The Robert Bowne Foundation and Library Development in Out-of-School Time Programs

In 2002-2003, the Robert Bowne Foundation (RBF) officially launched its “Library Development Initiative.” The project aimed to: “increase children’s access to high-quality reading materials” as well as to “create, implement and promote library programs appropriate for the agency and the developmental needs and interests of the children and young people who attend the program.”

Participants received library-development workshops for program staff, individualized program support, and the Foundation’s online Page Turners e-Newsletter of Library Support.

In 2005, RBF re-named the grants the Julia Palmer Award for Library Development Grants to honor Palmer, both an early advisor and champion of children’s literacy. Support for Julia Palmer grantees evolved over time into a series of in-person and online seminars.

From 2010-2015, the RBF’s Anne Lawrence worked in partnership with Suzanne Marten of the Center for Educational Options (CEO), offering grantees an annual nine-month-long Julia Palmer Library Development and Literacy Support Project Seminar. In addition, grantees received financial support for the afterschool program’s library; a mix of in-person and virtual professional development sessions for two staff members from each participating program, including two sessions — an orientation and final celebration — also attended by program directors; an additional session designed specifically for program directors; and individualized, on-site, program support.

Participating agency staff were required to:

  • Articulate an action research question to guide its library development activities;
  • Conduct a survey to identify the library needs of its constituencies.
  • Engage with an ongoing cohort of participating program grantees with similar action research questions; and
  • Explore, as a full group, a variety of approaches to reading and writing, and discuss the implications of activities for their programs.

Participants reported that their involvement in the Seminar’s professional learning community stimulated their visions about libraries as well as supported their abilities to transform their program libraries, create engaging literacy activities and develop and support organizational cultures.

A learning community was created among participants through:

  • Trust building
  • Exploration and learning among and across participants; and
  • Thinking together about ways to apply their new skills and knowledge to their own program.


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