From The Beacon: Grants let library make most of what's available

Just as our customers visit our branch libraries to search for information, take a computer class to upgrade their career skills and meet up with friends or home-school groups, the Beaufort County Public Library System is pursuing grants and other available funding opportunities to increase our capacity to serve our community and make the most of what's out there.

Grant-funded library projects help support our efforts to meet the library system's strategic goals because they not only support innovative new programs, but they also help support core library services that might need funding.

In 2010, the Beaufort County Public Library System and the Public Library Foundation of Beaufort County received two grant awards. The most recent is a collection development award made possible by a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the South Carolina State Library. This LSTA Fast-Track grant project provided $15,000 to support the purchase of more than 425 new titles to target teens, adults and seniors through the purchase of playaways (small, portable audio players) and large print books. Beaufort County Public Library administrators Kathy Mitchell, collection development coordinator, and Wendy Allen, youth services coordinator, led this quick-turnaround grant project.

And there were additional benefits to purchasing these materials beyond just getting more for customers to enjoy. Although this project did not specifically target people with disabilities or special needs, there was an ancillary effect of our enhancing collections to benefit this group as well. A U.S. Census 2006 estimate identifies 18,900 county residents age 5 and older as having a disability; these include learning disabilities and physical handicaps. Playaways would be a benefit as they would provide an accessible format to literature and information that might be otherwise unreachable in traditional print format. Access to large-print books also benefits those with vision-related problems which can impact all ages but especially the rapidly growing older population. Recent library surveys, conducted to help us determine service needs for our 2011-2013 Strategic

Plan, indicate a real need for a larger and more diverse collection of large-print materials.

Another significant grant-funded project is our WorkStarts @ the Library Program. Go to www.beaufortcounty library.org and click on the Workstarts logo and you will find coordinated access to many resources, databases and skills-development opportunities. This innovative program was designed by Information Services Coordinator Dennis Adams and Assistant Library Director and Coordinator of Public Services Jan O'Rourke, and supported by a dynamic and highly dedicated group of library professionals dubbed "The BCL Program Team" in an effort to address the growing work force development needs of our community.

Funded in part by a grant from The Beaufort Fund to the Public Library Foundation of Beaufort County, the library system has made significant steps to help coordinate community efforts and to educate work force development providers about the outstanding (and free) resources that the library system brings to address this important issue. The first WorkStarts Summit was held June 23 and brought more than 50 of our community and state work force development leaders together to learn about what the library had to offer. A follow-up WorkStarts breakfast meeting will be held at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Bluffton library to discuss the next steps to build upon this effort.

The Library System continues to look for new ways to address the challenges that our customers are facing. Whether the need be access to more materials or access to training and resources to find a job or change careers, grant funding can bring new ideas and new programs to life. While everyone in Beaufort County is looking for ways to stretch their resources, be assured that your library system is making the most of every opportunity to bring more of the world to you.