Guidelines. Perhaps most important is to know and communicate the knowledge or skills teen participants will gain by participating in your event or activity.

Wrapping up and evaluating your program is as important as the preparation for it. Determine which indicator is most appropriate to measure the impact of your project. Will you ask teens to complete a survey? Are you going to take attendance? Will teens be required to successfully complete a task? Will you tally return visits or circulation increases? Providing examples or briefly describing your method for measuring the impact of your program will show that you know your teen patrons and understand how a grant-funded program will serve them.

You can find other well-thought out TRW mini-grant award recipients on the YALSA Programming HQ. Check out a few examples of successful past grant awardees, such as those listed below, to compare and improve your proposal.

Co-written by Amanda Barnhart (2016-2017 Teen Read Week chair), Aimee Haslam (2016-2017 Teen Read Week committee member) and Melissa West (2016-2017 Teen Read Week committee chair and 2017 Emerging Leader).

“Who Doesn’t Like Libraries?”

Washington, D.C. is a dream location for librarians: books, libraries, galleries, museums, history, monuments, culture, and food. At the beginning of May, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in National Library Legislative Day along with over 500 other librarians. My trip was funded by a generous travel stipend from the Young Adult Library Services Association. Although I have been a librarian for 23 years and have advocated for libraries in my school district and community, this was my first opportunity to advocate on the national level. I am hopeful that my experience will encourage you to become a national advocate as well.

Alex Simons, Liaison Librarian at the University of Houston, is the Texas coordinator for NLLD. She and Letitia Smith from YALSA prepared me for the visits on Capitol Hill by sending information about library advocacy and about how to conduct successful meetings with Members of Congress. In addition to Alex Simons, the other members of the Texas delegation were Jeanne Standley, Executive Director of Libraries at the University of Texas at Tyler, and Carlyn Gray, retired Director of Library Services at Round Rock ISD and currently Librarian at Austin Community College. Gloria Meraz, Assistant State Librarian at Texas State Library and Archives, attended as a resource person and was instrumental in providing information on the impact of federal funds for Texas libraries and the Texas State Library.

This event is exceptionally well-planned and organized. ALA hosts NLLD events and training for registered participants at a local hotel on Monday and plans office visits on Tuesday. Folders with information about important library issues are prepared for each of the 435 Representative’s offices and 100 Senator’s offices. The Texas delegation generally meets on Sunday night to divide up visits, and Monday they arrive early at the House office buildings. With current threats to eliminate funding for critical federal library programs, the folders were filled with data showing how libraries truly do change lives. Alex Simons suggested that we focus on a maximum of three issues to clarify at each office to get the most out of our time during visits. Armed with our data and our stories, we hit the halls.

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Meet with Your Congress Member–It’s Fun (kinda) & You can #SaveIMLS

My purpose of writing this blog post is to demonstrate that meeting with your member of Congress is easy and even a little fun!  Why do this?  Because this year is unlike any other in recent history: the White House is proposing to eliminate IMLS and with it all federal funds for libraries.  We must convince our members of Congress now that this will have devastating effects, or libraries will lose the support and funding they need to help their communities.  This is a do or die type of situation, and it calls for extraordinary measures.  The Congressional Management Foundation says that in-person meetings with elected officials are the single most effective way to educate them about your cause and persuade them to support it. If all YALSA members met with their members of Congress, that would send a compelling message that they could not ignore!

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A New YALSA Toolkit on Partnerships and Funding

On May 9th, YALSA published a new toolkit called Partnering to Increase Your Impact.

Six members and one chair worked since July 2016 in the Community Connections Taskforce to pull together ideas and resources about how libraries can partner with other organizations and locate funding opportunities.  Pictured are Adrienne Strock, Rachael Bohn, Bill Stea, Dina Schuldner (chair), and Billie Moffett.  Not pictured are Derrick Burton and Markita Dawson.

We worked virtually, through email, phone, and video chats to develop this resource that is invaluable to librarians and libraries in finding partnerships and funding that increase the impact Teen Services can have on the Young Adult population.

There are ten steps that should be taken in order to get the most out of a partnership.  They include identifying a teen need, making an inventory of the library’s assets, choosing assets that would come from another organization, and then identifying and vetting potential partners.  Once that initial research is done, it’s all about the relationship you build with your chosen partner.  Together, you can co-develop a program or service and implement it for the teens you serve.  Maintaining that relationship you’ve built will allow you to evaluate the impact of your program or service and either stick with it, or adjust it.  You may even discover that your partner isn’t the best fit, in which case you can move on to other potential partners you’ve already identified in the earlier steps.

We included some great commentary about some libraries’ experiences with partnerships.

There is also an invaluable section on funding opportunities that was developed in part through a survey conducted with libraries around the country.  You will find these ideas helpful in your own quest to increase funding for teen services at your library.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve YALSA as chair of the Community Connections Taskforce, and am grateful to have worked with such fine people in developing this resource.  Please share this toolkit with other members of your library who can help you make your partnership and funding dreams come true!

Dina Schuldner was a Young Adult Librarian at the Gold Coast Public Library in New York, where she developed the Teen Entrepreneurial Academy by partnering with local business owners.  She now lives in Virginia Beach, VA. 

Representing Pennsylvania Librarians at National Library Legislative Day – A Dream Come True!

Sara Huff at NLLDOn Monday, May 1st and 2nd 2017, National Library Legislative Day took place in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of librarians and library workers from all over the country represented their state’s delegation at this event. Thanks to YALSA, I was one of the lucky librarians able to attend.

I grew up with my local public library being a very big part of my life. My mother took me to storytimes as a child, I volunteered there during my summer breaks in high school and college, and I was even employed there right after I graduated college. I know first-hand the importance of public libraries. With the recent threats to library funding, it is now crucial for library workers and library-users to show their support for libraries. 

Several months ago I read about an award available to first-time NLLD attendees on YALSA’s website. I knew immediately that I wanted to apply for this award. I currently am employed as the Teen Librarian at William Jeanes Memorial Library, a public library outside of Philadelphia in Montgomery County. I work with teens on a daily basis, and I see how public libraries have impacted them. From providing books, programming, and a place to hang out after school, public libraries can have an incredible influence on teens. I was ecstatic when I got the email telling me that I had been one of the few selected to receive the award to attend National Library Legislative Day in our nation’s capital.

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Montana goes to Washington: Leveraging teen library stories for maximum impact!

The Montana delegation to National Library Legislative day was faced with preparing for an interesting mix of meetings: a staffer for a vacant House seat, staffers for our staunchly Republican Senator Steve Daines, and an appointment with Senator Tester himself, who demonstrates faithful library support. State Librarian Jennie Stapp prepared our delegation with facts, figures, and solid strategy. We needed something else, though. Something personal: a story.

Our advocacy training on May 1, hosted by ALA’s Washington Office, focused on how to leverage the personal story to demonstrate funding impacts and make our “ask” more personal. Our trainers and speakers suggested aligning the work we do with the areas our elected officials focus on for the most impact.

As I walked from our training to the reception at the Hart Senate building, parts and pieces of the examples I’d been mulling over all day finally coalesced in my head: I’d tell the story of twin sisters, Bridget and Fiona, who discovered robotics at the library as high school freshmen when they used Montana State Library Maker materials, purchased with LSTA/IMLS funds. Now, as juniors, they’re competing in national robotics competitions. Fiona and Bridget will graduate in 2018 and plan to stay in state for college and study engineering. I knew this story would have maximum impact for us because our hardest to reach officials are deadly interested in STEM and economic growth through tech-based industries in the state of Montana.

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The Interconnectivity of Library Advocacy

On May 1-2, a generous travel grant from YALSA allowed me to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend National Library Legislative Day and meet with congressional staff from my home state of Vermont.

Sarah Hill, Peter Langella, Jack Martin and Emily Sheketoff

When preparing for the event, I tried to imagine a world where public, academic, and school librarians engage each other more often in order to create a more unified voice in our advocacy efforts. The Vermont Department of Libraries has had to weather funding and personnel cuts over the last several years, and school districts (like the one I work in) have libraries and library staff at the top of their cut lists every budget season. My library staff was reduced from four to three at the beginning of this school year, and you can imagine how difficult it is to serve the same patron community with 25% of our team missing. Two other schools in my district made similar choices, and we are one of the highest funded school library systems in the state. While there has been some notable advocacy successes like adding language that specifically mentions certified school librarians in our state’s education quality standards and ESSA implementation plan, the losses of jobs and funding clearly mean we aren’t completely succeeding in our silos.

But attending NLLD made me realize that our disparate libraries and systems are more connected than I ever realized.

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What We Learned from a Visit to Washington DC & how You can Help

On May 2nd, I traveled to Washington DC with YALSA President Sarah Hill and other YALSA members to participate in National Library Legislative Day.  We focused our conversations on

Sarah and I met with Congressional staff who work for committees that are relevant to libraries, such as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.  We participated in seven meetings in seven hours and here’s what we learned from this speed-dating with Congressional staff:

  • Your emails, calls, Tweets and letters are working—especially your calls and letters—but we need more. Everyone we met admitted that Congress is pretty old school.  So, calls and letters get more attention than social media or email.  This includes letters to the editor and op-ed pieces in local newspapers.  Please keep sending letters and making calls!  As of May 4, only 20 Senators have signed the letter supporting federal funds for libraries in FY18.  Check out this earlier YALSAblog post for sample messages and a ready to use letter to the editor (docx).

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YALS Spring 2017 Resources – From Awareness to Advocacy: An Urban Teen Librarian’s Journey from Passivity to Activism

In the Spring 2017 issue of YALS, (digital edition available now
to members & subscribers via the Members Only section of the YALSA website) David Wang’s article describes his personal journey from passivity to activism as his library faced serious financial cuts. His article includes references and resources that shouldn’t be missed. The full list of those resources follows:

Invest in Libraries: http://www.investinlibraries.org/

Invest in Libraries Rally: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_39MpGQdKTw

Contact your Senator to Support Library Funding

Last month library supporters were called on to contact their Rep in the House.  Now it’s the Senate’s turn!  Please email, Tweet and/or call the offices of your two U.S. Senators and ask them to sign on to the “dear appropriator” letters for two critical pieces of library funding: the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL).  Please share this widely and encourage your colleagues, coworkers, friends and family to contact the offices of their Senators as well.  This is an extremely tough budget year, and without huge grassroots support (i.e. thousands of voters contacting Congress), the nation’s libraries will lose this critical funding.  The deadline to sign the letter is May 19.

  • Go here to contact your Senators’ offices: http://cqrcengage.com/ala/home –ready to use messages are waiting for you!
  • Check up on your Senators after you contact them.  Use ALA’s easy tracking tool  to find out if your Senators signed the letters.  Then thank them if they did, or contact them again if they haven’t yet done so.
  • To learn more about the issue, read this ALA blog post.

Thank you for all that you do to support teens and libraries and don’t forget we have everything you need to be a part of National Library Legislative Day, May 2, on the wiki as well as 10 other ways you can take action right now to support libraries!

-Beth Yoke

P.S. If you’ve been trying by phone to reach your Senator and the lines are busy, try Resistbot instead