years ago Carla Lehn, a consultant at the
California State Library, had an idea for how to
help public library literacy programs in the state
meet their staffing needs.
a former VISTA volunteer, thought that the federal
AmeriCorps program, which supplies workforce
assistance to a variety of public and non-profit
endeavors, was ideally suited to help public
libraries in California with their literacy
programs. Working with Anne Campbell and the
literacy staff at National City Public Library,
Lehn crafted a proposal that would eventually
result in 57 AmeriCorps workers being placed at 28
public libraries in California.
AmeriCorps program is entering its third year of
funding. Allocated $450,000 in its first year of
operation, the AmeriCorps funding went up to more
than $600,000 in 2005, owing to its demonstrable
success in reaching its first-year goals.
points out that the AmeriCorps grants leverage a
great deal of additional money for library
literacy programs. The California State Library
has granted $110,000 in Library Services and
Technology Act funds to National City Public
Library to bolster the AmeriCorps grants, and
participating public libraries have contributed
about $350,000 per year to the program.
Participating libraries pay $2,000 per year for
each full-time AmeriCorps member and $1,000 year
for each part-time member. In total, about $1
million per year from all sources is devoted to
the AmeriCorps program in California public
libraries, more than doubling the original
appropriation from AmeriCorps.
members and library literacy site supervisors from
Woodland Public Library, Butte County Library and
Nevada County Library join CSL Library Program
Consultant Carla Lehn (far left) and Susan
Hildreth (4th from right) in State Librarian's
office November 2, 2005.
to Lehn, AmeriCorps workers are a cross section of
the general population: people of different ages
and ethnic backgrounds, the common factor being a
desire to serve their nation. At the 28 libraries
to which they are assigned, they perform a variety
of tasks. They all serve as tutors in their
library’s adult literacy program, and in many
cases they work in the Family Literacy service, or
the ELLI (English Language Literacy Intensive)
program for K-12 English language learners. Some
even staff the mobile library literacy vehicles.
Anne Campbell reports that in National City
AmeriCorps workers actively recruit volunteers and
organize book fairs and other community-wide
events, helping to spread awareness of the
literacy program at the city library.
immediately saw the benefit not only to our
library but to libraries around the state,”
Campbell says. “We certainly hope that we are
successful in securing another three years of
funding after this grant has run out.”
current three-year grant will expire at the end of
the 2006 calendar year. National City Public
Library and the California State Library currently
are at work on an application for a second
program has had an additional layer of
effectiveness by impacting the lives of the
AmeriCorps members, themselves,” Lehn adds.
“They all say they want to continue volunteering
their time after they leave AmeriCorps. One is
starting library school in the fall.”
workers are given a living allowance of $10,000
per year and, at the end of one year, a $5,000
education award. Several of the AmeriCorps workers
have signed on for a second year, an indication,
Lehn says, of how much they enjoy working in
libraries and serving their communities.
more information please contact Carla Lehn,
library programs consultant at (916) 653-7743 or
email at email@example.com.