My library system is considering offering Innovation Mini-Grants to librarians (children, YA, and adult) who have a fabulous idea for a program or service but need some funds to cover equipment, materials, and supplies. This would be similar to the California State Library’s “Pitch an Idea” – but the amount of money awarded would smaller, up to $1500 or so.
The idea behind these mini-grants is that truly relevant and creative ideas tend to come from the front lines, not the administrative offices, of library systems. If we provide money and encouragement (and clear away the red tape), we’ll be creating fertile ground for exciting experiments that would never happen if we relied on top-down innovation.
I’m ineligible for these internal mini-grants, since I don’t work with the public directly (yep, I’m one of those behind-the-scenes middle managers). But oh boy, that hasn’t stopped me from dreaming about what projects I would do if I were a children’s librarian in one of our 72 busy branches or Central Library! Here are a few ideas, all tied at least tangentially to the Collaborative Summer Library Program theme “Dream Big – READ”:
- I’d partner with a local organization that promotes educating youth about digital media to offer a free series of library workshops on “Dream Your Library.” I’d provide a handful of cheap video cameras and maybe some video editing software, plus the room for the workshop; my partner would provide staff or volunteers to teach kids ages 9 to 12 how to shoot and edit video and photos. At the end of the series (4 weekly sessions, maybe?), the kids will have made one or more collaborative multi-media projects on their dream of a perfect library, which we could put on our website for all to see. Inspiration – Mobile Stories at the San Diego Public Library (among many others)
- I’d create a series of preschool STEM Storytimes, each with a special kit that would include not the books for that particular theme but also a manual for the storyteller, craft supplies, and materials for experiments and activities. Themes could include Colors, Patterns, Growing Things, Sticky Stuff, and many more. Kits could be available not just for children’s librarians but could be lent out to preschool teachers and daycare providers as well. Inspiration – there are plenty of great models, but to name just a couple – the Exploration Kits at the Urbana Free Library and Mother Goose Programs kits . (oh, were you wondering what the “Dream Big” connection might be? There could be a kit about space and the night sky!)
- Oh, and I’d love to put together a partnership between the library and an organization serving teen parents in order to start a series of early literacy storytimes especially tailored to teens (like San Diego Public Library’s Cuddle Up and Read, among many others – check out an archived version of a webinar on this program). We could call it Dream Babies… okay, that’s a bit weak – but I’m sure there’s potential there for a great dream connection!
As you see, none of these programs are super-new ideas; they’ve been done before. But they would be new to my library system – and giving an energetic and committed librarian the means and support to offer a new program at the local level might be just the beginning of a system-wide program that would have an impact throughout our city.
A librarian’s gotta have dreams! And even mini-dreams can lead to Big Changes.
What do you dream about doing in your library if you had the money and time?