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Money for Bookmobile Services: A Creative Grant Story

By Jan Meadows, bookmobile supervisor, Pikes Peak (Colo.) Library District.

Are you looking for a creative way to get grant money for your bookmobile service? Then you have come to the right place! This is an ecstatic day here at PPLD because we just received word that we have been awarded a $439,863 grant for our Bookmobile Service!

What’s this grant all about? Our Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments initiated a call for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) projects in February of this year. The CMAQ program is a federal transportation funding program established in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), reauthorized in 1998 by the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21) and, last month, by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The purpose of the CMAQ program is to fund transportation projects and programs in non-attainment and maintenance areas which reduce transportation-related emissions and reduce congestion.

That is quite a bunch of acronyms, isn't it? In plain English it means that areas that have or have had pollution problems caused by vehicles are eligible for this grant money. The state acts as an arm of the federal government and distributes funds to the qualified areas of the state. The metropolitan area of Colorado Springs had a pollution problem that has been cleaned up, but, it is still considered a “maintenance” area for carbon monoxide, thus it is eligible for some of the money allotted to Colorado. ($5.432 million projected for the fiscal year 2007) This grant is probably of more interest to bookmobile programs in larger urban areas but check with your state DOT if you are not sure if you qualify.

The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments saw the opportunity for a creative way to bring more “human service and resource service” organizations into the effort to clean up the air by awarding this grant to the PPLD Bookmobile Program. By bringing the Library District to the table they also fostered a tremendous spirit and example of cooperation between government agencies.

So, how did we present our case in the grant application?

  1. We cited statistics on the increased use and circulation of the bookmobiles in the past five years and noted the patron groups and communities we serve.
  2. We presented the expansion plan that the grant would enable us to implement.
  3. We then went back to our school days and worked out the “word problem” of how many carbon monoxide kilograms would be reduced per day by each bookmobile serving various communities thereby saving how many patrons from driving how many extra miles for library services. This included figuring how many “cold starts” for both patrons and the bookmobiles, the average distance traveled by patrons to reach a bookmobile in each community, average new patron trips that would be generated because of closer access offered by the bookmobile, the average distance traveled to a library branch facility if bookmobile service is not available in the patron's area, etc., etc. You get the idea, lots of math!
  4. We also covered the partnership between our PPLD Foundation and the Library District, secondary air quality impacts, peak hour benefits, the life expectancy of the vehicles purchased with the grant, how we would comply with NEPA goals and the commitment of the Library District to the project--just to name a few.

As you know if you have written grants, there was much more involved but I hope this gives you some idea of the information we needed and used. Our advisors from the PPACG told us, answer every question and include only the information requested. Be thorough but concise. We strived to adhere to that advice.

The best part about getting a grant is ... We applied for funding for a big expansion plan and in the end scaled back to basically one new bookmobile and staffing for a year in order to receive part of the total grant money available. The rest was awarded to other transportation projects, with the good news being that every agency that applied received some funds.

We are so excited to have succeeded in getting this funding since we really felt we were a long shot when applying. But you know how we bookmobilers are--nothing ventured, nothing gained, no hill for a bookmobiler, tread where no man has tread before! Yep, we forge ahead no matter what, and sometimes it pays off big time! Thankfully, PPLD has a Management Team of innovative people who encourage, support and understand the importance of equitable service, and know that bookmobiles are an effective tool for providing it. We are also lucky to have a Development Officer who goes forth and finds these wonderful opportunities and works hard to help us attain them.

I know that each of you are also always looking for ways to fund the services you want to provide, so I encourage you to look into this program and wish you the best of luck! If I can be of help with further information on this, please feel free to contact me at jmeadows@ppld.org

And now, just a couple of more things before I close.

  • ALA's 2005 Annual Conference: It seems like it was just yesterday we were all in Chicago enjoying the beautiful city and a fabulous conference. This years ALA conference was a significant one for Outreach folks!! There were numerous sessions of interest to staff in our Bookmobile/Outreach field. I want to say thanks again to all the speakers who did such a stellar job presenting at the four-pack of sessions I was involved with. (See 21st Century Bookmobile column #12) These sessions were filled to capacity and two were overflowing into the hall. We had high hopes that we were offering useful information on subjects that would appeal to Outreach staff and judging by the attendance we managed to do that. Also, thanks to everyone who attended and who sent evaluations of the sessions. All of the OLOS sessions were extremely popular and well attended. I think this popularity certainly shows that reaching out to patrons is on everyone's minds these days. I am sure ALA now knows that Outreach Programs are “must have sessions” at the annual conference!
  • ABOS/ARSL 2005 Joint Conference: Another outstanding conference was held just a few days ago (September 7 - 9) in Columbus, Ohio. The combined Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) and Association of Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) Conference was, by all reports, a stimulating experience once again. Although I was unable to attend (I was sad all week!) I am heartened to hear that ABOS is getting its feet on the ground and ready to really accomplish some great things.
  • The Appeal: We are all so indebted to John Phillip and Dr. Bernard Vavrek for getting this Association started. John, Marilyn Kaeckmeister and Bernie Garrison have served us well as officers for the past two years and I know the members appreciate all of their work and efforts. Marilyn, now our 2006 President, reported that there are many committees forming to work on: the by-laws, conferences, logo/membership cards, website, marketing, finance, and publicity. With that many committees there is an opportunity for almost everyone to get active and give back to the association that serves Outreach staff so well. So email Marilyn at m.kaeckmeister@vlc.lib.mi.us and volunteer now! Your input and expertise will help built a powerful association that can facilitate our necessary and important mission to reach out and serve the underserved and provide equitable service to all our patrons. I am going to email her right now! Please join me!!

Your partner in the bookmobile world, Jan.

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