Lessons Learned from a Past Grantee

As part of the Tocker Grant awarded my library in 2013, I dutifully sat in front of my computer and debated how I could possibly describe the impact the Tocker Grant had on my library.

I thought if I was a contestant on Jeopardy and my question was “What one word describes the Tocker Foundation” what would my answer be?

The answer is catalyst.

Friench Simpson Memorial Library | Hallettsville, TX
Friench Simpson Memorial Library | Hallettsville, TX
Grants are gifts and if you are very, very lucky, you will receive a grant that becomes a catalyst. Other individuals and groups, your emotional and financial partners, become involved, the project grows and exceeds all expectations. That is what the Tocker Grant accomplished for the Friench Simpson Memorial Library in Hallettsville.

Making the Most of Our Grant

After achieving our first goal, being awarded our generous Tocker Grant, the second goal of the library staff was to use the potential of the grant to cultivate local partners, partners that recognized the opportunity to not only pursue the goals set out in the grant, but invest in additional projects that complemented the overall project. The staff was successful and the partnership between the Tocker Foundation, the library staff, Library Board and Friends of the Library became a reality.

The Library Board invested by offering endowment money for interior painting, new laminate counters and the creation a large storage closet in our meeting room. Our Friends group purchased shelving, kiosks for OPAC computers, a display wall track system, a beautiful library ladder for our meeting room and a large flat screen TV with wall mount.

Last, but certainly not least, the library staff adopted projects to further improve the interior of the library. Numerous layers of paint were stripped off of concrete counters to create laptop computer bars. Staff worked directly with a vendor to design unique library signage. Talented individuals created stained glass signage and wall art exhibited around the library.

Throughout the project, the staff’s goal was to be an exemplary steward of the funds entrusted to us by the Tocker Foundation. We want to thank the Tocker Foundation for allowing our library to work with several vendors instead of just one vendor. By giving us the flexibility to serve as our own contractor, we methodically comparison shopped and as a result, accomplished more than our original plan and finished the project under budget.

My Best Advice for Any Library Pursuing a Tocker Grant

  1. Apply for the Tocker Grant. Believe in your library and your role in the community.
  2. Step outside the box. We wholeheartedly accepted this philosophy instilled in us by two very talented librarians and as a result, our library and our staff have been changed forever.
  3. Be prepared to cultivate partnerships in conjunction with the grant. The awarding of the grant is not the end, it is only the beginning.
  4. Work with multiple vendors. Compare products, make phone calls, send emails, request samples and ask questions. You are not looking for the cheapest product; you are looking for the best product for the price.
  5. Encourage local talent to become involved. This is what makes your library unique.
  6. Keep good records. File your reports on time and contact the foundation with any and all questions.