Following up with a 2015 Dollar General grant winner

This is a Q&A type discussion with former Dollar General summer grant winner Bill Stea regarding his 2015 summer program for Waldorf West Library in Maryland. Feel free to discuss the grant and his project in the forum space.

1. Please tell us a little bit about your library and your 2015 summer reading program
Waldorf West Library is the largest and newest of the four branches in the Charles County Public Library system in Southern Maryland. Our library serves the citizens and community of Charles County, a suburban county below the Washington, DC beltway. According to the 2013 US Census American Community Survey, 8,818 county residents are currently enrolled in Grades 9 through 12 in public school and 8,475 of teens in that age range have library cards.

We have an ethnically bifurcated population that is 45.7% White, 41.9% Black and 5.0% Latino. Youth education is a growing priority of our region, and we aim to target teens across the academic success spectrum to assist each with their educational endeavors in a way that respects their learning style.

Our Summer Reading Program in 2015 was based on Superheroes and Comic Books. Among many of our programs that summer, we had our very first comic con (C4: The Charles County Comic Con), a program on creating superheroes based on the elements of the periodic table, a lecture on the physics of comic books, and a program in which we took pictures of patrons and made superhero trading cards with superhero facts about them.

2. What did you use your grant money for?
The grant money was used for several purposes: We expanded our graphic novel collection with $600 from the grant, purchasing about 38 graphic novels. $200 went toward bookmarks that were created specifically based on members of our comic book club who also appear in their own comic book series called "The Library League." They were distributed to patrons throughout our four branches. With the final $200 from the grant, we invested in making copies of the latest issue of "The Library League" at the time, and distributed those to patrons throughout the four branches.

3. Did the grant money make an impact?
Almost all of the graphic novels purchased for our collection have circulated frequently, throughout our system. The bookmarks and comic books that were distributed have increased awareness of our comic book club program, which now includes graphic novel book discussions, encouraging literacy skills among our younger and teen patrons.

4. Do you have any positive experiences from the grant that you want to share?
The members of the comic book club were really excited to have their own bookmarks, and immediately wanted to share them with their friends, who started to inquire about comic book club as well. The comic book also brought interest to several teens and younger children about what we were doing. In addition, several of the books were used for graphic novel discussions in our comic book club, including "Rocket Girl" and "Miles Morales." In fact, we were even able to do a skype interview with Brandon Montclare, author of Rocket Girl.

5.Were there any challenges with summer reading or the grant?
No, but we wish we could have afforded more copies of the comic book to distribute out. We brought several to outreach visits to schools, but ran out of extra copies. Both YALSA and Dollar General were very easy to work with. One thing I would suggest, if possible, is if Dollar General could provide the name and phone number of their local district manager. The store manager was seldom available to provide me with that information, or was reluctant to share it with me. Perhaps if we send the home store we planned to visit, they could provide that for the grant recipient.

6. Any lessons learned?
It was a great experience, and now the comic book club is learning to use software like G.I.M.P and MS Publisher to create comic books on their own. We are also working to develop backstories about each character for a "secret origins" issue we'd like to do.

7. Do you have any advice for 2018 grant seekers?
Keep your goals practical. Determine how the plans you have for the grant will directly help your community. It will make filling out the application so much easier (and probably will stand beyond the other applications).

8. Any additional comments you want to share?
Another big thank you to both YALSA and Dollar General!

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