In a session that was equal parts game-planning and educational cheerleading, Capstone Publishers, a Mankato, Minn.-based library market publisher, offered an audience of school library professionals a Web-based seminar on how to organize to get funding for their libraries from the stimulus plan.
Capstone's v-p of sales, Eric Fitzgerald, along with Melanie Anderson from the American Library Association's office of government relations, exhorted school librarians to get their share of the funding available for education in the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act, or the stimulus package. Called “5 Steps to Advocate for Stimulus Dollars for Your Library,” the Web broadcast was free and attracted a live online audience of 160 out of more than 650 registered professionals. Registrants that did not logon to the live event can return to the site and listen to the archived presentation.
While school libraries can’t apply directly for the money, they can systematically lobby their administrators to make sure their funding needs are addressed. Fitzgerald said there are “big opportunities” for school libraries if they organize around the value of libraries to the educational process. “There’s $100 billion in funding for education in the ARRA,” said Fitzgerald. “President Obama mentioned library funding when he spoke about the stimulus package.” He continued, “Think big; the funding is flexible; it will be controlled locally and the loudest voices will get it.” Using a “five-step plan”—be informed; target programs you want funded; get the facts about libraries; make plans; and be loud about your needs—Fitzgerald and Anderson provided an action plan to promote the educational value of school libraries.
ARRA funding most be spent quickly and directed to programs or materials that “have demonstrated a positive impact” on student learning. Anderson cautioned the audience to avoid “starting new programs, or excessive hiring.” ARRA funding cannot extend beyond two years. Anderson pointed to some of the specific funding available from the AARA—$13 billion in Title 1 funds targeting disadvantaged students and students with disabilities as well as $650 million in state technology grants. Librarians were encouraged to “gather the facts” and were directed to studies documenting a connection between library investment and improved test scores. “There are 20 statewide studies offering data that link library funding to increased achievement,” said Anderson. “It seems obvious but get the evidence—better access to books means reading scores go up.” Resource sites include Recovery.gov, ALA.org/knowyourstimulus and the Capstone Web site.
Of course, Johnson also noted that for those professionals looking to upgrade the books in their library, “Capstone can help you assess your collection.” And she said that ARRA money can be spent on everything from books to computers and is directed at public schools, not private schools. “School libraries are at the heart of learning and at the center of Obama’s educational plans,” said Fitzgerald. “Make sure your principals and state officials know how important libraries are.”