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LSTA Grants: Lessons Learned by Grantees

All the information you need to apply for and manage an LSTA grant.

LSTA and IMLS

Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds are provided through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s approximately 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. The mission of IMLS is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Their grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. The use of LSTA funds in Connecticut is administered according to the Five-Year Plan (2018-2022) submitted to IMLS in June 2017.

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Lessons Learned

Lessons learned about LSTA grant project management, as reported by recent grantees:

  • Scheduling conflicts with our partner caused delays in programming.
  • There were major software and operating system upgrades mid-project, and our instructional materials no longer matched the new software.
  • We had so many people on the waiting lists that we had to add sessions.
  • We had to spend a significant amount of time, more than expected, on publicity and outreach efforts.
  • We decided to change the program offerings in response to patron feedback.
  • Our partners forgot about one of our scheduled programs, so we started to send them reminders.
  • Scheduling programs outside of the library can be difficult, as the room we want isn't always available and we can't get access to the building after hours.
  • We didn't think about having to find a safe, secure place to store supplies for programs at the Senior Center.
  • The Literacy Kits take a long time to put together.
  • Scheduling programs with specific groups was very difficult, both because of winter weather and because it's hard to find a date that will work for a large group of people. I readjusted to schedule smaller meetings instead. 
  • Our partner didn't meet their commitments, especially in terms of communication and publicity, which resulted in more work for us and lower attendance.
  • We had a change of staff midway through the project which set us back, but other staff stepped in to help.
  • Even though we did a successful test run of our technology setup in advance, it still failed on the day of the program. Our IT person did a lot of reconfiguring, and we purchased several additional components to make sure the technology would work in future programs.
  • Planning for snow/inclement weather is a good idea. We had a LOT of cancellations and rescheduling.
  • If you feed people, they will come!
  • Often, patrons would pre-register for a program with limited seating, confirm their plans to attend, and then not show up. Now we know who they are, and in the future, other patrons will be given preference at limited seating events.
  • Several parents who dislike and avoid reading were attracted to the picture book "walk" recommended in the ECRR materials.
  • Collaborating with our partner was very productive for the library, especially in terms of making the library seem more welcoming to new patrons.
  • Renovations on our building caused us to relocate some programs.
  • We created an advisory group/focus group of members of our target audience to help us with program selection.
  • Our usual publicity methods were sufficient, so we did not need to mail out any special announcements of programs.
  • I ran into a LOT more bureaucracy and paperwork than I had anticipated with my town/university. I should have started talking with them earlier about the grant.
  • Well-meaning relatives had set up our participants' iPads but forgot to give them the passwords for downloading apps.
  • We would have gotten more attendance from the local preschools and daycares if we had been able to offer continuing education units for the workshops.
  • This project could not have been completed without a team effort from multiple staff.

"We thought that if we limited the program size to 10 participants, we could proceed with just one presenter. However, there were so many levels of skill among the small class that we always had to have two staff people there, and sometimes even three! We used the senior center director for an extra pair of hands as well as reference staff who could spare the extra hour."

-- Helen Malinka, Berlin-Peck Memorial Library, Programs for Older Adults grant

"We expected that the amount of work on the grant programs will be substantial. However, reality exceeded our expectations. An extra person had to be involved in preparation and distribution of fliers and brochures, preparation of Constant Contact email flyers, chaperoning programs, and collecting results. However, all staff involved in planning and implementing these programs is extremely satisfied with programs' success and overwhelmingly positive comments from attendees."

-- Kate Soboleva, Bethel Public Library, Programs for Older Adults grant

"Working with the community partners with whom I am trying to coordinate the parent workshops has presented some organizational problems. Several groups were very enthusiastic about the grant, but getting them to actually commit to definite plans has been very frustrating. In retrospect, I should have gotten firmer commitments from them much earlier, even before I had the grant in hand. Preferably commitments that had firm dates and action plans."

-- Christine Michaud, Durham Public Library, Every Child Ready to Read grant

"What was most rewarding to me was when the conversations continued after the tour was over. For instance, after we visited the local history museum, [the attendees] chatted with me and each other about things they remembered (stores that are now closed, a long-gone woods where they used to steal kisses, furniture that was in their parents' home)."

-- Lauren DeNisco, Fairfield Public Library, Programs for Older Adults grant

"We discovered that we have to ask specific questions when people sign up [for technology classes] so we can bring some participants in earlier to get them at the same starting point as other members. For example, for the Facebook class, if people didn't have an account we asked them to come in early so we could talk them through setting one up and not bore the people who already had an account."

-- Sharon Redfern, Rockville Public Library, Programs for Older Adults grant

"I did not realize that getting contracts and W-9s filled out from each performer would be so difficult. I knew that the grant would require my being organized, but it took a month or so to work out a good system with the library's Business Manager to make sure I had all the paperwork from the performers so that she could issue the checks."

-- Katie McFadden, Stratford Library Association, Programs for Older Adults grant

"Teaching adults is very rewarding, yet challenging without some ground rules. While we needed to respect the eager participation of motivated learners, we also had to limit the time of class participation to ensure we covered essential material. Printed handouts were vital to a group of learners who historically have learned by reading/writing."

-- Shelley Goldstein, UConn Waterbury, Programs for Older Adults grant

"The major discovery we made as part of the program planning was that people in this age group don't want to focus primarily on serious topics. While the library materials on these topics (financial planning, health, etc.) have circulated well, the lighter programs are the ones with the higher attendance rates."

-- Amy McCue, West Hartford Library, Programs for Older Adults grant

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