Grants for School Libraries

I’ve heard people say, “libraries are dead”. They scoff and say, “I can look up anything I want on the Internet, and I can download many books for free.”

School libraries will never be dead. It’s not just about checking out books to kids on Tuesday in 4th period. Your Library Media Specialist is certified as a teacher as well as a librarian. Many people don’t know that. A good school library is a center for lifelong learning, and there has never been a more important time for the library to thrive. How will students know how to sort through resources to find the ones that are useful and true? Library Media Specialists are specially trained to teach kids how to use the Internet in a useful and responsible way.

The best way to approach a grant for libraries is to link its programs and services to curriculum and show that this facility is attached at the hip to the entire school community. Your library is the place where teachers will bring their students to find reference material and literature to match their subject area. If  you have after school programs to support the areas of the curriculum that need improvement, build off those programs in the library. Make the library the hub of activity for special programs, including professional development. If you think library, you’ll be guided to its physical needs very quickly.

Library Media Centers have new needs. It’s not enough to make sure you update the collections of books and newspapers, but you must subscribe to the digital counterparts for all material. The Center for Digital Ed provides articles and resources on global expansion of digital information.

A recent study shows that iPads are a solid educational tool, and your Library Media Center will probably have an iPad lab for you to use, if you don’t have them in your classroom. Kids can learn to use them as tools for learning there too. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt performed a pilot study using an iPad text for Algebra courses. The study found that 20% more students (78% compared to 59%) scored Proficient or Advanced in mathematics comprehension when students used tablets and digital textbooks rather than their paper book counterparts.

A Riverside, California middle school was the site for the study from spring 2010 to spring 2011 using the Fuse: Algebra I app. As if to underscore what we already think about kids and technology, students’ interaction with the device was easy and personal. “Students were more engaged”, said the principal of Amelia Earhart Middle School. “Using the iPad was more normal, more understandable for them.”

There’s a nice list of grants for school libraries on the Scholastic website. My favorite, “Improving Literacy Through School Libraries” is a direct federal grant that has the power to completely revitalize the library program in your school district. It may take a couple of tries to get the grant, but stick with it. It was de-funded for a while during the financial crises of 2008-2009, but it’s back with a slightly different focus. This time around, they are very interested in supporting professional development for Library Media Specialists to keep them up to date on new technologies for learning.

A direct federal grant takes work, hard work, and you’ll need to work with a curriculum team in your school district to come up with a compelling program for the improvement of academic achievement through your school libraries.
You’ll need fodder for your applications. The American Library Association has put together a position paper on School Library Research that can be a resource for your narratives as you put the grants together.

Resources to keep you updated on school library news:
School Library Monthly
School Library Journal
News and Press Center – ALA
Library Journal

Associations to join and support:
ALA – American Library Association
American Association of School Libraries
Special Libraries Association
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®)

So, gear up and support your school library. Let me know how you’re doing. You may network with me by leaving a comment below.


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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.

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