On Winning the AASL/ABC-CLIO Grant: the Prize that Made a Difference
Knowledge Quest, 2004, VOL 33
MEMO (the Minnesota Educational Media Organization) was having leadership difficulties. Our current field of leaders was retiring (or just tiring) and few fresh young faces were volunteering for MEMO offices. The 2002 summer leadership retreat, once a vibrant learning opportunity, was attended by only about a dozen members and the only activity held was a board meeting. Our MEMO regions were inactive and without chairs.
And all this during a time when many schools were facing budget crises, library media programs were being cut, and no support was coming from our department of education. Since Minnesota is a local control state, has no mandates for school libraries or library staffing, and gives schools no dedicated funding for library programs, every school library media specialist must fight for his or her own program and budget. If ever there was a time leadership skills were needed by MEMO members, it was then!
As incoming president of MEMO in 2003, my goals included:
• Getting new members involved as chairs and officers
• Revitalizing the summer leadership conference
• Building leadership capacity in individual MEMO members to help them deal with budget reductions
MEMO, like most non-profit, volunteer organizations runs on a tight budget. A good summer leadership conference with a speaker who would draw in new members and effectively teach critical leadership skills would be expensive. What to do? What to do?
Luckily, at the Affiliate Assembly meeting during the Midwinter ALA conference in 2003, I learned about the AASL/ABC-CLIO Grant. According to the grant flyer:
The purpose of the grant is to encourage AASL affiliates to plan and implement leadership programs at the state, regional, or local levels. Possibilities include programs tha
- Involve new members;
Was this just what the doctor ordered or what?
- Train on-going leaders;
- Prepare school library media specialists to be building or district level leaders;
- Encourage collaboration among organizations.
But there was a problem. I learned about the grant in late January and it was due very early in February. That meant me, not a committee, needed to get it written quickly. I’ve never been much of a grant writer and, like everyone, usually have a pretty full plate of other tasks I needed to get done.
Thankfully, the grant application itself was brief (four pages), I had a clear idea of what I would use the grant fund for if awarded, and we sure as heck had a terrific problem the grant could help us solve. The application practically wrote itself, I faxed and mailed the required copies, and the rest is history. We got the darn thing. Yippee.
We used the $1550 we were awarded (the grant can written for up to $7500), to offset the costs of a one-day leadership workshop held in conjunction with our Summer Leadership Retreat and to establish an on-going electronic mailing list devoted to leadership issues. MEMO members who were willing to take a leadership role in the organization could attend the workshop at no cost. We brought in nationally known and respected workshop leader, Gary Hartzell, who taught everyone attending how to build personal “influence” at the building level. The ideas sparked by Gary’s workshop carried over into our MEMO-L listserv.
Did the grant make a real difference” Consider:
- The attendance at the Summer Leadership conference went from about twelve in 2002 to nearly fifty in 2003.
- Volunteers, many new to leadership roles, were found to hold all organization offices but two.
- The evaluations of Dr. Hartzell’s workshop were highly positive. (Even some old dogs learned some new tricks.)
- Messages were sent on MEMO-L about leadership and influence techniques, challenges AND successes, including this one from a team of building librarians:
Here is some good news from our library media centers. On Monday evening our school board voted to strengthen our collections and bring them up to state standards. We will receive over $600,000 in funds to purchase new materials.
We were able to make a case to district board members and administrators based on the national surveys tying strong media programs to student achievement and based on applying Minnesota state standards to our media collections. We in here have to credit MEMO and the dedicated people who developed those standards. You gave us the resources to make the case.
ABC-CLIO grants can and do make a difference and I personally appreciate the company’s backing of this award. I would encourage any affiliate of AASL to apply for it. Unless, of course, your state has no problems that better leadership couldn’t solve.