Grants for Libraries

This is not an article about politics, but it helps to know a bit about politics when you are seeking a grant. When George W. Bush was president, his wife Laura took on school libraries as a project while she was in the White House.  In like fashion, Michelle Obama has been working with military families and has worked diligently in the area of nutrition for children to put a spotlight on obesity in American children. First ladies generally get what they want, and in these cases, they secured funding for their areas of concern.

From 2002 to 2010 there was a federal grant called “Improving Literacy Through School Libraries“. Laura Bush worked with many people and groups to create a grant opportunity that provided support for schools that wanted to elevate library programs in their schools and a way to improve academic achievement. I applied for it unsuccessfully for three years. I learned a great deal about writing government sponsored grants in the process so it was not a complete loss. For instance, many grant writers spend time collecting letters of support from their government representatives. In general, this is not a great way to spend your time, but in this case, it should have been an important part of any application; this grant was highly political. I only focus on this grant because it instilled a winning formula for approaching grant projects:

Align projects to Common Core Standards and academic achievement in your school.

Grants for libraries are increasingly hard to find. There is a perception, however flawed, that school libraries are no longer relevant. With iPads for every student in some schools, the world is at students’ fingertips through the Internet. Who needs a library? We’ve proved that strong school library programs raise academic achievement.

The key is to request funding for your library media program, not the library itself. If you tie your library project to the whole school’s attempt to raise test scores, you are better positioned for success. If you want to buy computers, for instance, be sure it is because the software installed is critical for a dedicated program to raise those drooping English Language Arts test scores. Mine the data you have from your State Department of Education, it’s all right there, test scores, colorful graphs, everything you need to highlight your school’s library program.

Libraries are great locations for before and after school programs. Once you’ve linked the program to the library and your need for collection development to support your after school activities, you’re on your way. At the end of the article, I provide some resources for finding grant money to support programs like this.

Writing a grant for your school library also helps to focus everyone’s attention on the very real needs of your school library program. Focus on finding ways for your Library Media Center to become and remain relevant. It is a center for lifelong learning, if you can link it to the community and education for everyone; you’re on your way. Create a program that will take years to unfold; it will keep all eyes on your library. To do that, you might find local supporters to provide matching support for the program.

The ILSL grants are no longer available, there are new winds in Washington, but the current administration has also made education a priority. There’s a new focus on technology, too. You might center a Virtual High School credit recovery program in your library- an after school support center for students who only need a few extra credits to complete their diplomas. The possibilities are endless for online learning programs you can launch, right from your library.

Resources for you:

School Funding Center Grants Database
Expanded School Learning in the Library
After School Alliance
Five Ways to Keep School Libraries Relevant
Virtual High School

I’d really love to know how you’re doing out there. You may network with me by leaving a comment below.


This entry was posted in Grant Research, Grant Writing on by .

About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *