Admittedly, talking about library finances can be a painful conversation, but as Monty Python said, "Always look on the bright side of life." Looking toward the positive, money has often been my ticket to creativity, testing a theory for change, and leveling up the library space and events.
Instead of large grants, I seek manageable ones ranging from $100 to $10,000. When grants get larger than that, I find myself stressed, bogged down by district policy, and buried in the grant paperwork requirements. Instead, I prefer to focus on the original purpose and need. In 2018 I received an Indiana Humanities Council One State / One Story: Frankenstein Community Read grant. We were one of the libraries participating in our state-wide celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein. Through this small $1,000 grant books and resources were added to the collection and we sponsored three community events for students and families in grades six to twelve. We hosted a Frankentoy Make & Take, a Frankenstein book club party, and a Frankenweenie movie and games night. The grant requirements were brief, manageable, and included writing the grant, completing the official acceptance documentation, attending a training webinar, recording an event registration Google Form for each program, and completing a concluding report.
Grants are my ticket to freedom. Many of the mind-blowing improvements to occur in the library are because of grants. The grant brings extra money, but more importantly, the receipt of the grant gives me permission to make mistakes, maybe even fail, while trying out something innovative, unique, or new to us. I have worked with many administrators, but they have all been reluctant when it comes to change. If instead, I approach the administrator with an idea, some preliminary research for why it matters and how we could do it, along with a grant opportunity that, if won, would allow us to try it out with a positive impact on the budget, the response is almost always positive. For example, when it was time to take our makerspace to the next level and host evening community events, we applied for a $10,000 Indiana State Library LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) sub-grant. Winning provided funds to add books, tools, supplies, and technology to the library collection. It also gave us the permission needed to develop, test, and fine-tune monthly Think and Make family workshops. Each workshop focused on a particular topic of interest to our community, like photography, flight, coding, game design, cooking, and the 2018 solar eclipse. At each workshop a local expert kicked off the event with his knowledge and experience, followed by some front loading and learning then doing an activity with that learning. We found families were much like a classroom of students and needed just a bit of learning, then some time to do something with it right away. We found we could do the "think then do three" times during the workshop, then conclude the evening with a wrap-up by the expert or a teacher. This grant allowed us to expand the resources and programming provided through the library, helped us learn how to bring in community leaders in a purposeful manner for a positive school experience, develop a formula for Think and Make family workshop, and a templates for articulating our need to prospective experts and volunteers as well as promotional materials.
As a librarian, budgets, financial reports, and money issues are a way of life. Instead of focusing energies on the negatives, I think of the people in my community and how to impact their lives and learning in an enriching and positive manner. Sometimes this can be done with an investment of time rather than money. Much can be done with some effort, creativity, and little or no money.