There’s a great opportunity out there for school libraries looking to get ready for the 21st century–and now is the right time for K-12 schools go after their share of the $166 million the agency has to offer.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is a small, independent federal grantmaking agency that makes competitive awards to museums and libraries, including school libraries.

What makes this such a ripe opportunity is that the agency this year is offering a special education-related theme. It may be in the hopes of attracting worthwhile school applicants: According to a program officer, K-12 schools have yet to break in with appropriate proposals for this particular grant. But STFB has the low-down on what the agency is looking for–and tips from the inside on how to make your project stand out in the crowd.

‘There’s room’

According to Joyce Ray, the director of discretionary programs for IMLS, K-12 schools have been slow to go after these funds, and the agency is eager to find worthy school projects that can act as national models.

In 1998 the agency awarded $146 million in grants to public and school libraries and museums, and this year it will give out $166 million. Most of that will go to states through a formula program, so Ray suggests that schools contact their individual state library agency to find out if funds will be distributed through a subgrant program.

But the program also will offer $10 million through four competitive granting programs.

National Leadership Grants

Although K-12 schools haven’t traditionally applied to the fund, they are eligible and encouraged to apply. This year’s theme for the competitive grants program is “education of learners for the 21st century,” so it’s an ideal time for schools to come in for an award. “There’s room there,” Ray said.

The agency’s competitive National Leadership Grants (NLG) program “awards grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements to enhance the quality of library services nationwide and to provide coordination between museums and libraries.” Awards are given in four categories:

1. education and training in library and information services;

2. research and demonstration projects to improve library services;

3. preservation or digitization of library materials and resources; and

4. model programs of cooperation between libraries and museums.

What they’re looking for

While school libraries can apply in any area, Ray says your best bet is in the category called “education and training in library and information science.”

Schools might also find success in the third category, perhaps applying for funds to carry out digitization of curricular materials in classroom setting, Ray said. Or, schools could partner in a distance learning project with museums to come in under the fourth category.

Here are some strategies Ray suggests for successful projects:

1. The project should be innovative and national in scope.

2. Don’t just ask for infrastructure, but propose model projects to demonstrate solutions to problems on a national level.

3. Build strong partnerships. Applicant schools or districts who aren’t familiar with library issues should partner with larger institutions, such as research libraries or museums, to carry out the demonstration project.

The new guidelines and application information will be posted on the IMLS’s web site after December 1st. The next deadline is March 19, 1999. You can also call the program at: 202/606-5227 for more information.

ICPrize

Another opportunity awaiting your school library can help your teachers and media specialists prepare themselves for the technology-ready library.

School library media specialists who are members of the American Library Association (ALA) or the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) can apply for an ICPrize for Collaboration through Technology.

These $1,000 grants are to help collaborative teams of school library media specialists and classroom teachers purchase technology for use in the library media center, or travel to attend a conference.

ICPrizes will be awarded based on innovative and effective use of the internetto develop a curriculum unit. The curriculum must demonstrate collaborative activities between the library media specialists and classroom teachers, using the resources of the internet in ways that are meaningful to the curriculum unit.

For more information, you can contact AASL at (800) 545-2433, ext. 1396, or eMail: ICONnect@ala.org. You can also find an application form online (see Links for URL).