2022 Arrowhead Library System Mini Grant Round-Up Part 3

Here’s a round-up of Arrowhead Library System Mini Grants that were completed in 2022 at Duluth Public School Libraries, Virginia Public Library, Hibbing High School Library Media Center, Iron Range Historical Society, Two Harbors Public Library, St. Joseph’s Catholic School Library, Mountain Iron Public Library, Hoyt Lakes Public Library, and Duluth Public Library – Main, West Duluth, and Mt. Royal:

Project: Beautifying the Denfeld High School Library
Feedback from Geraldine Davidson, Duluth Public School Libraries
The mini grant was used to purchase under-desk shelf storage and tri-dolly casters for the Denfeld High School Library.  This project benefits our patrons & students by making it easier to keep surfaces cleaner which promotes a healthier experience while visiting. It also makes the library more visually appealing by having textbooks stored in a better way that clears clutter. It also opens up surface space for book displays so students are drawn to the books on those shelves. The wheels under the tables have made it easier for students to rearrange the tables for better collaboration. It helps patrons coming in for meetings to rearrange tables that make meetings more conducive for discussions. I have interviewed students about the tables ease of movement and they responded that they like it. They made different groupings for their various meetings and they thought it helped increase the productivity because it takes less time for the arrangement of the space so they have more time for discussions.

Project: Young Adult Seating
Feedback from Sam Pogorels, Virginia Public Library
The Young Adult/Teen section of a library is always a difficult area to address. We knew from observation though that new seating in that section was a must. The teens we noticed always sat or laid on the floor (not very comfortable). They liked to chat or play games after school with their friends but there wasn’t a great place to do that in their devoted Young Adult Section. We decided to purchase two WESCO Floor Recliners in a bold lime green color to help liven up the area. We liked the floor recliners because even though we wanted to get the teens off of the floor, we did notice that they didn’t like to sit in normal chairs and seemed to actually enjoy lying or sitting on the floor. We thought these bright colored floor recliners would be the perfect balance for our teens to enjoy!  With the school right next door we get a big influx of teens coming in after the school day ends. We already have limited seating in the library, especially if we are having a busy day. Just adding these two floor recliners specifically for our younger patrons allowed them to feel more welcome and know they have a special place just for them to come and relax, do schoolwork, or hang with friends. The day we received the new floor recliners and set them out in the Young Adult Section, they were already being used by a group of teens and have seen the floor recliners being used every day since then.

Project: Inclusion Materials Collection
Feedback from Kara Ronning, Hibbing High School Library Media Center
The money from this mini grant was used to purchase reading materials for the school’s special education students with developmental cognitive disabilities. With the grant money, we were able to purchase 22 books that are appropriate content for high school students (grades 7-12) with a reading level below 2.5.  Prior to this purchase, the library media center had very few books with a reading level below 2.5. Those books which were below that reading level had content for elementary students. This grant allowed us to purchase books that have both an interest level appropriate to the age of the students, but a reading level fitting their ability level. The purchase means there are books for all students in our school.  The books have just been processed and placed in the inclusion area. I showed the special education teachers, and they were excited to have some books that are leveled, but still with topics of interest to the students as high school students. We are working to schedule a time that the classes can come to the library to do some checkouts. 

Project: Iron Range Historical Society Book Publishing Project
Feedback from Michele Lammi, Iron Range Historical Society
IRHS used the grant to reprint 49 books. These books are sold to members, the general public, libraries in the area, and are available for sale at three Iron Range businesses and on our website. The monies received from sales supplements the limited funding IRHS gets from memberships and donations. The titles reprinted are Sisu: The Finns Have It, Historic Slavic Music, Iron Range Ghost Towns and Iron Range Locations.  These books are all non-fiction and are our most popular books for sale. Each book deals with Iron Range history and includes 50 local photos. Our mission includes sharing our materials with members, patrons and the general public and having these books available for purchase helps us achieve that goal. We keep an inventory of all books we sell and because these our most popular titles they will be purchased within the next year by interested persons.

Project: Get the Picture — Updating Library Branding
Feedback from Madeline Jarvis, Two Harbors Public Library
Creating and implementing a marketing and communications plan is one of the strategic initiatives highlighted in our current strategic plan. This will reduce visual clutter, clarify marketing needs for library staff, and serve as a tool for patrons to see the library as a warm and engaging public resource.  Within the design process we collaborated with local stakeholders to design a new style guide. Funds from the ALS mini grant were used to implement some of our style updates, namely in print collateral.  We spent grant funding on new business cards for fulltime library staff that incorporate our new branding guidelines and on wayfinding infrastructure that will tie our branding into our patrons’ browsing experience.  Our work continues but the mini grant investment is a crucial first step in library pride and awareness! The design process helped our patrons, volunteers, staff, and board think more critically about how they view the library within the community. The new business cards help patrons have current library information easily accessible and improved wayfinding provides more independent browsing.  For improved wayfinding signage, we sought feedback from shelvers and patrons. Both noticed easier navigation in the adult nonfiction section.

Project: 2022 Minnesota Library Association Annual Conference Attendance
Feedback from Colleen Knettel, Duluth Public School Libraries
With the generous support of the Arrowhead Library System, I was able to attend the 2022 Minnesota Library Association (MLA) Conference which was held in Duluth. ITEM, Minnesota’s professional organization for school library media specialists, recently became a division of MLA. It has been over five years since I last attended an ITEM or MLA Conference. As a media specialist in the Duluth Public School District, I am responsible for teaching my students library and technology skills. The conference provided an opportunity for me to learn more about what educators from around the state are doing to educate and support their students and staff. The MLA sessions provided me with new ideas for engaging lessons and media center management. Additionally, I gained a greater understanding of how book challenges are increasing within the State of Minnesota, mirroring a distressing trend being seen across the country. I learned about best practices for preparedness in the event that a challenge arises in my schools or district. I was also able to attend the ITEM division meeting in-person and network with other media specialists. I was encouraged to learn what is being done to advocate for school libraries and the media specialist profession across the state, while taking away some ideas for advocacy within my own schools, district, and community. I truly appreciate this excellent learning opportunity!

Project: STEAM Lab Materials
Feedback from Barb Hughes, St. Joseph’s Catholic School Library
St. Joseph’s increased the STEAM initiative this year. It all started with the ALS mini grant to fund our LEGO wall (2020), and now the program has grown substantially. STEAM is no longer an “add on” in the curriculum, but a scheduled weekly instruction/lab time for all grade levels K-6. It is part of the library/media curriculum now. As of Fall 2022 our school has a dedicated budget for the program, but it’s new and still small, so our supply of basic items is limited. With this grant, we were able to build our instruction and exploration lab materials. Over the past couple years the activities developed for students have engaged all levels in creative exploration and now the aim was to incorporate learning objectives outlined in the state STEAM standards. STEAM is a highlight of the week for students. After introduction of a lesson, the classroom teachers are asking to further the activities in the classroom too. Families have acted to start an afterschool “club” which hopefully will begin in January. The best part about the STEAM program is that it is available to all students in K through 6th grade. Lessons are leveled appropriately. Students use the STEAM learning center during flexible time, class time, and extended hours before and after school. The goal for this program is to develop independent, creative, purposeful thinkers. We are seeing students apply advanced math skills cooperatively (4th graders discussing pi!) These basic materials have become the backbone of our lab.  Engagement has been off the charts. Those students who often are the silent learners are engaged and working cooperatively. Observed student discussions and hypotheses have been focused and directed to make improvements on ideas. Students are further applying their experiences to questions/problems at home, as reported by parents. We have had 100% participation with far fewer disciplinary issues. There has never been this amount of energy in our building.

Project: Take & Make Family Sustainable Art Kits
Feedback from Anna Amundson, Mountain Iron Public Library
Mountain Iron Public Library was able to create the following kits: paracord and friendship bracelets, mouse repellent kits, and homemade vanilla kits.  The adult kits were well received and all kits were picked up within a week’s time! We were limited due to the cost of the kits, and we have had requests to “do more kits like this”.  Our youth and family kits were put together, and as part of our after school reading club, they started rolling out. We will see the full extent of those when we conclude for the year, and the hands on projects that can be used/ worn/ displayed were appreciated by the parents who attend. In conjunction with our holiday-themed kits, there is lots of activity in the library. Whether patrons visit occasionally or weekly, there is always something to engage in.  

Project: Binding Newspapers and Oral Interviews
Feedback from Sue Sowers, Hoyt Lakes Public Library
The grant project included two different forms of preserving our local history. First of all, the Erie Mining Company History Book group gave us three large plastic bins with printed dialogue from the personal interviews they conducted. We took these files to the print shop and had them bound, in alphabetical order, into three books. These books amount to under 5 inches total thickness, so will be much more accessible to the public. The second portion was used to scan and save the original Hoyt Lakes newspapers into a digital format. The newspapers had become very fragile and were not in a condition for viewing. Now we will be able to share these invaluable records easily.  This project will allow our patrons to have a more pleasant experience researching our local history. The bound interviews are much easier to browse through than sifting through bins. And digital copies of our newspapers can be shared with people no matter where they may be. We will also be able to print sections of the newspapers out for the public, if they request this. We will be measuring the number of people requesting digital information and numbers of patrons who are viewing the interviews in the library.

Project: William Kent Krueger Author Visit
Feedback from Sarah Villanueva, Duluth Public Library – Main
Author William Kent Krueger came to speak with patrons and writers in the community about his writing process. He also spoke on his inspiration and how he writes, as well as his journey through being published. We had a lot of people come simply to listen to him speak, but we also had a few writers in the crowd. Krueger was our kickoff event to NaNoWriMo at the library and he was extremely happy to speak to writers. We had a large crowd come to the event and stay after to speak with the author and there was a lot of positive feedback. We also have had more people register/show interest in our NaNoWriMo programming.

Project: STEM Boost!
Feedback from Carrie Boberg, Duluth Public Library – Mt. Royal Branch
The idea for this mini-grant was to boost up our STEM opportunities for passive and in-person programming. We have been using a rudimentary system (recycled containers and bottle caps) to have periodic “voting” in our branch – voting for your favorite dinosaur, snack, cookie, school subject, etc. With this grant we were able to purchase 4 acrylic containers and 1 cm cubes. Not only does this add a visual component to our voting process, it has been very engaging for families to talk about why voting is important, how everyone gets a voice, we can use our estimation skills to see who’s winning, etc. Right now we’re voting for our favorite cookie – Gingerbread is in the lead!  Another BOOST was purchasing a set of KEVA planks. These planks are great for engineers of all ages to experiment and complete masterpieces of building.  Being able to combine creativity, science and interactions between patrons (whether family, other patrons or staff) is critical in making and growing connections within our community. It also supports brain development and is fun! Thank you for allowing us access to this mini-grant!  By offering more opportunities to connect, have discussions, use critical thinking skills, and be creative, these STEM boosters help us impact more patrons. We had over 350 votes for our first election (dinosaurs) and at least that on our current cookie ballot. The best thing is hearing conversations between families about voting, estimating who’s going to win based on visual cues and how excited people are to come in and vote (yes, adults too!). 

Project: Sensory Kits
Feedback from Brittnie Hildr, Duluth Public Library – West Duluth Branch
West Duluth Branch Library used Mini Grant funds to start-up our Sensory Kits! We bought toys that target visual, tactile, and body awareness systems in the hopes that our patrons have tools available to help them self-regulate (to calm their emotions and their bodies). This project was pursued to enable our patrons to fully interact with the library and our special offerings such as Story times and Crafternoons instead of them having to leave due to disinterest or meltdowns. The presence and use of sensory kits will help raise awareness and normalize the use of self-regulation tools for any and all users, regardless of physical, emotional, or mental abilities.  These toys help kids calm their bodies when they have too much energy to effectively use the library; they keep kids engaged in story time when they otherwise would have left to find other distractions; they open a positive dialog for using tools to help self-regulate and to be available if someone they know needs something to help them regulate emotions. In the days since they have been out, families and kids have asked questions about and used different items multiple times. 

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