An Eye for the Future - Part 2

In this series of blog posts, I am looking at sustainability in our work. The first post addressed some larger issues and thoughts about costs of ongoing projects.  Today, let's consider the pitfalls of grant-funded  projects.

It is exciting to plan, write and receive a grant - but the devil is in the details.  What will you do once the funds are expended to maintain, evolve or change the grant-funded project. How will you keep it fresh? How do you build in sustainability?

I have noticed a tendency to create the project or service or kit or thing. And then when it is done, it is done.  There is no money to add, enhance or change what has been created. The grant-funded initiative becomes static, dated and either reluctantly sunset long past it's usefulness or in place forever because it was...grant-funded!

Grant Fail
Two examples of this grant-funded ennui in our library collection were a set of middle grade book discussion kits and "Treasure Boxes"- themed tubs full of preschool books and manipulatives to rotate to daycares. Both were outstanding original ideas, well-executed and did exactly what the grant was intended to do - for a time.

Book Discussion Kits
The book discussion kits had ten books and a great discussion guide in special bags hung in a closet. As the years rolled on and the reading tastes of the target audience changed, the kits became less useful since no new ones were created or old ones withdrawn. Also compounding their decreased usefulness was difficulty in accessing them - both because they were out of browsing view in a closet and extremely tricky to find through the catalog.

The solution?  Let the old kits go. Create new kits of five books each and house them near the fiction collection and accessible to the public. Buy enough bags to ensure we can develop 2-3 new kits each year for ten years and use the existing book budget to fund the purchase of the books. Be prepared to do great PR, withdraw kits that don't move and continuously add to keep content fresh.

Unsustainable was changed to sustainable.

Treasure Boxes
Created almost fifteen years ago, these tubs were stuffed full of goodness - fifteen-twenty books, puppets, cassettes, teacher material, hands-on manipulatives. They rotated in our outreach visits to the daycares we visited.  Each daycare had a box for the month. All good you say?

The problem again was that the content of the boxes never changed. For years, our providers received the same books over and over again.  To me, the message we were sending was that these are the only books we had on popular themes. It was as if we were caught in a Groundhog Day time warp that no one could ever escape. While we are spending ten of thousands of dollars a year on new materials for the general public in YS, the daycares were only provided with the same 100-150 titles.

The solution? Let the Treasure boxes go. Begin new service to the same daycares - Books2Go. Ten books per classroom are selected, bagged and delivered monthly to daycares.  Each daycare then has 40-70 unique titles to share among the classrooms. We use our existing collection and a variety of titles pass through the hands of the providers to the kids.  For teachers interested in particular themes, we encourage them to contact us and pick up a collection of five books matching their theme that we pull on their behalf.

Static morphed into dynamic and the service is sustainable as long as our department aide can drive and deliver and our collection of picture books exists.

Next post, let's look at grant triumphs in terms of sustainability.

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay

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