LibraryLinkNJ's most recent recent grant program - the Level Up Your Library mini-grant - wrapped up in December 2023. Recipients of the grant received up to $5,000 to improve, expand, or revamp an existing project, program, or initiative in their libraries. We're thrilled to be able to share some of the successful grant-funded projects below. Read on to see how libraries around the state "leveled up" last year!
Atlantic Cape Community College Libraries, staff used Level Up Funds on a project called Textbook Access for All that increased the number of textbooks available in the Spangler Library's "Textbook on Reserve Collection." This collection allows students to borrow rather than purchase expensive textbooks, and ACCC Library staff report that following their Level Up project it now contains "almost all of the course textbooks currently in use at the college. In particular, the collection now contains all of the most expensive textbooks Atlantic Cape students desperately needed but had long been outside the library's budgetary means to acquire." Staff attribute the addition of the new textbooks and marketing surrounding the grant to some pretty remarkable statistics; including a 182% increase in use of the Textbooks on Reserve program in September 2023 compared to the previous September and a 93% increase in creation of library accounts in fall 2023 versus the same period the previous year!
And ACCC wasn't the only Level Up Recipient looking to help save its community money while simultaneously helping their community rediscover what the library can offer! Libraries of Things and other special circulation items were a popular project for our Level Up recipients. These include:
- Denville Public Library's Jump Into a Book project, which spotlights IR books that feature both virtual and augmented reality components in additional to traditional text copy. The addition of 25 IR books to the library circulating juvenile collection has helped them reach their goal of providing a truly immersive reading experience to their young patrons!
- Montville Township Public Library's Library of "New Things:" Creation, Recreation, Celebration! saw the expansion of Montville Township's existing Library of Things to offer some of the most-requested items in Montville and surrounding communities. These items include kitchen appliances, musical instruments, electronics, and hobby items.
- Pascack Hills High School Media Center's Libros en Espanol: A Proposal to Promote Spanish Literacy focused on expanding the PHHS collection of circulating Spanish-language materials to include 118 new Spanish and bilingual books and books by Latino authors. "Our project builds on our goal of educational inclusivity and access to quality literature that resonates with individuals" say project managers Meg Pettigano (PHHS Librarian) and Vanessa Martinez (PHHS teacher).
Jump Into a Book
Promotional material for Denville Public Library's expanded IR books collection!
Libros en Espanol
Students in the PHHS Latino and Hispanic Culture Club helped prepare and display new purchased materials!
- Plainsboro Public Library's Plainsboro Library of Things project focused on expanding the library's existing jigsaw puzzle collection and Seed Library into a full-fledged Library of Things. The project succeeded, and saw a number of positive community impacts. Staff shared that: "We made it possible for one patron to finally change the light bulbs she had been putting off due to the lack of a step stool. Another was gratified that we added a leaf blower in time for her to clear her lawn of autumn leaves. One patron had been deliberating over the purchase of an ice cream maker, and was delighted to join the ice cream making class to see how it worked before taking the plunge."
- Princeton Public Library's Library of Things: Little Thinker Kits brings a new option for children to the existing PPL LIbrary of Things by providing kits featuring a Toniebox and Tonie characters (a popular screen-free audio listening device for young children) and magnetic building tiles that encourage children to engage in creative STEM play while listening to favorite songs, stories, or audiobooks.
- Red Bank Public Library's But Wait, There's More! project upgraded Red Bank's existing Library of Things to include materials commonly requested by patrons. Project personnel explain that following their Level Up program, their collection now includes "tools that improve daily life, items that enable patrons to explore their creativity and foster lifelong learning, and some [items] which are just downright fun."
Makerspaces and technology proved to be another popular focus for many of our Level Up grant recipients, including Collingswood Public Library with their "STEAM Jr. Creation Station" initiative, MCL's West Windsor Branch Library with a project to enhance STEAM and digital literacy programming, and Moore Library at Rider University where expanded access to Virtual Reality apps is helping to increase support for programming, pedagogy, and curriculum. Meanwhile, "making" was the focus for Atlantic City Free Public Library with their makerspace revitalization project, Boonton Holmes Public Library with their expansion and reimagining of sewing machine programming and circulation, and both North Warren Regional Media Center and Sterling High School Media Center, which undertook makerspace makeovers.
Outreach and programming efforts took center stage for still more participating libraries. Cliffside Park Public Library was able to successfully upgrade their ESL and Citizenship classes to meet the needs of more community members, while Kemmerer Library expanded their summer programming with a lecture series that engaged adult patrons. Kenilworth Public Library reached a similar goal of engaging with adult patrons via programming by upgrading their popular "Paper Pals" adult crafting program, while Woodbridge Public Library opted for a broader focus with an expanded repertoire of both adult and teen programs.
Access and accessibility were also tackled in a variety of ways with Level Up project! Margaret E. Heggan Free Public Library and Maywood Public Library focused on serving and welcoming previously underserved populations - in this case, neurodivergent patrons and those with sensory or communication challenges. Johnson Public Library focused on a different type of accessibility with a project that helped them create a "pop up library" in easily accessible community spaces, and Livingston Public Library focused their accessibility efforts on making their extensive local history collection more accessible and navigable to the community at large. For the Camden County Library System, patron access to critical personal care items took top priority and they were able to level up their Personal Care Pantry program to provide "low-barrier access to health and hygiene supplies for patrons visiting 6 branches of the Camden County Library System to help create as welcoming and safe an environment as possible for all." A welcoming and safe environment was also the goal for Union City Public Library which expanded teen services with the creation of the library's first-event designated teen space.
Personal Care Pantries
“You have exactly the ‘little things’ you need when we need them, like socks are a big deal when you don’t have socks or can’t wash your socks. You guys are lifesavers, seriously.” – Patron at the Downtown Camden Branch
Creating a More Inclusive Library
To learn more about the Level Up Your Library program - including further details about the projects undertaken by our grant recipients, visit the Level Up Your Library page!