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6 posts categorized "Libraries"

Weekend Link Roundup (September 1-2, 2012)

September 02, 2012

Labor_day_offOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Fundraising

Network for Good's Katya Andresen shares a letter from one of her blog readers, who urges development directors to "make sure your donors are really getting the prompt thanks they deserve."

International Development

On the Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, Ari Katz describes how public libraries are bolstering development efforts in impoverished communities. Among other things, Katz writes, libraries empower women, expand awareness of and solutions to public health problems, and help to bridge the education gap in many developing countries.

Nonprofit Management

On her blog, Beth Kanter announces the forthcoming publication of her second book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, which she co-authored with KD Paine. Among other things, the book presents "a framework called 'Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly' to help nonprofits figure out what...steps they need to take to get to the next level of networked nonprofit practice. It is designed to help them understand and measure the nature of the change process as they move through it." We're looking forward to reading the book and learning more.

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Libraries and Latinos: Return to Adams County

August 14, 2012

(Kathryn Pyle recently marked her fourth anniversary as a PhilanTopic contributor. In her last post, she wrote about the Justice Matters series at Filmfest DC.)

Children_with_booksFour years ago, in my first post for PhilanTopic, I described how the Adams County Library system in a rural part of south central Pennsylvania used a modest donation to try out some new ideas and improve its services for the growing Latino population in the area, mainly families and seasonal workers from Mexico.

Since then, thanks to PhilanTopic's broad and inclusive vision of civic life, I've written about a presidential inauguration, a "City of Trees," the first moon landing, transitional justice, a memorial park in Argentina, and -- most frequently -- social issue documentaries and the organizations that support them. Over that time, I've really enjoyed the opportunity the PND team has given me to refine my vision of the nexus of philanthropy and social justice. But today, because this is my thirtieth (!) post for PhilanTopic, I thought it would be interesting to revisit Adams County to see what, if anything, has changed.

I caught up with library director Rob Lesher on his way to the annual library book sale, which was organized by the Friends of the Library at the main branch in Gettysburg; Lesher told me they hoped to raise at least $25,000. That's a lot of used books and a big shot in the arm for any library in an era of government cuts.

"It's been a challenge financially," says Lesher. "But the big news is that this summer we've seen the highest circulation months in our history. Seventy-five thousand items circulated in July, part of a fifteen-year pattern of growth. And 2011 was a record year, with seven hundred and fifty thousand items circulated; we'll equal that this year. Despite the cutbacks, we've managed to expand our services to Latinos. The key has been experimenting with new programs and partnering with community organizations."

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Announcement: Foundation Center Seeks Host Orgs for Cooperating Collections Network

April 02, 2010

(Kief Schladweiler is coordinator of cooperating collections at the Foundation Center.)

The Foundation Center is looking for host organizations that are ready to join with us to meet the information and training needs of organizations and individuals whose grantseeking needs are not being met.

The center needs your help in identifying appropriate host organizations for our Cooperating Collection network. Cooperating Collections are free funding information centers located in libraries, community foundations, and other nonprofit resource centers that provide a core collection of Foundation Center print and electronic publications and a variety of supplementary materials, training, and services in areas useful to grantseekers.

We are particularly interested in reaching underresourced and underserved populations across the United States and in other locations around the globe that are in need of and can use this information and training to become successful grantseekers.

Watch the video below to learn more about the program and share it with your contacts and colleagues. And if you know of a potential host organization, feel free to use our handy online form to nominate them.

Thanks. With your help, we can continue to ensure free public access to these needed resources in the U.S. and around the world.

-- Kief Schladweiler

Whose Philanthropy Is It Anyway?

September 05, 2008

(Mary McGrail is director of communications for the Brooklyn-based Independence Community Foundation, a private independent foundation that focuses on community development, education, arts and culture, and economic and workforce development issues in the New York metropolitan area. This is her first post for PhilanTopic.)

Macon_library_2Mainstream media coverage of philanthropy often seems confined to eye-popping individual charitable donations, society gala events, "whimsical" bequests, or sponsor plugs on PBS.

Unfortunately, these public narratives don't offer a full picture of the complex, engaged, and ever-changing world of charitable giving. Which is a shame, because more in-depth media coverage of foundations -- and the nonprofit world -- could lead to greater transparency about the inner workings of our sector. It could also lead to greater awareness of what philanthropy routinely accomplishes and even spur more broad-based "grassroots" giving by individuals and communities to projects and organizations they care about. What's more, in this election year, a reasoned, wide-ranging dialogue about the role of philanthropy in generating new approaches to seemingly intractable problems would be a welcome addition to the civic debate. But how can a vigorous conversation occur if the all-too-infrequent philanthropy news story rarely ventures beyond the obvious or sensational?

I'm not saying philanthropy doesn't make headlines now and then. News of Leona Helmsley's bequest in memory of her dog, the aptly named Trouble, is a recent example: According to an article in the NY Times, "[Helmsley's] instructions, specified in a two-page 'mission statement', are that the entire trust, valued at $5 billion to $8 billion and amounting to virtually all her estate, be used for the care and welfare of dogs...."

Reaction was swift, and mostly negative. The "Maltese bequest" became a stand-in for all giving: Writing in the Times, Boston College law professor Ray Madoff explained how Helmsley's bequest "rubs our noses in the tax deduction for charitable gifts and its common vehicle, the perpetual private foundation. Together these provide a mechanism by which American taxpayers subsidize the whims of the rich and fulfill their fantasies of immortality."

But is that really the case? And what about other questions raised by Madoff's piece? Questions like, What should be funded publicly and what privately? When is enough too much? And who decides? More people need to weigh in on these and other issues. The role of philanthropy in society is an important -- even crucial -- topic for public debate, and I'd love to see the day when strongly held opinions about it are as common as opinions about the war in Iraq, sex education in the schools, climate change, or Paris Hilton.

But there are other stories, good stories, out there. My question is: Where is the press?

For example, Professor Madoff might have trouble (no pun intended) referring to the Buy a Book for Macon Library Campaign as something that serves "the whims of the rich." The idea for the innovative campaign was jointly hatched by Independence Community Foundation executive director Marilyn Gelber and Dionne Mack-Harvin, director of the Brooklyn Public Library.

The campaign began with a $50,000 challenge grant to the Macon branch of the Brooklyn Public Library in Bedford-Stuyvesant. ICF matched every dollar raised in the community to purchase the book collection for the century-old library's first African American History Center. Local donations quickly poured in, so Independence raised the "Buy a Book" challenge to $100,000. In all, more than 500 people from the neighborhood -– kids, store owners, writers, readers, church members, activists, parents, artists, and practically anybody who had ever dropped in to the library -- contributed. Over 80 percent of the donations were for less than $150. By the end of the campaign, the residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant had raised over $100,000 for their library, for a total of $200,000, and the library was able to add 15,000 new volumes to its bookshelves. In this instance, at least, people doing good even made the news.

The question is, How do we get the mainstream media to pick up more stories like this? And how do we convince the media that, in these troubled times, man bites dog isn't the only story people care about?

Your thoughts?

-- Mary McGrail

Literacy for a New Generation

July 31, 2008

(Amit Shah, a long-time publishing executive based in Somerville, Massachusetts, is an avid reader of print newspapers, magazines, books, blogs, and anything else written with verve and wit. This is his first post for PhilanTopic.)

Digital_literacy_sam_2Sunday's front-page article in the NY Times ("Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?") has already generated more than 180 posts. That there's interest in the topic should come as no surprise. The debate reflects the enormous changes that have occurred over the last ten years with respect to how we access information; what the meaning of "literacy" is in the 21st century; and what yardsticks we use to determine who is and is not literate. If, like me, you've spent a good portion of your career working for textbook publishers, have teenagers of your own, and have derived joy every day of your life from books, magazines, and newspapers, your interest in the topic is especially keen.

It also should come as no surprise that the single biggest issue today in any classroom in the country (and that includes college classrooms) is the inability of too many students to effectively decode text and glean information from age-appropriate materials. Or, as many of the teachers I have worked with put it: "My kids don't read; won't read; can't read.” Indeed, Isabel Beck, a professor in the Department of Instruction and Learning at the University of Pittsburgh and one of the most-respected reading researchers in the nation, has said that most students leave a text without any understanding of the author's intent or ideas.

Understanding and deriving meaning from texts is not only key to the enjoyment of literature -- it is an essential skill for anyone who hopes to succeed in the 21st century knowledge economy. But first you have to get people to read. Not just road signs and short informational pieces but narratives of various complexity.

It's not clear, however, that the digital media tools increasingly used to convey information and ideas -- text messaging, blogs, Twitter, PowerPoint, etc. -- provide the "keys to the kingdom" -- the ability to analyze, synthesize, compare, and evaluate ideas and draw inferences -- in the same way or as effectively as frequent exposure to print texts did for earlier generations. And while state, district, and private school curricula standards have started to specify proficiency levels for various types of informational texts, digital as well as print, the jury is out with respect to whether standards-based curricula can create proficient readers through strict adherence to text-based outcomes (i.e., paper-and-pencil tests).

At the same time, the literacy debate in pedagogical circles has already moved to the next stage: Defining and encouraging "21st century literacies." Or, as Sara Kajder, assistant professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, puts it: "[We need to expand] the technology toolset students use as readers and writers....We must teach them how to synthesize a range of texts that appear on a screen at lightning speed and communicate to authentic, wired, global audiences with the explosion of new tools, modes, and media now made readily accessible by Web 2.0."

The fact that standard secondary school literature anthologies contain graphic novel selections of a classic such as Beowulf simply underscores what many of us already knew: There are many ways to teach students about archetypes and epic heroes. Whether they are "writing" via digital storytelling formats, creating summaries via electronic portfolios, comparing hip-hop lyrics with poems by Langston Hughes, today's readers are indeed reading. And that gets to the key issue of literacy in the 21st century: Using any and every tool at hand to get students to engage with literature and complex texts. We need to do more of it.

-- Amit Shah

From Seeds to Saplings

May 29, 2008

(Kathryn Pyle was senior representative for Central America/Mexico at the Inter-American Foundation; executive director of the Samuel S. Fels Fund; and co-founder of Delaware Valley Grantmakers. Currently, she is producing a documentary film about the post-conflict period in El Salvador. In the post below, her first for PhilanTopic, she describes how a small donation expanded library services to Latinos in a rural Pennsylvania county.)

Children_with_books_3I spent several teenage summers in the 1960s picking fruit alongside migrant crews from Puerto Rico; my family lived in the fruit growing region north of Gettysburg, in Adams County, Pennsylvania. When the apple harvest was over in the fall, the Puerto Ricans left.

Around 1980, Mexican workers began to make up the crews, and the Mexicans stayed. The population of Adams County is now about five percent Latino; that’s 5,000 people, with several hundred migrant workers temporarily bumping up that number during fruit season.

The county economy is agriculture-based, with 20,000 acres of fruit orchards and several fruit processing plants providing seasonal and year round jobs. Most of the Latino laborers are Mexican; they tend to come from poor rural areas, and have few years of schooling.

I left Adams County many years ago but was aware of the changing demographics. As a grantmaker with experience in rural Mexico, I could imagine the needs in this new community and wondered how the county might assist their educational and cultural integration.

When my parents passed away, my family decided to honor their involvement with the Adams County Library by offering a $5,000 contribution, in 2002, as seed money to determine how the library could best serve the Latino community. The library had a small section of books in Spanish, but agreed they could be doing more. The staff was interested and now had a small pot for research and experimentation.

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