Extra Helpings for Literacy Helpers

American Libraries, December 1998 | Go to article overview

Extra Helpings for Literacy Helpers


As libraries expand their role in the literacy movement from tutor-student meeting places to program originators (see special section beginning on p. 36), it's no wonder that grantmakers such as the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund (www.lilawallace.org) and Laubach Literacy Action (www.laubach.org) have expanded their giving scope as well. Or that enterprising librarians such as Oakland (Calif.) Public Library's Leslie McGinnis, who runs the Second Start Adult Literacy Program there, has become so successful in getting both foundations' attention - in part because of her ongoing successes in reslicing Oakland's literacy funding pie in her program's favor.

Begun in 1984 with a municipal budget of $89,000, Second Start has more than $300,000 to spend for FY 1998-99, thanks in large part to a $130,000 parcel-tax hike voters okayed as of FY 1995 and the three-year $210,000 LW-RDF grant that started in June 1996. McGinnis has also just secured $7,000 from Laubach Literacy Action's Women in Literacy program to expand its Oakland Reader publications, which won the 1998 Advancement of Literacy Award from the Adult Lifelong Learning Section of ALA's Public Library Association.

Among McGinnis's other favorite money sources is the $14,000 job-training grant from State Farm Insurance and the annual take of up to $8,000 that staff have garnered since 1993 by bartending at a local jazz radio station's annual listener party in Jack London square. The program's heightened visibility of such appearances (staff volunteers wear Second Start T-shirts and pass out literature), plus the program's reputation for what McGinnis calls "learner-centered education," has paid off with such long-range dividends as calls from foundations inviting Second Start to apply for support.

McGinnis acknowledges taking some flak for tacitly endorsing liquor sales, although she maintains that "if we could make this kind of money selling lemonade, we would sell lemonade." Convinced that library programs dependent for supplemental funding on bake sales "really can't dream," McGinnis cautions public library officials, "Don't think that we're so different that you can't learn something from us about running your library."

Even as Second Start's Lila Wallace grant comes to an end, the fund is gearing up to support more library-based literacy programs with grants totaling $285,000 to eight more initiatives nationwide: the friends of the Leon County, Florida, and New Orleans public libraries; the Jacksonville (Fla.) Public Library Foundation; the Lexington (Ky. …

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