I am very excited to bring gaming into my school library during Teen Tech Week, sponsored by YALSA.  With a grant by Best Buy, I am able to purchase Bloxels video game creators, Breakout Edu games, and Versa Tiles.  Each resource will bring gaming to my library at a different level.  Since students of all grade levels and academic abilities will participate in the Bay Shore Middle School Teen Tech Week program, these resources will allow me to customize unique experiences for them.  These gaming resources can also be used to create curriculum-based activities and assessments, as well as professional development experiences.  Through games students learn how to think critically, collaborate, strategize, and develop problem-solving skills.


VersaTiles are hands-on manipulatives that students can use independently or in groups.  Through a series of 12 questions, students determine the correct answers and then place the tiles in the appropriate spaces.  If the students are correct, a hidden picture pattern is revealed.  I plan to create a series of questions about book awards (Newbery, Caldecott, Pura Belpre Award, Geisel Award, and the Printz Award) to familiarize my students with.  They will use all of the print and nonprint resources in the library including reference materials, circulated books, the OPAC, and the Virtual Reference Collection).   To learn more about VersaTiles visit: http://www.hand2mind.com/brands/versatiles.

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An important goal of the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library is to reach teens with visual impairments across the state of Washington. Due to a generous Teen Tech Week grant from YALSA and Best Buy, I hope to accomplish this goal by creating a successful adaptive gaming lab for teens with visual impairments.

WTBBL Youth Services Librarian Marian Mays outside the library

Individuals with visual impairments commonly face significant social, economic, and educational barriers. One of these barriers includes the lack of affordable gaming opportunities with adaptive technology for the visually impaired. Games adapted for the visually impaired are slim and often present a financial hardship to teens, families, and educational institutions. Gaming is extremely important since play fosters crucial social, emotional, and cognitive skills in individuals of all ages.

Adaptive gaming can provide visually impaired teens with a greater sense of independence and ownership in the gaming process and their personal lives. With successful adaptations, visually impaired teens can facilitate teen led gaming opportunities of their own. Gaming and play also fosters joy and new relationships between teens. Allowing our teen patrons to be connected is crucial to our mission since many visually impaired teens experience feelings of isolation from their peers. We hope that this gaming lab will also give us the opportunity to inform teens new to the library about our broader services.

Our gaming lab will include a wide variety of games for every type of gamer. Braille board games, braille card games, tactile games and puzzles, Legos with baseplates for added stability, handheld audio games, and audio games for Windows and Mac are just some examples of what our gaming lab will have to offer. Teens will have the opportunity to play these games and provide feedback on their accessibility.

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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.

Measure It!

Many grant reports require a scientific method to evaluate one’s project. There are several ways to approach this. An age-old method is the survey. Printed surveys can easily be passed out in the library, and electronic surveys can be emailed to patrons or added to the library’s website and social media sites. Surveys can ask patrons to rate the project’s quality, relativity, and other factors using a Likert Scale, as well as be given the opportunity to give comments and suggestions. This collection of quantitative as well as qualitative data can help give a comprehensive understanding of a project’s impact.

The library might already be collecting statistics that can be used as to analyze a grant-funded project. Attendance, for example, can help measure success. These can include, but are not limited to, the attendance to a specific program, the automated door count, use in a specific service, use in circulation, and number of library cardholders.

Documenting any positive impacts that occur after a project can also suggest success. For example, a library receives funding for six months of Teen Parent programming. Over the course of the next eighteen months, parenting books and audiovisual materials increase in circulation. This suggests a successful after-effect of the grant supported program.

If a project is intended for high school students, then public school test scores may have a correlation. This may be especially true for projects that provide educational resources to students, such as STEM programs, creative writing workshops, or tutoring classes. These are all great examples of projects that may have an effect on test scores. School districts are required to post test scores, which can be attained directly from the school’s website, a state’s Department of Education, or ww.greatschools.com.

These methods not only give validation when success is achieved, but can also paint a comprehensive picture in what failed. If a program saw high attendance, but patrons rated it poorly on surveys, then initiate further discourse on how to redesign future programs. Using several of these methods can better help a library know how to best serve its community.

In next week’s post, writing tips will be given to help you keep your grant application clear and concise. After all, you don’t want to have done all this work only to have your application turned down for poor grammar or typos!

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

Say It With Stats!

The next step is finding the evidence to support why your project is needed. The reasons why a community needs a specific library service can be clearly illustrated with real-world statistics. Statistics about a community’s demographics, test scores, economic make-up, and geography are readily available through a myriad of online resources.

Here is a list of great online resources to find specific statistics on demographics, education, health, and more:

The Kids County Data Center, part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation

  • Data related to children and young adults
  • Organized by education, demographics, economic well-being, safety and risk behaviors, family and community, and health
  • Searchable by topic or by geographical location
  • http://datacenter.kidscount.org/

The Pew Internet and American Life Project

Great Schools

  • Comprehensive overview, ratings, test schools, and reviews of public schools
  • Searchable by zip code, school district, school name, address, or city
  • www.greatschools.org

U.S. Census

  • 10-year data collection of United States households
  • Demographics, education, economic well-being, and more
  • Searchable by geographic location.
  • http://www.census.gov/
  • American Factfinder: http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml

Additional resources include your school district’s report card and your library’s annual statistical report.  These local reports can be invaluable when stating your case. If statistics are used in the application, be sure to cite their source.

Citing your sources can be simple as, “According to the Kids Count Data Center (a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation), North Dakota had the highest number of young adults in juvenile detention centers in 2011.” Another example is, “The U. S. Census’ 2013 American Community Survey reports that 45% of adults in Atlanta Georgia who do not have a high school diploma also live in poverty.” This last example supports the need for programs that encourage teens to complete high school.

You do not have to include a wealth of statistics to make your case. One or two statistics can give insight to why your project is needed. Good luck! In next week’s blog post, I will give several suggestions on how to measure the success of your project.

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

Read It!

The most important thing when applying for a grant is to read the fine print. Knowing what will be expected will protect you from signing up for something that is unachievable. Below are several questions to ask when reviewing the guidelines of a grant.

  1. What do you have to provide?
    • Is this a match grant?
    • Do you have to provide volunteer opportunities?
  2. If a grant is through an organization, such as the ALA, do you have to be a member?
  3.  Do you have to advertise? If so, in what ways?
    • Your library may have policy about how they advertise funding sources, such as corporations or for-profit institutions.
    • Some grants require recognition on all publicity materials, including print and digital materials. This may or may not be feasible for you to do.
  4. What statistics will you have to collect?
    • Be sure that you can collect the statistics that are required. It is best to figure out ahead of time how you will collect all necessary stats.
  5. What do you have to document in the final report?
    • If you know ahead of time, it is so much easier!
  6. What is the project’s timeline going to look like?
    • Will this conflict with other responsibilities? Be sure to find out when application and final reports are due.
  7. Is the effort and time worth the outcomes?
    • You know better than anyone if you can handle a project of this scope. Measure whether or not this will be worth it!

After assessing all these factors, one can knowledgably decide whether a particular grant is a good fit for your project. In next week’s post, using statistics in grant applications will be discussed. The hard facts can say it all, so statistics can really illustrate why your project is needed in the community. Stay tuned!

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

Plan It!

The best way to figure out how to get your project funded is to plan out all its details. I like to think of it as “the five W’s”: the who, what, where, when, and why. By thinking through all the details, you kill two birds with one stone.  You end up strategizing how to have successful outcomes, as well as gather all the information typically asked when seeking outside funding.


  •       What age group or demographics will benefit?
  •       What evidence shows how target audience will be affected?
  •       What staff will be needed?


  •    What supplies, equipment, & training are needed?
  •    Of these, what does the library already own?
  •    What needs to be purchased? How much do these cost?


  •    What is the general timeline?
  •    Where will project take place?
  •    Do you have the space that is needed?


  •    What are the start and end dates?
  •    What days and times, if applicable?


  •    Why is this project needed?
  •    What are the expected outcomes?

It may seem tedious, but if you can answer these questions, then you are ready to write a grant. Next week, we will learn how to navigate all the details specific to each individual grant.

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

The First Step

Are you interested in applying for grants, but don’t know how to begin? This is a series of weekly posts that will make the grant writing process more transparent. Grants can give you the funds you need for a variety of projects. Creating a new Teen Space, buying additional shelving, investing in technologies, and funding a series of programs are all viable projects for grants.

Before investing a ton of time, check in with your supervisor! See if your project is something that your supervisor will support. Even if your supervisor supports the idea of the project, be sure to convey that you want to seek outside funding and that you are interested in writing a grant. You may or may not be allowed to write a grant, so this bit of clearance is crucial! Once you get the green flag, then you can get started.

This first post will review what types of outside funding are available. By knowing more about the options, you can find the funding that best suits your project. There are two major types of funding outside of a library’s operating budget: grants and sponsorships. Within those options are a variety of subsets.

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As of this morning, YALSA is $205 away from reaching our end-of-the year fundraising goal of $1,000. If we hit our goal, a donor has agreed to match it with a $1,000 donation of their own! Please consider making a donation to Friends of YALSA, which supports $16,000 worth of grants, scholarships and awards each year for library staff. Donations can be made online, and details are here: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/givetoyalsa/give. Donations can also be made via text message. Simply, text ALA TEENALA to this number: 41518 to make a $10 donation to YALSA. Thank you for your support and have a wonderful new year!

ALSA and Baker and Taylor are proud to support the continuing education endeavors of librarians across the country. They offer not one, not two, but three great scholarships to help YALSA members who have never attended ALA Annual the opportunity to do so. And it is a wonderful opportunity. I was lucky enough to win in 2011 and be able to attend Annual in New Orleans. It was a very satisfying experience and allowed me to connect with my teen librarian colleagues and YALSA members in a way I never had via the online environments of list-servs and websites. That one conference gave me the confidence to continue to volunteer for YALSA committees and taskforces, Since 2011, I have had the opportunity to help YALSA’s strategic goals by serving on several different process and selection committees and it has been incredibly rewarding.

The criteria for these grants are pretty simple and available on the website. To paraphrase: you need to be a member of ALA/YALSA, one to ten years experience working with teens (for the Baker and Taylor scholarships only), and you have never attended an ALA Annual conference. For the Broderick scholarship (which is open to MLIS students), you must be currently enrolled in ALA accredited graduate MLIS program. The deadline for applying is December 1. Still not convinced that attending Annual is worth it? Here is what some of the previous years winners have to say.

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