Unlocking Grants for Libraries: A Guide to Funding Your Project
Unlocking Grants for Libraries: A Guide to Funding Your Project

By Meghan Jacobsen, Grants Development Associate (State and Local Government)

Libraries are a vital part of every community. They provide access to information, education, and cultural enrichment. However, many libraries don’t always have the budget to expand their programming to best serve their patrons. Fortunately, there are many funding opportunities available for libraries through grants.

Types of Grants for Libraries

  1. Federal Grants: Federal agencies like the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) offer various grants for libraries. The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), which is a pass-through grant (funded by IMLS and passed through to be administered by states), is one such program that supports library initiatives, including technology upgrades, workforce development, and community engagement.

Another IMLS grant is the National Leadership Grant (NLG). This program seeks projects that will have a widespread impact that reaches beyond a single library. Some of the projects this grant supports include improving access to libraries and archives, digital inclusion, enhancing civic engagement, and elevating the capacity of libraries to deliver essential services during emergencies or natural disasters.

The Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program (LB21) supports the professional development of librarians. This program focuses on far-reaching initiatives that enhance the recruitment, training, and retention of a diverse library workforce that will meet the needs of their communities. This grant also supports increasing the capacity of libraries and library and information science graduate programs to develop more leaders within library and archive institutions. 

  1. State Grants: Many states have grant programs designed to support local libraries. These grants may focus on specific needs like digitization projects, collection development, or literacy programs. Check with your state library association or government website for available opportunities.

  2. Foundation Grants: Private foundations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, often provide grants to libraries. It is also helpful to look at local foundations that seek to support initiatives within your community.

  3. Nonprofit Grants: Nonprofit organizations, like the American Library Association (ALA), provide grants and scholarships to libraries for various purposes, including professional development and community engagement.



Examples of Projects That Qualify for Grants

  1. Technology Upgrades: Many grants are available to help libraries improve their technology infrastructure. Projects might include upgrading computer systems, enhancing Wi-Fi access, or developing digital literacy programs for patrons.

  2. Collection Development: Grants can support the acquisition of new books, eBooks, audiobooks, and other materials. Special collections, such as local history archives or diversity-focused resources, can also be funded through grants.

  3. Educational Programs: Libraries can secure funding for educational programs that cater to specific community needs. Examples include adult literacy classes, early childhood education initiatives, STEM workshops, or esports programs for children and teens.

  4. Renovation and Expansion: Grants can help libraries renovate or expand their facilities to better serve the community. This may include creating dedicated spaces for makers, community meetings, or children's areas.

  5. Outreach and Community Engagement: Grants can support outreach efforts, allowing libraries to extend their services to underserved populations or collaborate with community partners on special projects.

  6. Workforce Development: Staff training, recruitment efforts, and enhancing library education programs that will ultimately meet the needs of the community and encourage a diverse new generation of librarians.

When brainstorming ideas or upcoming projects for your library, it is also a good idea to foster collaboration with colleagues throughout your institution. This ensures all departments are aligned towards the larger goals and prevents the oversight of critical aspects such as technological requirements to carry out projects. Deadlines across grant programs vary so it is never too early or too late to initiate the planning process.