As in all things, changing a library's physical presence is never free. Determining your budget and funding resources is an essential part of the process, if at times a daunting one. But fear not—thoughtful planning and creative problem solving can get you far. Although each situation is unique, there are some common elements.
Let's examine three places to look for funding for your library design— the school budget and district capital, grants, and local community resources—as well the importance of cost planning and contingency funding.
Start by looking for leeway in the school budget. If you're completing a large redesign, chances are that's going to come from the capital budget. Smaller improvements may be taken out of the annual library operating budget. Work with your administrator to match your needs with available funding. Articulate specific and compelling reasons for the changes. Provide them with a clear cost-benefit analysis for both the tangible and intangible items. How will the proposed changes help the school accomplish its mission?
Next, search for grants. There are funds available for construction, for furniture, and for technology. Look at the funding sources template in this lesson's activity for places to find educator grants, including those earmarked for school libraries. Make a case for your students and their needs so that you can use these funds to improve their learning experience.
Third, tap into the resources that exist at your school. What aspects can you improve in-house? Maybe you have some large bookcases that you want to shorten and make moveable. Work with your facilities department to see if anyone has the carpentry skills to resize the shelves and add casters. Are there any items sitting in storage that could find a new life in the library? Who among your school community has design experience that might be willing to consult pro-bono? Share excitement about the possibilities and see who can help. Get the PTA on board and arrange for creative fundraisers.
Additionally, look at the wider community for gifts and low-cost items. One library in Indiana was able to get a set of comfortable chairs from another library that was closing. Does the local thrift store have small furniture items that would come in handy for reading nooks? Can carpet samples be used by an art class to turn into a cohesive design for the large group workspace?
Beyond the sources of funding for your redesign, there are a few more things to keep in mind. As you are planning your project, take a strategic cost-planning approach. Look at what funding is available, develop accurate cost projections, and make sure you know what the project's priorities are--separate the wants from the needs. The greater clarity of vision you can hold at the beginning of the project, the fewer chances there are for painful changes down the road, whether it's in an increase in cost or a decrease in scope.
On any construction project, always include contingency funding. If by the end of the project, you haven't needed to use it, you can purchase a few extras to improve the design even more.
By combining resources from the school budget, district capital, grants, and local community, you can fund the library of your students' dreams.