Mini-Grants, Maximum Impact

Librarians are champs at squeezing optimal value out of every dollar in a budget. Their ingenuity makes it a special pleasure to support local libraries through the Community Foundation Library Fund. 

The fund was born in 2008, on the dissolution of the Broome Library Foundation. That group’s board asked the Community Foundation to take over stewarding the Library Foundation’s funds, investing the money and making grants to public libraries in Broome, Tioga, Delaware, Chenango and Otsego Counties. The Library Fund supports library services, programming and exhibits, including historical exhibits developed in conjunction with libraries. 

Guided by its own advisory panel, which meets once a year, the Library Fund awards mini-grants of up to $1,250. Awards have helped to stock a bookmobile, offer entrepreneurship classes to craftspeople, convert an old newspaper collection from microfiche to digital, stage an exhibit on the history of baseball in Waverly, celebrate Iroquois culture in Vestal, and conduct a variety of other initiatives. 

But many grants from the Library Fund support summer reading programs. In 2018, the fund awarded three such grants, of $660 each, to the Fenton Free Library in Hillcrest, the Moore Memorial Library in Greene and the Richfield Springs Public Library. 

Summer reading programs encourage kids to enjoy books during the long vacation, often offering prizes for reading a certain number of books. Libraries also sponsor crafts and other activities, geared to different ages and often connected with story hours. 

At the Fenton Free Library, for instance, the 2018 Summer Reading Program included a story hour talk by a member of the Binghamton Philharmonic, a visit to a Rumble Ponies baseball game, a presentation by the Kopernik Observatory, Lego Night and a café/karaoke celebration. The program drew 252 registrants, and 114 kids won medals for completing their reading goals. They also earned small stones (in keeping with the theme “Libraries Rock”), which they could exchange for healthy snacks in the program’s Snack Shack. 

The staff works hard throughout the year to promote the library in local schools and drum up interest in the summer program, says Kori Spencer, director of the Fenton Free Library. “It’s so we can, hopefully, keep kids reading over the summer and on top of their game in the literacy department,” she says. “It’s known that children lose a little bit over the summer when they’re not in school. We try to help bridge that gap until September rolls around again.”

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