Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries - Guidelines

Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries, a special grant opportunity for small and rural libraries

Date Posted: Monday, September 21, 2020
Deadline for Submission: Wednesday, December 2, 2020 by 11:59 pm (CST)
Award Notification Date: Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Apply Online via Foundant


Before starting, read the implementation grant FAQ and carefully review the requirements below in each category for the grant.

Contact the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office staff at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Table of Contents

  1. Initiative Description
  2. Eligibility
  3. Award Information
  4. Requirements
  5. Project Design
  6. Eligible Expenses
  7. Application and Submission Information
  8. Application Review
  9. Grant Administration Information
  10. Points of Contact

Initiative Description

Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Focus on Small and Rural Libraries is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) that seeks to provide community engagement resources and opportunities specific to the needs of library workers serving small and rural communities.

Libraries today are serving their patrons in new and exciting ways through community engagement. Community engagement is the process of working collaboratively with community members – be they library patrons, residents, faculty, students or partner organizations – to address issues for the betterment of the community. As champions of lifelong learning, libraries are a place to quench curiosity, access technology, and explore new ideas, hobbies and careers. Increasingly, libraries also offer patrons welcoming virtual and physical spaces to meet their neighbors to discuss and resolve important issues.

As part of this initiative, ALA will provide implementation grants to libraries serving small and/or rural communities to develop and lead a community engagement project that builds on the Libraries Transforming Communities: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries e-course and facilitation guide.

The goal of these grants are two-fold: a. this project is for library workers to use the skills learned through the LTC: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries asynchronous 6-part e-course and facilitation guide to develop a community engagement program, and b. to provide flexible funding to support library community engagement.

Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries is part of ALA’s longtime commitment to preparing library workers for the expanding role of libraries. The initiative is offered in partnership with the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL). It is supported by a private donor and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).


  • Applicants must have an institutional OR personal membership with either the American Library Association OR the Association for Rural & Small Libraries.
  • This opportunity is open to all types of libraries serving small and/or rural communities in the U.S. and U.S. territories.
    • The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) defines libraries serving small communities as those with a legal service area population of 25,000 or less and a rural community as one that is more than, or equal to, five miles from an urbanized area.
  • Only complete and eligible applications that are received on time will be reviewed.

Award Information

Libraries serving small and/or rural communities will be selected to receive an LTC community engagement implementation grant over the course of two application periods. In the first application period (September - December 2020) at least 200 libraries will be selected. The second application period (January - March 2021) will provide grants to at least 450 libraries serving small and/or rural communities. 

Library staff will apply the skills learned from the LTC: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries e-course and facilitation guide to address community need through library service. Libraries selected for funding will receive:

  • $3,000 to support costs related to their community engagement project
  • Professional development consisting of the LTC: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries asynchronous e-course and facilitation guide (required for all project directors)
  • A suite of online resources developed to support local programs including template press releases, social media messaging, logos, digital promotional materials and template letters that can be used to notify local leaders/officials about the library's project.
  • Technical and project support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the grant term, such as access to:
    • Online learning opportunities for grantees intended to assist project directors in promoting their conversation, completing grant reporting requirements and participating in evaluation
    • Community of practice for project directors and staff


All libraries awarded the LTC grant will be required to:

  • Designate one staff member as the project director (local coordinator). This person will commit to completing the LTC: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries e-course before implementing the proposed community conversation and other activities.
  • Share information about the library’s project, as appropriate, with area elected officials and community leaders.
  • Complete the six-part asynchronous LTC: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries ecourse.
  • Host a minimum of one conversation with community members using skills learned from the ecourse. Community conversations must take place between February 1, 2021, and July 31, 2021.
    • Eligible conversations may include any topic or issue that is relevant to the community.
    • Examples might include (but are not limited to), discussions about e-learning, local issues, COVID-19, films, books, etc.
    • Conversations may be virtual or in-person and should be facilitated (or co-facilitated) by the library worker who has completed the e-course.
  • Report and share information about the content/outcomes of the conversation or series of conversations in at least one of the following ways:
    • Use PLA’s Project Outcome Civic/Community Engagement or ACRL’s Project Outcome Events & Programs areas to collect and share feedback about the conversation with library leadership and trustees
    • Write an article and submit it to a local newspaper or other media outlet or post it to the library’s social media
    • Create a video and post it to the library’s YouTube, Facebook, or other social media account
    • Write and send a letter or email to a state legislator or other elected official about the conversation
    • Create a library blog or podcast about issues discussed during the conversation or the process itself.
  • Participate in the project evaluation and reporting by responding to requests from the independent project evaluators and completing any requested reports. This may include responding to surveys, participating in phone interviews, and/or hosting a site visit.
  • Spend the grant funds by February 28, 2022.
  • Submit a final report to ALA by September 30, 2021.

Project Design

Community engagement is the process of working collaboratively with community members — be they library patrons, residents, faculty, students or partner organizations— to address issues for the betterment of the community. This opportunity strengthens the role of libraries serving small and rural communities by providing professional development that supports facilitation of conversations with community members and stakeholders during this time of great need and widespread crisis. ALA recognizes that this is complicated and enduring work and is supporting this work with $3,000 in funding to help libraries serve their communities.

Libraries should design a conversation or conversation series that best suits the audience and topic(s) of their planned conversation(s). Grant applicants are welcome to submit proposals that utilize existing conversation models, such as:

Conversation(s) may be focused on a subject or issue of importance to the community the library serves. Some examples of conversations may include:

  • Local/regional issues/legislation (e.g. installation of wind turbines, school closures, land use).
    • Example: A rural school district faces declining enrollment, and the school board is considering a cost-saving measure that would eliminate busing for some students. The library hosts a community conversation to discuss how the measure would effect residents and the school district. The library uses funding to purchase PPE in order to have a social distanced conversation outside, pay for childcare during the conversation, and create fliers to market the event. After the conversation, the librarian summarizes the key discussion points in a video on the library’s Facebook page and encourages further discussion in the comments.
  • National issues (e.g. unemployment, climate change, public health)
    • Example: In response to COVID-19, a library partners with its county health department to host a virtual conversation about the pandemic and discuss community concerns. The library uses funding to advertise the conversation; purchase Wi-Fi hotspots and tablets to lend out to help community members participate in the virtual discussion; and get additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ebooks about public health to continue to address community need and interest. After the conversation, the librarian writes a column for the newspaper about community concerns in relation to the pandemic and shares related resources that the library or county health department has gathered.
  • Book/film discussion (e.g. using a book or film as a way to discuss larger issues concerning the community)
    • Example: A library hosts a community-wide read of “Heartland: a memoir of working hard and being broke in the richest country on Earth” by Sarah Smarsh to launch a discussion about America’s perception of the working poor and the ongoing debate about increasing minimum wage. The library uses funding to purchase copies of the book, create marketing/promotional materials for the community-wide read, buy a Zoom license for the book discussion, and pay for staff time. After the conversation, the library uses Project Outcome to gather participant’s thoughts on the initiative and uses the platform’s report generator to share results with library trustees and board members. Based on interest the library uses grant funds to purchase additional ebook licenses and hotspots for future book discussions.

Eligible Expenses

LTC grant funds are restricted to project related expenses. Eligible expenses may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Purchase of Personal Protective Equipment and supplies
  • Purchase of collection materials
  • Tech equipment (e.g. virtual meeting licenses, iPads, Wi-Fi hotspots, etc.)
  • Project supplies (e.g. markers, index cards, post-its, etc)
  • Library staff time
  • Additional facilitation training for library staff (e.g. equity, diversity and inclusion facilitation skills training)
  • Payment to project partners for reimbursement or direct funding of services and support provided (e.g. childcare providers, translators, instructors, co-facilitator, etc.)
  • Promotion and publicity

Grant funds may not be used to support indirect costs (e.g. general library administrative expenses).

Application and Submission Information

ALA will accept applications for the LTC: Focus on for Small and Rural Libraries implementation grant beginning September 21, 2020 and ending on December 2, 2020 at 11:59 pm (CST).

Please review the Frequently Asked Questions before applying.

Getting Started

To submit a proposal, go to the online application form and complete the following steps. If this is your first time submitting an application through Foundant, our grants management system, you may want to first review our How to Apply webpage.

To apply for the LTC: Focus on for Small and Rural Libraries implementation grant, you must complete the following steps:


1. Enter Project Name

Note: To qualify for this grant, the applying institution must be a library serving a small and/or rural community.

To begin your application, enter LTC into the “Project Name” field.

2. Complete Project Director Information

To complete this section, provide all the information that is requested about the Project Director.

Note: The project director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating the entire proposed project. They will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution.

3. Complete Library Information

To complete this section, provide all the information about the applying library including type, total population served and community type. Also indicate which association(s) you or the library is a member of.

4. Write Implementation Grant Narratives

Each narrative response should be 600 words or less. Before you compose the narrative part of this application, we strongly recommend that you read these guidelines and the "Leading Conversations in Small and Rural Libraries" Facilitation Guide carefully. If you do not, your application is unlikely to be competitive.

  1. Community and Library Information. Describe your library and the community it serves, including demographics, dynamics and key issues or challenges it faces. What should reviewers know about your library and community in order to understand your proposed community engagement project?
  2. Conversation Topic or Issue. Describe the topic or issue that your community engagement project will focus on. Why is it important for your library or community to discuss this particular issue/topic? How did you arrive at this particular topic/subject (e.g. did you talk with library patrons, reach out to other area organizations? Dig into data about your community)? How will your library and/or community benefit from having this/these discussion(s)?
  3. Project Goals. Describe the library’s goal or the purpose of your project plan. What are you aiming to accomplish? (e.g. enhance library resources based on community input; explore a topic and/or build understanding of others’ experiences; generate ideas, explore options, and make a decision; discuss an issue and collaboratively determine next steps, etc.)
  4. Conversation Planning. How do you envision your conversation taking place? (e.g. virtual book club discussion, socially-distanced conversation outdoors at the library using the National Issues Forum Model, etc.) Do you feel you are able to describe how you envision your conversation(s) will take place? Or are you new to this and planning to learn these skills though the online course? What kind of marketing/outreach do you plan to do for the conversation? How are you planning to share the content/outcomes of the conversation? (e.g. writing an article for the local newspaper, creating a video about what was discussed for the library’s social media, etc.)
  5. Budget. Describe your plans for the grant funds. What will you use the funding to purchase or support? Please be specific (e.g. $1,000 will be spent on staff time to support the development and implementation of the project, $200 will be used to purchase a Zoom Business license in order for us to virtually host our conversation). The total amount of your proposed budget plan should add up to $3,000. Note: If you are unable to spend the entire grant down by July 31, 2021, you may accrue funds to spend through February 28, 2022. If you anticipate needing to accrue funds, please note this in your response and include your plans for spending it down.

5. Upload Supporting Materials

5.A – Upload Letters of Support - OPTIONAL

Upload letters of support from any other organizations or individuals that are in favor of your community engagement project. This may include letters of support from the library’s friends’ group, library board members, civic leaders, community partners, etc. To see a sample letter of support, please refer to our Letter of Support Template (PDF).

5.B – Upload Additional Materials - OPTIONAL

Upload any additional materials that support your proposed community engagement project. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Sample promotional materials
  • Draft conversation agendas
  • Draft discussion questions
  • Videos

6. Sign Application

An application for an LTC: Focus on for Small and Rural Libraries implementation grant is an application for a grant from ALA, using funding provided by an award from a private donor. ALA is required by law to ask applicants to identify a certifying official who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the institution.

To complete this section, you must enter all the information that is requested.

7. Review and Edit Your Application

8. Submit Your Application

Once you have completed all parts of your application, you may submit it by selecting the Submit button. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm CST on December 2, 2020. Applications submitted after that time will be ineligible.

Note that once you have submitted your application, you can no longer alter it. The application will then be submitted for review. You will receive an email confirming submission of your application.

Application Review

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Clarity and completeness of the application. Has the application supplied all required information, including all sections of the statement of intent and supporting materials?
  • Size and type of community the applicant’s library serves.

Applicants are encouraged to address questions about the selection guidelines, process, and requirements to the ALA Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Review and Selection Process

Each application will be assessed by a panel of library workers serving small and rural communities and project staff of ALA. ALA will make the final decisions based on peer reviewer feedback, and other possible considerations such as geographic distribution.

Grant Administration Information

First application period deadline: December 2, 2020, by 11:59 pm (CST)
First application period award notification: December 16, 2020
First application period cash grant distributed by: January 29, 2021
Second application period: January 4 - March 4, 2021

Points of Contact

If you have questions, contact:

Public Programs Office
American Library Association
1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045