ICMA Public Library Innovation Grants


In 2009 ICMA awarded nine Public Library Innovation Grants totaling $500,000. The grants, made possible by ICMA’s partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, support projects developed by local governments that utilize their public libraries in addressing local needs and providing new services with lasting benefits to their communities.

The ICMA Public Library Innovation Grant program leverages the potential of public libraries to deliver services in such nontraditional areas as public safety, economic development, health, immigration, civic engagement, and sustainability. Recognizing the importance of the manager-librarian relationship to create and sustain change, the grants are anchored by a partnership between the office of the chief administrative officer (city, town, and county managers) and the public library.

The recipients of the ICMA Public Innovation Library Grants are:

Buena Vista, Virgina: Training and Call Center
This computer training and call center provides free basic training in PC usage, individualized assistance for PC users, and advanced training in the skills needed for an individual to become an effective incoming call center representative. Any resident of the Rockbridge Regional Library service area is eligible for either basic or advanced training. The city of Buena Vista is actively marketing the call center to corporations seeking cost-effective call center services staffed by pre-trained individuals. Contracts with these corporations will provide jobs in the Buena Vista-Lexington-Rockbridge County region and ongoing operating income for the center. The supply of trained employees will also encourage businesses to establish their own permanent call center operations in the area.

Dallas, Texas: Every Child Ready to Read @ Dallas Expansion
The Dallas Public Library has expanded its existing parenting program. City employees who are responsible for children are being trained and recruited as trainers to teach the "Every Child Ready to Read @ Dallas" program, volunteering on work time. The program is being promoted to the public at birth certificate waiting areas, clinic waiting rooms, and schools. A DVD of the parenting program is being developed for airing in clinic waiting rooms, at the Mexican Consulate or anywhere that large groups of parents of young children congregate. 

Fairfax County, Virginia: Changing Lives through Literature
Literature or lock-up. Fairfax County juvenile offenders now have an alternative to formal court action that uses the power of literature to transform lives through reading and group discussion. Literature and discussions are effective, proven tools for reducing recidivism at minimum cost. During the process, offenders develop better verbal and listening skills, undergo self-reflection, and learn how to become better citizens. Fairfax County is building a broader and stronger network to sustain and expand this program and promote public libraries as important tools in stemming criminal recidivism.

Fayetteville, Arkansas: Solar Test-Bed Library Project
This project is a partnership between the library, city, the University of Arkansas, the Arkansas Energy Office, the American Electric Power, the National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission, and the Arkansas Power Electronics International. The partnership will design, install, and operate a solar-generated energy system that will support a real-world test environment for solar-energy products created within the local economy. This project will position the library as the city's incubator for local solar business development and stimulate Fayetteville's fledgling green businesses, as well as promote citizen interest in adopting solar technologies. Building upon the library's U.S. Green Building Council's LEED-Silver certification, the solar energy system will create electricity, thus reducing the city’s utility use and carbon footprint.

Georgetown, South Carolina: The Hurricane Project
Georgetown County, South Carolina, is marking Hurricane Hugo, which slammed into the rural coastal area with 135-mph winds and a 20-foot storm surge on September 22, 1989. The results were devastating. The Public Library Innovation grant is enabling Georgetown County to revisit and learn lessons from this awful experience by facilitating an 18-month collaboration between the public library and the emergency management department to raise citizen awareness of related public-library and public-safety resources. Efforts include public lectures, informational materials, announcements, but also inventive approaches like video-game simulations, Web 2.0 communication techniques, oral-history video interviews, digital storytelling, and the creation of a digital collection of historic hurricane views.

Iowa City, Iowa: ECO Iowa City
The Iowa City Public Library and the Iowa City Public Works Department have partnered to enhance the quality of life for residents by improving the environmental sustainability of our community. The library has expanded its role as a community information center to educate and engage citizenry on the benefits of urban storm water management, urban composting, local food, energy conservation, and smart waste disposal. Utilizing books, online databases, and other library resources, including the Web site and cable television channel, the library and public works department are offering workshops and other hands-on programs in conjunction with many community partners to encourage Iowa Citians to create rain gardens, weatherproof their homes and businesses, and take other actions aimed at increasing the sustainability of our GREEN earth.

Miami, Oklahoma: Miami Native American Language, Culture, Health Education/Empowerment Center
The Miami Public Library and the city of Miami are building on existing, ongoing tribal initiatives and have partnered with Native American tribes including the Miami Tribe, the Ottawa Tribe, the Peoria Tribe, the Modoc Tribe, the Shawnee Tribe, and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe. The library is providing reference and training opportunities in Native American language, art, and history, and will provide a way to better link local tribes with their affiliate universities in other states. The newly created center is also providing Internet training opportunities and economic development seminars on such topics as how to start a business. All residents are invited to attend and participate in the center's programs. 

Pendleton, Oregon: Wired for Safety
The Wired for Safety project will ride the crest of increased teen energy in the library and throughout the community. Using a mix of technology (a city-wide wireless network and other enhancements) and expanded services (programs for teens and community safety involvement programs), the project will partner the strength and security of local law enforcement with the empowering culture of the public library to create an environment for accessing information that is comfortable and welcoming for a diverse demographic mix of citizens. The project will pool both human and financial resources from the city of Pendleton police department, public library, facilities department, and additional grant funds to achieve the goals of this project.

Santa Ana, California: Connect!/Conectate!: Connecting Yourself with Your Future—Conectate con Tu Futuro!
This project is providing programs for at-risk teens that will help them grow into successful and productive adults. Programs include preparatory workshops for college entrance, job application and research, as well as classes in graphic design, math, and English. These and other programs will provide opportunities for teens to enhance their academic and life skills, assist in teaching limited English speaking adults, mentor younger children, and develop faith in themselves and in their futures.