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No-Budget Blues: When You Have to Ask for Money

Just the title of this makes me cringe. Some people are amazing at asking for money. I am not one of those people. If you are lucky enough to work in a public library that has a line item in the budget for programming, then I am very jealous of you and you probably don’t need to read the rest of this post.

However, if you have to beg, borrow and steal (only in the legal sense, of course) to have programs at your library, then you might be able to relate. Many libraries have hardly any budgets to speak of when it comes to trying to cover operating costs and salaries, never mind supplies for programs, or paying for outside performers.  If you are brand new to this concept of having a job that requires you to plan and implements programs for teens, but doesn’t give you any money to do it, then this post is for you!

PLACES TO FIND MONEY  

Your Friends Group. Every Friends group is different and some may be more active than others, but they do raise money specifically for the library so this is a great place to go first. Each group also has their own way of portioning out funds so make sure you know exactly what you need and why before asking. At one point, I had to fill out a request form with all of the information. Our Friends group is down to 2 active members, though they still have a good amount of revenue coming in. We asked awhile back for a specific amount of money each month to pick up programming supplies so we didn’t have to keep asking for each little thing. We, of course, keep all of our receipts to prove we didn’t just go out for lunch.

State Aid. Depending on how much your library relies on their State Aid money to supplement their operating budget, or if they get any at all, you might be able to use some of it to supplement your program budget as well.

Local Banks and Corporations: We don’t have many outside performers come to the library during the school year, but we tend to have pretty good crowds for events over the summer, especially when tied into the Summer Reading Program. These can cost anywhere from $200 – $700, depending on what the program is and how far the vendor has to travel. This summer, I contracted out for 5 programs and the total cost was around $14,000. I was able to get 3 banks to pay for programs, plus I had a grant from our Local Cultural Council. Our Friends group paid for one program that was only in the $250 range. Most of your local banks have places on their websites to apply for small, one-time grants. They usually have a certain amount to spend on these, so I always try for one each year. They just want to see that the program will benefit as many people in the area and surrounding areas as possible – and they want to see their logo on the flyers and social media posts. Without our local banks, I don’t know what we would do! Banks also do lots of free outreach programs for all ages, so ask them if they have some programs for teens! We also get some donations from large companies in the area. google the ones in your area and see if they have any local grants to hand out. Check out car dealerships, medical equipment, oil companies, etc.

LCC Grants. As I mentioned above, I had a Local Cultural Council grant this summer for a program. we are lucky enough that we pretty much get one whenever we apply. Last year I had one to purchase ukuleles for the library, and the year before that, I asked for money to host a series of programs for teens to let them experience a variety of art (music, visual, cooking, etc.) as well as some career and “Adulting 101” type programs. Deadlines for next year’s grants are coming up soon in early October for Massachusetts – not sure about other states – so check out your local council to see if you can apply!

Local Small Businesses. While they may not have tons of money to dole out, they might be willing to provide a free program or a coupon as a summer reading prize, in exchange for the extra advertising from the library. It doesn’t hurt to ask! (Though honestly, I am not a fan of having to ask for money.) Check out photographers, realtors, restaurants, gyms, dance studios, music studios, salons, etc.

Local Non-Profit Groups. There are lots of local non-profit groups who might be happy to help collaborate with the library on programming. Our local Mom’s Club group does fund-raising but will give the money to other local organizations at the end of their fiscal year. They are very generous and typically give us the money when we are planning our summer reading program and we can use the money for reading incentives for kids and teens. We have also collaborated with our local Lions Club, Elks, and Scout Troops.

LSTA Grants. Ah, yes. This is big time. I have only done one of these so far and I am planning to apply for one during the next round. Several years ago I did a Teen Services grant and had a whole $20,000 to spend! While I am eternally grateful for this, it was definitely not an easy thing to do. It was a 2-year grant with multiple reports that included measuring leadership. Grants are not exactly my forte, but once you understand the formula and what they want to see, it gets easier. I won’t win any awards for my grant writing, but it got the job done and we did some really cool stuff!

There are obviously more ways to find money, but these are my main sources. It’s probably my least favorite thing to do and I would love to actually know in advance how much money I have to spend. But usually, when it comes to outside programs, I book first and beg for money later! Many places like to know what they are spending the money on and having the program already booked with an invoice to submit is very helpful in moving the grant application along (this is mostly for the banks I work with.) I typically make flyers with their logo on it when I submit the application. Please leave suggestions for other ways to procure program funds in the comments!! And oddly enough, this will post on my birthday! Hoping for some extra free money today!! Haha.

Game of Thrones Readalikes for Teens

Since the TV series ended this year, there has been a major increase in interest in the Game of Thrones series at my library among younger teens. I work in a very liberal community, but when it comes to selecting books for their middle school and early high school aged teens, some parents are wary of the excessive violence and graphic sexual situations depicted on the show and in George R.R. Martin’s books. I often get asked for alternative titles. Here’s a list of some YA readalikes for these budding GoT fans (most of which have better endings than the TV series!)

*Note—many of these books do contain sexual situations and violence, but to a far lesser degree than GoT, or in many cases, these situations occur offscreen. I wanted to include a wide range of content levels to appeal to a wide variety of readers. Encourage parents and teens to use their best judgement when selecting one of these titles.

Alanna: The First Adventure – Tamora Pierce

Alanna has so much in common with Arya Stark.

And I Darken – Kiersten White

A very interesting exploration of ambitious women in powerful families like Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister.

Damsel – Elana K. Arnold

Dragons plus feminism plus revenge!

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis

While this is a work of realistic fiction rather than fantasy, the feminist vengeance plot elements will appeal to those interested in Game of Thrones.

Grave Mercy – Robin Lafevers

Bad ass lady assassins, courtly intrigue, and romance. Excellent choice for those interested in GoT.

I, Claudia – Mary McCoy

The political intrigue and the savage, ambitious natures of the characters in this novel rival only Martin’s.

Seraphina – Rachel Hartman

Dragons, excellent world-building, and courtly intrigue make this a perfect choice for GoT fans.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

An amazing cast of lovable rogues, intrigue and crime, crossing and double crossing, an action-packed plot, and stellar world-building make this a top pick.

The Thief – Megan Whalen Turner

Strong storytelling and mythology in this tale of a thief with a mysterious identity and a secret mission make this series opener a great pick for young fantasy fans.

Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

Powerful siblings trying to kill each other? The three rival queens are reminiscent of the Lannisters (you know, minus the incest and stuff!)

The Traitor’s Game – Jennifer Nielsen

Nielsen is perenially popular among the younger teen crowd. This novel features political intrigue, hidden motives, kidnapping, and power-hungry characters.

Teen-led Programming

I’m a firm believer in teens having as much ownership and power in the library as possible. I want my Teen Advisory Group to feel that they really have a say in teen services, and that they are an important part of teen programming.

This past summer, I was finally able to achieve one of my long-time goals: teen-led programming! One of my Teen Advisory Group members is an avid fan of modern calligraphy and is always asking for extra ways to help out at the library. I guided her to host a Learn to Calligraphy workshop for other teens, which ended up being one of our highest attended programs of the summer.

Here’s some tips I learned through this process:

  • Be realistic! Remember that teens are still developing skills & learning, so be realistic about what they can and cannot do. Scale down your ideas to create a program that your teens can realistically do and will feel comfortable with.
  • Be as clear as possible in all directions & expectations! Teens often need very specific instructions, and be willing to clarify as much as possible; so many teens are afraid to ask questions when they’re confused.
  • Check in often! I planned this teen-led program over the course of a month, and checked in weekly leading up to it to make sure my teen volunteer was on track with preparing materials, see how she was feeling about the program, and ask how I could support her.
  • Be willing to make executive decisions. Remember that at the end of the day, you’ll still need to make major decisions. Teens may go back and forth on ideas, and it’s also important to remember that a lot of teens are still learning about project & time management. Give your teens ownership & power when possible, but be willing to step in to make executive decisions when needed.
  • Support your teens. Remember that teens may not have access to the same resources & tools that you do. Be willing to use your resources to troubleshoot or assist them as much as they need.
  • Be flexible. Your teen volunteer may get nervous and stuck, so be flexible about your role in the program. You may need to step in to help move the program along, or act as a co-facilitator. My teen volunteer was nervous and at times during the calligraphy workshop, got a bit stuck, so I asked guiding questions to help her move forward when she needed it.
  • Hype your teen-led program! Nothing is more of a bummer than putting tons of work into a program and having a low turnout. Hype your teen-led programs as much as you can, whether that’s through email, social media, school outreach, or word of mouth. You want your teen-led programs to be as successful as possible, so that your teen volunteers will feel that it was a positive and worthwhile experience.

Have you hosted teen-led programming at your library? What tips would you add to this list?

Adding Things Other Than Books to a School Library

One of the best parts of my school library job is getting to pick out books for the collection. For a long time, books and magazines were the only items in the library’s collection, but that’s changed in recent years. Libraries are always evolving, and I think that’s a great thing. To inspire you as you work on your collection, today I want to share a few of the other items available for checkout in some of the schools where I’ve worked.

AUDIOBOOKS AND DVDS

Owning audiobooks and DVDs are obvious choices for a public library, but not so much for a school library, at least in my district. The audiovisual items my former school collected were titles that are taught in classrooms, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, and The Crucible. Teachers liked having easy access to the DVDs and students who struggled with reading appreciated the audiobooks.

MARKERS AND COLORED PENCILS

Students ask for markers and pencils all the time, and I’m always happy to loan them out. I’m not as happy, however, when they don’t come back. Circulating packs of markers and pencils still allow students to have access to the supplies they need, but now it makes it so that they’re returned.

DRAWING TABLETS

My current school offers two drawing tablets for students to check out. We also have specific computers set up with Adobe software so kids can create comics and other art. Libraries are known for promoting literacy, but I’m proud when we can encourage creativity too.

GAMES

A former school of mine offered chess sets to students, and they loved them. We had kids in the library during lunch each day who would always ask for a set. Offering games is something I want to do in my current school if the budget allows. I’d love for students to see the library as a place that isn’t just about learning, but also about fun.


What items other than books do you offer in your library? There are so many possibilities, and I’m always happy to see libraries being creative to meet the needs of their patrons.

 

5 YA BookTubers to Watch

Hello, fellow librarians! To complement the various blogs, Twitter and Instagram accounts you likely follow for book recommendations, check out these awesome channels on YouTube! I personally enjoy watching these five booktubers’ videos and I trust many of you will too!

perpetualpages

 

perpetualpages: Adriana is a 26 year-old queer and non-binary Latinx reader. They have a BA in Creative Writing and is an aspiring author. Adriana’s channel highlights queer representation, intersectionality, feminism and promotes marginalized voices.

 

ProblemsofaBookNerd

 

ProblemsofaBookNerd: Cece is 23, gay and a self-proclaimed “lover of all things bookish.” Her channel focuses on LGBTQIA+ fiction for youth and adults. Aside from book reviews, Cece also posts videos on movies, fandom and personal experiences.

 

Books are my Social Life

 

Books are my Social Life: Saajid is a 20-something booktuber from Trinidad who is passionate about reading books by marginalized voices. He primarily promotes and reviews books about the Caribbean and Muslim experience.

 

booksandquills

 

booksandquills: Sanne is a long-time Dutch booktuber who lives in London. She posts reviews of children’s, young adult and adult books alongside videos on language, her experiences working in publishing, travel and exploring London.  

 

 

thisstoryaintover: Jananie is 21 and lives in Toronto. Most of her content includes reviews of YA books (especially SF/F titles), TBR lists, book hauls, and book subscription unboxing videos. In addition to her own channel, Jananie has a recommendation series on the Epic Reads YouTube channel!