We won the grant–yay!…now what?

So many of us have been hearing the same litany of woes in the school library world that we are mostly numb and deaf to it at this point: there is no money, people think libraries are dinosaurs, everything is online now so we do not need print collections any more, students do not read (which is simply not true), and so on and so forth. Receiving a grant like the Inspire Collection Development Grant is a real boost to our morale, of course, but the positive effects are spreading to others around us as well since it has made us focus on our relationships and partnerships within our high school community.

This grant award will help us…

Buy new resources that we desperately need! While it is wonderful to have been awarded this grant, the other side of that coin is that we won it because we are a particularly “bad” library in terms of the quality and quantity of our resources! We are a school library that serves 3,000 students and we will be able start the process of having desirable reading materials for our student population.

This picture of our bare shelves may have helped us get the grant or may be it was creating a really well-written logic model that shares each step of the process in how to systematically spend the funds! Regardless, this money is a start towards updating our collection, particularly in obtaining more up-to-date nonfiction print materials, periodicals, graphic novels, anime, and e-books that are culturally relevant to our student population while promoting student choice. It will be a challenge, because there are probably ten places we could spend every dime, but we are looking forward to that challenge! So, challenge accepted.

Improve our collection by weeding out old, outdated, worn materials that no longer should be on the shelf. We have had plans to begin “the big weed” our library needs for two years. We have been hiding behind the carts full of our 1996 and 2000 encyclopedia sets in our back office, to eat our lunches out of sight of the students, for most of the year! One reason we have stalled in our weeding mission is that our shelves are so bare already that getting rid of so many materials, even if they are so old (and unused), will give us and the students even less to work with. Now that we have funds to do some meaningful replacement of key materials, we are proceeding with weeding and asking the important question of: would we be comfortable sharing this book with a student? If not then it needs to go. We have constructed our carefully worded weeding letter and created visually appealing “free books” signs that suggests that the outdated materials would be better used for arts and crafts and paper mache projects instead.

Gain greater positive attention from our administrators! Besides directly improving our collection by what we can purchase with the funds, the news that we have received this grant has already brought us some positive attention from both our own school administration and our district administration, as well. We recently received an inquiry from our district director of facilities asking for our thoughts on how the library might be transformed into a “Learning Commons,” changing/updating the layout, furnishings, technology, while improving the collection to increase its value to our students and staff! We have never had any such contact before. While this is not necessarily going to develop into these changes actually happening, it is a big step here to get people thinking about it at least. We have made also made the local online newspaper, which ran an article about us receiving the grant, and our district has included the news in its monthly newsletter. People are hearing about it, and contacting us to congratulate us.

Find collaborative partners to increase the purchasing power of the funds even more! We recently found out that we can share e-books with other schools in the district by just having the library management system create a shared shelf. We were able to interest another high school in our district to put up matching funds with us to purchase and implement a shared e-book collection. This partnership increases the materials that students can access. We also have partnered with the Associated Student Body (ASB) to help promote the library through social media, which has helped us spread the word to students by sharing out our Google Forms so they can share what they would like to access from the school library.

As you can read, the Inspire Collection Development Grant has gotten us to start some creative processes to get the library noticed. We have only just started our journey…

Cheryl Swem, MLIS San Jose State (2005), has been working as a Library Media Technician with the Oceanside School District since her student days in 2002.  She loves working in the school library setting. As she nears retirement, she hopes to contribute to some lasting improvements to the El Camino High School Library.



Jeanna Wersebe, MLIS Florida State University (2013), is the Teacher Librarian at El Camino High School in Oceanside, CA.  Her passion is to promote reading and technology literacy through a variety of formats while figuring out how to continually improve positive library usage and conversations at the high school setting. @ECHSLibrarian is where to  check in to find out how she and Cheryl are promoting the resources secured through the Inspire Collection Development Grant.

Author: Jeanna Wersebe

Categories: Awards Spotlight, Community

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