Getting Ready for Grant Season: Help Your Library Support Community Aspirations

The California State Library has recently announced that five funding opportunities will open in early January, with applications due no later than March 6. These grant programs, all funded by federal Library Services and Technology Act funds, include general Community Impact Grants as well as specific opportunities for Play for All (families and young children), Sustainable California Libraries (climate- and sustainability-focused, community-driven programming), Teens Succeed (focused on internships), and eBooks for All (building diverse and inclusive digital collections).

How can your library and staff better prepare for these opportunities? There are two important pieces: community engagement and grant proposal development. You’ll also want to register for the State Library’s information session at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.

First off, grant writing expert Stephanie Gerding will usher in the new year with five (count’ em!) California-exclusive sessions designed to help you start on the right foot.

Register now for one or both of two workshops on LSTA grant basics.

For rural and small libraries, or those brand new to grant writing, we are offering a three-part series with a brief recorded introduction to get you started: 

All of the grant proposals will also ask for a level of community engagement and co-design work with partners and community members. We highly encourage you to attend a webinar on Building Authentic Relationships with Underserved Communities, on Tuesday, January 30, at 11 a.m. Interested in learning more about co-design? Get a jumpstart with this view-anytime CALL Academy recording from the Library Collective or attend a three-session course from Library Journal starting February 21.


Co-Design Training: Building Strong Library Services (and Grant Projects)

California library workers are invited to a no-cost training about co-design that will help libraries engage with their communities AND craft stronger services and grant proposals. If you want to find out about co-design, register to learn more at a 90-minute webinar, Exploring Co-Design: Fostering Inclusive Collaboration in Libraries, on Thursday, September 28 from 10-11:30 a.m. (The webinar will also be recorded and made available at CALL Academy.)

But what is co-design? Simply said, co-design incorporates community engagement into your work. Training in co-design helps libraries plan with communities, instead of for communities, and use a “nothing about us, without us” mindset, where community member voices are an active part of the planning and implementation process. Co-design’s not an add-on; it’s a way of thinking based in equity.

Why is this training timely? The California State Library’s five-year plan aims to promote equity in services and programming. For example, Goal 1 of the LSTA plan is to “Strengthen the ability of California libraries to design equitable programs and services in collaboration with their local communities.” A success indicator for this goal is that co-design be embedded in the creation of programs and services.

Co-design and equity are fundamental parts of the State Library’s grantmaking process. Here’s one of the questions you’ll answer in the current LSTA Inspiration Grant 2023-2024 application and in future LSTA 2024-2025 applications, opening in early 2024. “Describe how your project has been designed and will be implemented in collaboration with the marginalized community(ies) on which your project will focus and other members of your community.” Specifically, the application instructions explain: “Provide information about how you will: include co-design activities for library staff and communities to learn about local marginalized populations and develop a shared understanding and language of equity principles and practices; engage staff in professional development activities that integrate equity-centered learning with practice; include new or expanded partnerships and collaborations in which libraries engage with community stakeholders and groups from targeted populations; engage staff in understanding barriers to service for and with marginalized populations and in implementing strategies to remove barriers. Note: The State Library understands that this section of the application requests information and activities that may be new or unfamiliar to some applicants. Respond to the best of your abilities and reach out to State Library staff with any questions. Applicants’ responses will determine the level of support that grantees will need from the State Library if a project is funded. Responses will not determine whether or not a project is funded.

Open opportunities that refer to co-design include LSTA Inspiration Grants, which close November 30, 2023 at 12:00 noon, or once all available funds have been awarded. Inspiration Grants provide Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding for California libraries that are inspired to implement projects outside of the State Library’s other funding opportunities. Inspiration Grants provide funding for projects that may not fit within the bounds of the other grants offered by the State Library and/or for ideas that are generated outside of other funding opportunity application timeframes. If you have an idea or project you’ve been waiting to implement that addresses community needs and aligns with community aspirations; supports improvement, innovation, and experimentation in library services; and can be completed by June 30, 2023, you’ll definitely want to learn more about co-design as soon as you can!

You’ll want to refer to the full application for questions and definitions, but here’s the definition of co-design used: The process of designing programs and services together with community members, instead of making decisions for community members. Co-design enables library workers to build strong relationships with the community and empowers community members to take a lead in the design and implementation of library programs and services. Co-design democratizes the design of services by equalizing the power dynamics between multiple community assets, making everyone partners in the design of programs and services. Inviting a group of teens to be part of a library’s Teen Advisory Board to co-develop, co-plan and co-implement library programs for teens in that community is an example of co-design. (Adapted from the “Our Philosophy” page of the VRtality website:


Library Building Projects: Learn from CALL!

Thanks to the Building Forward state grant funds administered by the California State Library, many public libraries around the state are planning or in the middle of infrastructure projects. Whether your library is addressing deferred maintenance needs or constructing a new building, professional guidance can make the process smoother.

The American Library Association conference in June featured several sessions on building projects, and CALL is happy to bring two of these events to California audiences: The Top 5 Mistakes Renovating Your Library, a one-hour webinar on Tuesday, August 1, and Build Better: Effective Library Project Management, a one-hour webinar on Wednesday, August 16.  Plus there’s a six-week course on Planning and Management of Library Buildings from ALA, starting August 14.

If you want to learn more than just these just-in-time offerings, don’t forget the recordings from Carlos Baffigo’s Building Basics and Building Basics Continued series, available 24/7 on CALL Academy.

The Top 5 Mistakes webinar from ALA focuses on renewing existing library structures. A renovation is a golden opportunity to renew your space for a new generation of patrons. But not every library has staff with current experience renovating, so every year, libraries make the same 5 mistakes when renovating. Join NYU professor and author of Library Space Planning: A PLA Guide David Vinjamuri, library architect Joe Huberty of Engberg Anderson and community librarian Julie Retherford (who just finished a two-year pandemic renovation) to learn their secrets for a successful renovation and how you can avoid the most common pitfalls.

At the end of this webinar, you will be able to:

  • Create a renovation plan that avoids the most common mistakes libraries make when renovating;
  • Understand the process to uncover hidden community needs;
  • Measure the circulation efficiency of collection items and identify dead zones;
  • Spot red flags when hiring a design team; and
  • Assemble a cross-functional team that will preserve the original vision for the renovation through completion.

The Library Project Management webinar from ALA provides an overview that applies to all types of library improvements to help you achieve your system’s objectives. Learn strategies for effectively communicating your project goals to a design and construction team and leave with the tools necessary to prepare a detailed needs assessment and project scope. Charleston County Public Library’s Project Manager Toni Lombardozzi, who has a background in architecture and construction project management, is currently overseeing a $108.5 million capital improvement project that includes small renovations to larger-scale new construction. Lombardozzi has spent the last six years on the project and will share insights into the cross-disciplinary experience of working closely with both library staff and design and construction teams and provide tips and tools on how to make this type of communication effective. This presentation is geared towards anyone with an upcoming improvement project. However, the project management strategies presented can be applied to a wide range of ventures not limited to construction. If you have worked on design/construction enterprises before, you’ll find innovative ideas for successful project implementation, and if you are new to this practice, you’ll learn the groundwork for efficiently advancing projects.

By the end of this webinar, attendees will be able to:

  • Successfully prepare a viable needs assessment and develop a detailed project scope;
  • Given a capital improvements project, attendees will be able to accurately translate project goals and objectives to consultants, design and construction teams;
  • Will have the tools to create practical strategies for successful project implementation within their organization; and
  • Given a capital improvements project, attendees will be able to effectively identify project deliverables throughout progressive project stages.

Register now for these great webinars, selected to help California library staff reach their goals!

If you have more time to devote, consider enrolling in Planning and Management of Library Buildings, which runs August 14 to September 25. (Please remember that you can only enroll in one CALL-sponsored course at a time, and when you register for a long-form course, your space is reserved and must be cancelled if you cannot attend.)

This course, led by instructor Kimberly Bolan, will provide learners with an understanding of the key elements, best practices, methodologies, and overall processes for successfully planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and evaluating library buildings. The overarching goal of the course is to prepare participants to lead any type of facilities projects with the knowledge of how to plan and build functional, adaptable, forward-thinking, community-centric libraries and spaces.

You’ll learn to:

  • List building maintenance and operation procedures for effective budgeting and selection of maintenance programs and staff.
  • Describe short- and long-range capital improvement and facility development plans.
  • List procedures in employing architectural, engineering and consultant assistance in building maintenance and development programs.
  • Describe key components and required information in developing building programs.
  • Describe the planning and construction processes for renovated or new facilities.
  • Describe the roles of other governmental entities in developing building programs and renovation/new facilities plans.
  • List life and safety issues in building operation and planning.
  • List technology planning needs and building requirements.
  • Describe post-occupancy evaluation procedures.
  • Understand issues related to emergency, disaster, and other unexpected situations within the building.

Autism-Ready Libraries Toolkit

The University of Washington has recently released a new Autism-Ready Libraries Toolkit to help you develop more inclusive services and programming. Your library may already offer a sensory-aware storytime, but how else can you promote accessible and inclusive services? The toolkit’s three modules include Autism Acceptance and Inclusion, Autism-Inclusive Customer Service, and Inclusive Early Literacy Services. Children and adults with autism have a variety of interests and needs, and library staff discussions can begin with a discussion of neurodiversity, consideration of generalizations and misunderstandings about autism spectrum disorders, and ways to build improved understandings. The toolkit will then help you explore how to build better services to all patrons and develop inclusive family programming.

We’re grateful to our friends at WebJunction for their excellent July 2023 article, which contains links to the toolkit training modules, useful resources, a free course, and a recorded webinar.


Homelessness, Libraries, and Human Rights

Are you concerned about homelessness, housing, food insecurity, and other challenges facing your community and library? Join the ALA Social Responsibilities Roundtable on Monday, November 14, for all or part of a day-long summit on “Homelessness and Libraries: A Social Justice Summit.” (Please note the event starts early because it originates in Central time and runs from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Pacific time.)

This one-day virtual conference is free and does not require ALA membership.

A dynamic slate of speakers will share the innovative partnerships, programming, and in-reach initiatives they are implementing to address the needs and uplift the experiences of vulnerable populations in their respective communities. The speakers represent diverse backgrounds, geographies, areas of expertise, and angles of inquiry.

Panels include sessions on libraries and social workers, public health partnerships, rural homelessness, and education and sensitivity. Speakers include community advocates, scholars, public library staff and administrators, representatives of community-based organizations, and social workers. Keynotes will address homelessness as a social justice issue.

The ALA Social Responsibilities Roundtable believes that libraries and librarians must recognize and help solve social problems and inequities in order to carry out their mandate to work for the common good and bolster democracy.

The full schedule and registration links are available on the CALL calendar.


Building Maintenance, Building Projects, and Building Forward

California’s public library buildings need help. Thanks to the California legislature (and Senator Toni G. Atkins, a champion for libraries), the 2021-2022 state budget allocated $439 million in one-time funds to the California State Library to address life-safety and critical maintenance needs of public library facilities throughout California, prioritized for high poverty areas of the state.

The Building Forward Grant Program is the single largest investment in California’s public libraries in over 20 years. The State Library recently awarded over $313 million in grants to 246 local libraries to address pressing life-safety and critical maintenance needs in high poverty areas of 182 cities across 34 counties. Round One funding prioritized projects in high-poverty areas and addressing life-safety and critical maintenance and infrastructure needs. Additional funding and application opportunities will be announced in the near future.

What can you do to prepare?

CALL is offering four webinars on Building Basics on Tuesdays at noon, starting November 1. This webinar series is intended for library workers to better understand their physical workspace and to provide foundational knowledge for intelligent decision-making. Directors, managers, supervisors, and all interested library staff are encouraged to register. You’ll develop an understanding of building concepts, master the terminology, and learn to navigate through complex building management issues.

The first webinar, Know Your Library—An Introduction to Library Buildings from the Facilities Management Perspective, will discuss library building conditions and perception and reality in facilities maintenance. Session two on November 15 is Inner Workings – A Close Look at Library Building Design and Key Systems, followed on November 29 by Wear and Tear – Signs of Disrepair, Causes, and Ways to Avoid Building Issues and December 13 on Building Relationships – Knowing Your Partners within Library Facility Management. You can sign up for one or all. Although registration is unlimited, only the first 100 attendees will be admitted to each live session. These webinars will be recorded, and the recordings, slides, and any other resources will be available in CALL Academy after each webinar occurs.

The Building Basics instructor, Carlos Baffigo, is Deputy Director of the Pasadena Public Library in charge of library operations, facility management, IT systems, and security. His 30-year facility management experience includes major relocations, remodels, historic building renovations, build-outs, retrofits, building safety management, technology implementations, EOC management, disaster mitigation, and security response. Previously, Carlos worked in the residential construction industry and enjoys renovating houses. He got his start in libraries as a Page and performing “PJ Storytime” at the Glendora Public Library in Glendora, CA.

One more thing: if you’re interested in general project management skills, you might want to check out the Project Management Fundamentals, a short course from Library Journal.


Dyslexia Awareness

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month…but libraries should be aware of dyslexia and neurodiversity throughout the year. Over 40 million Americans have some level of dyslexia, which is a neurological variation affecting phonological processing.

People with dyslexia use libraries all the time, but some of them struggle to access library resources. When staff build their knowledge and awareness, libraries can better serve the public.

CALL is offering a new training, Supporting Dyslexia at Your Library. The webinar, on Monday, October 24, at 11:00 a.m. is the first in a series of five events this year with learning and library specialist Renee Grassi.

Want to learn more?

First, this TED Talk explains what dyslexia is. As there’s a continuum of dyslexia, individuals may face a range of challenges in reading. Did you know that brain scans (fMRIs) have demonstrated that appropriate intervention and education changes the brain?

Second, we love the example that the Library of Virginia created for certifying Dyslexia-Friendly Librarians. What a great idea! Although their material is specific to Virginia laws (here are California guidelines), and some links are past their due date, it’s still a nice introduction to dyslexia for library staff. Check out their resource guide!