The Friends of the Oakland Public Library nonprofit organization serves as OPL’s official fund-raising arm. To spend funds raised by the Friends, OPL’s Director of Library Services presents a substantial list of grant requests to the Friends Board of Directors for review and approval each November.
In 2016, then-Board President Ellen Moyer suggested a unique new way to support and encourage OPL staff. What if we invited any OPL employee, at any location, to apply for a “Mini-Grant” of up to $1,500 to implement a new library program or service? Her fellow directors and OPL Administration loved the idea.
In February 2017, the Friends board reviewed 17 applications and awarded its first nine grants, and the Mini-Grants were born.
The buzz caught on, and by 2019, we received 29% more applications than the preceding year.
Maximum grant amounts increased to $2,000 and we nearly doubled our budget for the Mini-Grants based on the quality of the applications and program results.
The Mini-Grant program continues with the mission of fostering creativity, innovative programming and user-centered service. Thus far, Mini-Grants have introduced a wide range of new programming, including digital literacy and tech; social justice; gardening; cooking, gaming and mastery of the ukulele. Mini-Grants have funded Grandparents Day at the West Oakland Branch; the Junior Carpenters Club at the Eastmont Branch, and the Community Kiosk at the Main. This year, a Mini-Grant launched OPL’s podcast, “Check Your Shelf.”
The Mini-Grants of the future are limited only by the OPL staff’s imagination!
“Thank you FOPL for supporting these refugee and new immigrant chefs! Oakland Bloom, our chefs, and our community appreciated these programs so much. The fun cultural exchange they were able to make with each other through food was amazing. THANK YOU!”
— Janet Cheung
Community, Cooking, & Culture Mini-Grant
Asian Branch Library, 2018-2019