State funding of school libraries is occasionally adequate but, more often than not, it is not sufficient to keep the library filled with books that are enticing to read, factually up-to-date, and relevant to the changing curriculum. Research has shown the positive effect of good school libraries on student achievement so we need to do whatever we can to be strong advocates for school libraries with our state’s politicians and bureaucrats. But we can’t count on those efforts being 100% successful, immediately, and the students in our schools need the best libraries they can get right now. So most school librarians need to put on their fundraising hats and devise ways to quickly get more money to spend in their libraries. Below are some field-tested ideas from librarians across the country.
- Invite the PTA president to hold a board meeting in the library media center. Give a brief presentation of the program and activities offered in the library. Touch on the research that has shown the importance of school libraries in student achievement. You can find these studies summarized at www.lrs.org. Be specific about the needs of your collection. Identify areas in which resources are needed and what they will cost. A collection analysis by your book vendor can help document where your collection is weak or outdated. Once the PTA has helped you, be sure to recognize their support on the school website and in the school newspaper. Report back to them on the impact of their support with circulation figures or student testimonials.
- At Back to School Night invite parents to visit the library. Have a sign-up sheet for “The Friends of the School Library.” Encourage parents to take part in library activities throughout the school year and to help in raising funds for the library. For more information about a Friends group, visit www.folusa.com, the website of Friends of Libraries, U.S.A.
- Sponsor a Book Fair. Request your reward in cash instead of free paperbacks so that you can add titles to meet your specific collection needs. Scholastic Book Fairs is the largest company in this business.
- Have a nickel drive on May 5, a dime drive on October 10 and a quarter drive at the end of each quarter.
- Create a Birthday Book program. Provide a wish list of titles that parents can buy from in honor of their child’s birthday. Put a bookplate in each book identifying the donor.
- If your school has a carnival, have a library booth and raise money by selling food, face painting, or other creative ideas.
- Encourage a local business to adopt or help your library. Choose a company with strong local roots and a need to advertise in the community, such as a bank or grocery store. What about the local newspaper, with a vested interest in literacy? Also look at large national companies located in your community that may have access to charitable foundations. Professional sports teams are often very supportive of public education.
- Ask to give a program for the Lions Club, Rotary, Kiwanis and other civic groups. They are always looking for programs and, if you make your case, will often give a donation. Be prepared to explain your library programs, as well as the impact of school libraries on achievement. Point out that the library is one good way to benefit the entire student body rather than just a portion of it.
- Find an author willing to autograph some books and then raffle them off.
- Do a thorough job of weeding and then sell the withdrawn titles. Another benefit of weeding is that the need for new books becomes more apparent to parents and colleagues when all of the out-of-date titles are no longer taking up space on the library shelves. For help in weeding visit www.sunlink.ucf.edu/weed/.
- Keep an eye out for special programs. The General Mills Box Tops for Education and the Campbell’s Labels for Education programs are good examples.
- Don’t overlook grant writing. You have to learn how to do it well, but there are certainly lots of grants available and someone is going to get them!
- Be creative. Instead of a Walk-a-thon, have a Read-a-thon. Do something in partnership with the local public library. Instead of concentrating on the parents of current students do something that targets alumni of the school. Be as creative as possible but always share plans with your principal so your fundraising ideas don’t get you in hot water.
Useful websites on grants and fundraising: