Our local libraries are continuously evolving

  • Katherine Hand director of the Sunderland Public Library on Tuesday afternoon at the library. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Katherine Hand, director of the Sunderland Public Library.

  • The Sunderland Public Library on School Street. Recorder File Photo

For the Recorder
Published: 8/15/2019 8:25:48 AM

Our local libraries are known for creative programs and services that expand upon the boundaries of traditional library services. From “libraries of things,” where patrons can borrow household items, to “libraries of experiences,” where patrons can borrow passes to museums and other local attractions, our local libraries are continuously re-imagining what they can provide to their patrons. However, each new service comes at a cost. Library budgets, municipal budgets, the state and federal budgets are always tight. Libraries need to find creative ways to fund the new programs and services that we want to offer to our communities. One important source for supplementing many local libraries’ budgets is to seek out federal, state, local and private grants. 

Sunderland Public Library is thrilled to have recently been awarded a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to serve families with children on the autism spectrum.

LSTA grants are federal grants provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which are then distributed to states, and in Massachusetts are administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. This grant will allow Sunderland Public Library to offer over a dozen programs designed for children and teens on the autism spectrum, develop a sensory toy collection that can be borrowed by families throughout the region, and provide critical training that will be open to the Sunderland Public Library staff and librarians from many other local libraries.

This grant beings in October of this year and the library will be starting new programs and services throughout the year. 

Sunderland Public Library has benefited from two LSTA grants in the recent past that made a large impact in the Sunderland community. In 2014 the library was awarded a grant to provide better services to teens and tweens, which included monthly special programs for teens, a redesign of the young adult room, and funds to supplement the young adult book and movie collections. Many programs sparked by this grant, including our teen advisory board, are still going strong today. In 2016 the library received a grant to focus on “customer experience in the digital age,” which provided the Sunderland community with expanded access to technology and technology education. The library seeks out grant opportunities such as LSTA grants each year to allow the library to offer specialized programs and expanded services that would otherwise not fit into the tight municipal budget. 

Not all grants that local libraries seek out are for large amounts. The Rowe Town Library was a recent recipient of a Reduce, Reuse, Repair Micro-Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for seed money to begin a tool lending library. The tool lending library will be an extension of the library’s recently developed “Library of Things,” where patrons can borrow equipment just as they might borrow a book.  By establishing a small scale lending library for things such as tools our community members can avoid having to travel 40-50 miles round trip to pick up something simple. If a tool is needed for a one-off project, they could potentially negate the need to purchase an item at all. It might also allow for community members to pursue a project that they might not otherwise be financially able to tackle due to the cost of equipment. Items that may be purchased to start the program possibly will be a Shop-vac, pressure washer, weed wacker, leaf blower, power broom, woodworking tools and painting platform.

Cushman Library in Bernardston partners closely with the Pioneer Valley Regional School District Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Program (CFCE), a statewide grant program that sponsors parent engagement and education, early literacy and child development, and collaborations between local early education and care partners.

There are over 90 CFCE programs across Massachusetts that serve over 350 towns. CFCE’s often partner with local libraries as early education partners to provide special early literacy programs for children and parents. In Bernardston, the CFCE grant enables the Cushman Library to offer 15 thematic preschool story time programs, which are geared towards children up to 5 years old. These programs provide stories, activities, crafts, exploration of the children’s room, and snacks. Preschool storytimes usually take place on the first Friday of the month from September to June with many special events mixed in throughout the year. The first one of the season will be held on Friday, Sept. 13 from 11 a.m. to noon. The Frontier Regional CFCE is another powerful local grant program that widely benefits the libraries in Sunderland, Deerfield, Conway and Whately through micro-grants for programs and materials (including Sunderland’s much-beloved puppet theater). 

Our librarians are full of great ideas, but it takes financial support to make those dreams a reality. By collaborating with local institutions and seeking out grants from far and wide, our libraries are able to increase services in our communities with a minimal direct cost from the communities we serve. 

Upcoming Local Library Programs

Outdoor Movie: Grease Friday, Aug. 23, 8 p.m. at the Sunderland Public Library.

Outdoor Concert with TJ and the Peepers: Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Whately Public Library.

Outdoor Concert with Lonesome Brothers: Friday, Aug. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sunderland Public Library.

Outdoor Adventure Story Time: Tuesday, Sept. 10 - 10 a.m. at the Tilton Library in Deerfield.

Preschool Story Time: Friday, Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. at the Cushman Library in Bernardston.

Bullet Journaling Workshop for Teens: Saturday, Sept. 14 at 2 p.m. (registration required) at the Sunderland Public Library.

Katherine Hand is the director of the Sunderland Public Library.


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