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Go for the grant—boosting funds to school libraries and digital libraries is always a safe bet when it comes to federal grant allocation.

How one district used federal funds to boost its digital library

Go for the grant—school libraries are always a safe bet when it comes to federal funding allocation

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As the old expression goes – you never know if you don’t try. This principle also applies when it comes to federal grants, through which billions of dollars in relief funding are available to help U.S. K-12 schools with recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many school districts have yet to take advantage of these resources.

Educators who spend time in classrooms interacting with students will be the first to admit that their needs are as wide-ranging as they are numerous. From making classrooms safer to providing high-quality instructional materials to ensuring schools leverage the most current digital tools, grant money can make all the difference.

And for school librarians in particular, these grants represent a unique opportunity to establish future-ready libraries with strong digital book collections. But when it comes to applying for the grants, finding out what kind of funding is available is only the first step.

Keys for one district’s successful grant application

After a school year full of turmoil – and during a time when educators may be feeling the effects of burnout – adding a task like applying for grants to an already long list of to-dos is a tough ask. That’s why it’s critical for educators to lean on the external resources available to them for help when seeking these funds.

For example, in the case of the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools (CFEVS) in Ohio, a grant writer assisted with the school’s successful application for a $25,000 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to purchase digital books. LSTA grants are federally funded grants administered by the State Library of Ohio. This particular grant was classified as an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Outreach Grant, meaning it came from the billions of dollars allotted in early 2021 to help schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grant money supports curriculum, diversity & more…

Though billions in relief funds may be available to schools, time is running out to figure out how to spend the money – but your school’s library is always a sound investment. New funding is helping CFEVS support Lucy Calkins curriculum, which emphasizes time spent reading and access to books, making the purchase of high-quality, grade-level appropriate titles more important than ever.

Additional funding also makes it possible to ensure that your collection includes representation of students of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds, which can in turn aid your students’ social and emotional learning by exposing them to new perspectives. For example, CFEVS conducted a diversity audit of its collection, which revealed underrepresentation of certain groups. With the LSTA grant, it will be able to close this gap and increase the diversity of its digital collection.

…including books and materials in different formats

This diversity audit also extends to the format of the books students are reading. For CFEVS, the discovery that students at all reading levels liked audiobooks as a support for class texts led to a greater push for audiobook adoption, supported by grant funding.

With curriculum tied into pleasure reading, students can digest books in the way that’s most appealing to them. For younger students, the LSTA grant provided money to purchase more digital Read-Alongs, a valuable tool for the youngest learners, who can both see and hear words in digital books.

Get back on track with grants

School districts nationwide are continuing to grapple with unfinished learning and staffing shortages. However, there is grant money available to combat these challenges.

As CFEVS has experienced, finding a trusted partner can be key to successfully guide you when time is short to apply for the federal funds and needs are great. While there’s no silver bullet to undo the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal grants are one of the best tools available to help students get back on track.

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