Middle School Monday: Finding, Funding, and Flooding
Has our libraries’ mission to fill our shelves with books that reflect our students—and the world—ever been more important? We need reflective literature and #ownvoices books for all of our students. All the time.
Today, let’s talk about money. Yes, money. Because to make a commitment to filling our shelves with diverse books, reflective literature and counterstories is absolutely crucial (it’s not optional, fam). But, to have an actual plan for making it happen? That’s even better.
Lack of funds can’t be a barrier to getting the books our students need. I think I was at our school for two weeks last year before I asked my principal for more money. Always start with your own administration! Back up your ‘ask’ with data and student stories. If you happen to be at a Title I school, ask for some of the Title I funds—I can’t think of a better way to spend that money than on engaging, reflective literature that is going to increase the amount of reading our students do.
I’m lucky—I have an extremely supportive administration, and yes, they show that support in the way of funds for our library (after I asked for those funds). For my students, though, I’m greedy. To truly transform our collection, I needed more.
We all need more, don’t we? Are there ever enough books? [Both rhetorical questions.] Money is out there for us to diversify our shelves and programming—we simply have to be intentional about looking for it.
Last year, as I faced a collection that was woefully out of date and out of touch with my students, I turned to Donor’s Choose for books I could use with students in the classroom and for classroom reading. I had eleven Donor’s Choose projects funded last year. In my experience, donors like to support projects that involve BOOKS. That describe clear ways those books will be enjoyed and used by our students. If you’ve never used Donor’s Choose before, give it a try. Identify a set of books that you need. Perhaps your fiction collection needs more fantasy series with diverse characters. Let me rephrase that. ALL of our fiction collections need more fantasy series with diverse characters. We all need more LGBTQA+ titles. We all need more mysteries, realistic fiction, graphic novels, sci-fi, and poetry that feature diverse characters. That are written by #ownvoices authors.
We all need more class sets! Through Donor’s Choose last year, I received class sets of Shadowshaper, The Crossover, Open Mic, and Booked.
I love Donor’s Choose. Last year was my first year at my current school and because of a transformed collection, space, and policies, circulation rose 175%. That would not have been possible without Donor’s Choose and those 11 funded grants. Read more about Donor’s Choose here. [Also enjoyable to support other educators’ projects across the country!]
For this school year, my library was fortunate to be a recipient of a Laura Bush Foundation Grant. [Please read more about this wonderful grant program here.] My application focused on the need to make our collection more reflective of our students, their lived experiences, and their interests. I included specifics—specific titles, specific ways I would use the funds, specific data on what reflective collections can do.
The first batch of books ordered with Bush Foundation funds have been delivered and our library is flooded—flooded with reflective literature. It’s pure joy. Below are some pictures of these books, including a class set of You Don’t Even Know Me by Sharon Flake.
In addition to grant programs above, the below resources might be helpful for identifying a grant program that would fit with your school. [Already missed the deadline for this year? Mark your calendar for next year!]
- A listing of grants through the American Association of School Librarians
- A listing of grants/awards from YALSA (some are specifically for public libraries, but many are for any teen librarian)
- Grants for school librarians from GrantsforTeachers.net
- A listing of grants at Scholastic.com
I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib. Money for reflective books is out there! Let’s find it!
Filed under: Middle School Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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