March 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

James Patterson’s School Library Grants to Be Announced June 30

PattersonScholasticWebPageSchool libraries across the country will enjoy a collective $500,000 gift when the first winners of James Patterson’s $1.5 Pledge to Libraries grants, in partnership with the Scholastic Reading Club, are announced on June 30.

“The response has been great and overwhelming,” says Judy Newman, president of the Scholastic Reading Club, which reviews each application. Besides the cash prize, one teacher at each school will earn a matching grant of Scholastic Bonus Points that can be put toward book orders. “A huge number of school libraries are underfunded, and we’ve [received] an avalanche of entries.”

Newman says more than 25,000 private and public school libraries submitted applications by the May 31 deadline, and they requested everything from furniture to technology. Grants range from $1,000 and $10,000, and applicants have been notified on a rolling basis, with more than 7,500 rejections sent out as well.

Patterson’s mandate was to make the application process as simple as possible for librarians. The online application has a single question: “What would your school library do with $1,000 to $10,000?”

Librarians’ repeated requests for books blew them away, says Newman. “They really just wanted books,” she says. “Multiple copies, books to read in the libraries, graphic novels. There’s a huge cry.”

Janet Kanady would agree. The library media specialist heard in late May that she’d won a $6,000 grant for the Dover (AK) High School, where she works with students in grades nine through 12. Kanady, in her second year at the school, plans to use the funds to buy more books—supplementing her annual budget of $2,000 a year to serve her 462 students.

“I hoped it would play on their heartstrings that our budget was so little,” she says of her application, and added that her winning grant had already been announced at a school board meeting.

Patterson’s Pledge to Libraries was originally set at $1.25 million, but was later increased by another $250,000 in late March after the program received more than 10,500 applications within its first two weeks.

After the June 30 announcement and distribution of points and checks, Scholastic will present two more rounds of winners by the end of 2015, Newman says. The rest of this year will be spent reviewing entries and continuing to send Patterson what Newman calls “the strongest applications” so he can make the final grant decisions.

Newman hopes that winning schools will follow up with Scholastic to show how grants are impacting students. “Some of us want to go and visit the libraries,” she says. For now, the focus is on assessing each library’s particular need and request.

“They came in so quickly, and it’s been great to see this tremendous response,” she says. “We’re committed to reviewing every application.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at