The Great American Read

PBS's The Great American Read Library Programming Grant

Date Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Deadline for Submission: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 by 11:59 pm (CDT)

Award Notification Date: Monday, April 30, 2018

Note: Applicants will receive a confidential copy of the list of 100 books featured in The Great American Read on the same day it is released to press, tentatively Friday, April 20.


Read the grant FAQ and carefully review the requirements in each category before applying.

Contact the American Library Association (ALA) staff at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Table of Contents

I. Program Description
II. Award Information
III. Eligibility
IV. Requirements
V. Application and Submission Information
VI. Application Review
VII. Award Administration Information
VIII. Points of Contact

I. Program Description

In partnership with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in Washington, D.C., the American Library Association (ALA) is developing a programming kit for The Great American Read, an eight-part television and online series designed to spark a national conversation about reading and the books that have inspired, moved, and shaped us. The series will engage audiences with a list of 100 diverse books, encouraging audiences to read the books, vote from the list of 100, and share their personal connections to the titles.

The programming kit will include a Library Programming Guide; a copy of the full series on DVD with public performance rights; pre-broadcast access to the series reading list, episodes, and online series content; print and digital promotional materials for use promoting related library programs; and more (see Benefits for Award Recipients, below). This kit will help public libraries participate in a national conversation about reading and books, including those featured in the series that highlight themes of love, heroes, villains, other worlds, and self-discovery.

Key Themes

The Great American Read television and online series will feature 100 of the best-loved books in America, engaging audiences in selecting America’s top 10 books. Below are five key themes that are explored during the series.

Additional resources related to the themes will be available on The Great American Read website. Applicant libraries are encouraged to find creative ways to engage the community with these themes and highlight the books that feature them.

Each of the thought-provoking one-hour theme specials are designed to take a deeper dive into a range of books on The Great American Read list, connected by a common theme. From the four archetypes of Heroes to the fear and evil that centers on Villains and Monsters to the lure and escape of Other Worlds to the eternal question What We Do for Love and to our quest for self-discovery in Who Am I, each episode seeks to answer the key questions that books bring to life.

  • What We Do For Love

    Books about love challenge us to take a hard look at ourselves. Are we the heroine or villain, the white knight or callous rogue, the virtuous prince or seductive siren of our own love stories? And hidden in the undercurrents of our favorite romantic tales are reflections of our deepest fears and insecurities, and questions about our social structures and moral codes.

    Books dedicated to love range across genres, styles, and subjects, like the many different kinds of love in our lives. The books in this episode explore these loves—from the romantic and sexual, to our complicated friendships and family relationships, to love’s overpowering, dangerous, and destructive side.

    OVERARCHING QUESTION: How do books about love help us navigate and understand the relationships we have in our own lives?

  • Heroes

    Through our experts and advocates, we will explore how and why we are drawn to books featuring four archetypes of heroes: classic, everyday, tragic, and antihero. We also see how great heroic characters have lasting power because they offer us a template for models of courage, strength and fortitude.

    OVERARCHING QUESTION: Why are we drawn to these books with heroic characters, and how do they bring us comfort, hope and inspiration?

  • Villains & Monsters

    We are drawn to stories of power, lust, revenge, and evil, with characters who haunt our sleep and torture our psyches. In fact, dear readers, you have chosen so many of these tales for your list of 100 best loved novels that it begs the question: what accounts for the attraction they exert? Where does this urge to enter the mind of a killer, or descend into another person’s madness, come from?

    Perhaps we choose stories featuring villains and monsters because they allow us to experience our fears safely, and put them down again when we need to get away. Whatever form they take, our fears have much to teach us, and from Shelley to Rowling the experience of reading these books is cathartic, and quite often, wicked fun.

    OVERARCHING QUESTION: What do our favorite books about villains, monsters, and evil forces tell us about ourselves and our darkest desires?

  • Other Worlds

    We love to read stories that take us into worlds unlike our own because they help us make sense of our own world, allowing us to explore ourselves, our desires, our concerns and above all, humanity, through a completely different lens.

    These books allow us to escape through a wardrobe door, by spacecraft or even by the power of the mind and explore the unknown. We read these stories because they take us outside our lives and yet make us confront what our roles and actions are in our own universe. They allow us to experiment and test ourselves in situations, without risk or fear of the outcome.

    OVERARCHING QUESTION: Why are we so drawn to these novels about other worlds and how do they help us gain insight into our own world?

  • Who Am I?

    While bookstore shelves are overflowing with self-help titles, we consider that FICTION could be an even better best way to examine the universal stages of personal growth we all go through in life. While self-help books may give us great advice, in fiction we learn from vivid example and context, and have the opportunity to draw our own conclusions.

    In this hour, we examine some of your best-loved books that reflect our feelings as we attempt to find our way, to figure out how we relate to others and to develop our personal moral compass. These stories help us make sense of our own lives, as we observe the characters going through their own rites of passage—at every stage of life.

    Regardless of the age of the characters or how old we are when we first read these books, they all teach us important lessons about empathy and coping with change. And they give us new perspectives that we may not have had before.

    OVERARCHING QUESTION: How do our favorite books about self-discovery help us navigate our life’s journey?

II. Award Information

ALA and PBS will select up to fifty (50) public libraries to receive a community programming grant to support The Great American Read. Selected libraries will use the grant resources to support events and activities that engage patrons with The Great American Read series, books, themes, and voting process during the grant term, May – November 2018.

Benefits for Award Recipients

The Great American Read library grantees will receive:

  1. A $2,000 cash grant, for use supporting programs and events related to The Great American Read. Eligible programs include but are not limited to:
    • Screening and discussion events featuring episodes of the PBS series. Selected libraries will receive permission to host pre-broadcast events, in cooperation with a local PBS member station.
    • Community read programs (e.g., One Book One Community) using books that are featured in The Great American Read.
    • Panel discussions that focus on books featured in the PBS series.
    • Live author or speaker events that relate to book and/or themes in the PBS series.
    • Community voting events that focus on engaging library patrons in selecting the top 10 books, to be announced during the series finale in October 2018.
  2. A DVD collection of the eight-part television and online series with public performance rights (PPR).
  3. A hardcover copy of the companion book, The Great American Read: The Book of Books by PBS (Black Dog & Leventhal, August 21, 2018).
  4. Print materials for local program promotion and publicity, including posters, bookmarks, stickers, and postcards.
  5. A programming guide developed by ALA, PBS, and a panel of librarian advisors.
  6. A suite of online resources developed to support local programs and events.
  7. Opportunities to host private, pre-broadcast screenings of the series premiere and six fall episodes in your library. Selected libraries will receive access to a download of the series premiere by May 15, 2018, and a DVD with the six fall episodes in late June 2018. The October 23 series finale will broadcast live; libraries will receive access on DVD in November.
  8. Opportunities to collaborate and cross-promote the initiative with local PBS member station(s).
  9. For those attending the ALA Annual Conference (June 21-26, 2018, in New Orleans), an opportunity to be filmed discussing your favorite book on the list, for future use in related social media and digital campaigns.
  10. Invitations to participate in periodic online learning opportunities for grantees.
  11. Technical and programming support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the grant term, including participation in an online discussion list for The Great American Read project directors and staff.

III. Eligibility

All public libraries in the U.S. and U.S. territories are eligible to apply.

IV. Requirements

All institutions that receive the programming kit must meet the following program requirements:

  • Implement at least three public programs related to The Great American Read series in collaboration with local PBS members stations (where and when applicable) between May 1 – November 30, 2018.
  • Appoint one staff member as the project director (local coordinator) of the project.
  • Promote related programs to the widest possible public audience.
  • Coordinate library programming with the promotional efforts of a PBS member station and/or work in partnership with the local station to co-sponsor programs and events. A list of participating PBS member stations will be available on March 23; please contact if you would like a copy or for assistance contacting your local PBS station.
  • Provide a final impact report form specifying audience reach to ALA by the December 31, 2018, deadline.

V. Application and Submission Information

ALA will accept applications for The Great American Read between March 13 and April 17, 2018.

Please review the Frequently Asked Questions before filling out an application.

Getting Started

To begin the application process, go to

To apply for the The Great American Read programming kit, you must complete the following steps:

  • REGISTER to (if you have not previously registered when applying for a different ALA project)
  • LOG IN (if you have already registered when applying for a different ALA project)
    • Using the table structure provided, include details about each program, event, or other activity described in your proposal
    • Using the table structure provided, include details about how you will spend your grant to support the activities outlined in your proposal
1. Register

Before you access the application, you must register to create an application account.


2. Log In

If you have already registered when applying for another ALA Public Programs Office grant project, you may log in using your e-mail address and password.

3. Complete Project Director Information

Note: The project director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating the The Great American Read program series at the library. He/she/they will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution.

To complete this step, provide all the information that is requested on the Project Director Information screen. You must then save the information.

After clicking the “SAVE” button, you will be able to return to the application at any time and log in using your e-mail address and password. This will allow you to edit, save, and return to your application as needed prior to the April 17, 2018, submission deadline.

4. Complete PBS Member Station Information

PBS encourages collaboration with local member stations in your market, while recognizing that station plans will vary by location. Applications should reflect the library’s best efforts to contact the station, to communicate opportunities for collaboration with the library community, and to ensure that planned library and station events are not scheduled in competition with each other.

In the space provided, tell us about your efforts to work with your local PBS member station. Include the name of anyone with the station to whom you’ve spoken about your planned programs and indicate whether you will coordinate your events with the station, or work in partnership to co-develop, co-host, and/or co-promote events. If you are interested in participating in the project but are having difficulty reaching your local PBS member station, please contact for assistance, or simply confirm in the space below that your library is willing to work with a PBS member station if you are selected for the grant.

5. Write Proposal Narrative

Please write a brief narrative describing why your library would like to offer programming in conjunction with The Great American Read. Include relevant community interests and demographics, and how you will use the series to engage your community reading. Describe your program ideas and target audiences. Programming and/or promotional partnerships with literary organizations and educational partners, as well as PBS member stations, are encouraged and should be described in this section, if applicable.

Please note your answer may not exceed 600 words.

6. Provide the Budget Detail

Using the table structure provided, include details about how you will spend your $2,000 programming grant to support the activities outlined in your proposal. Please note that grant funds may be used for expenses related to the programs described in your proposal (e.g., promotional and publicity costs, collection materials (books, audio books, DVDs), speaker/presenter fees, technology/equipment, light refreshments), but must not be used to support indirect costs (i.e., general administrative expenses).

7. Complete the Program Schedule

Using the table generator provided in the online application, provide a schedule of the programs, events, and other activities described in your proposal. As applicable, please indicate the date, time, location, event type/format, brief description, anticipated attendance, and speaker(s) for each program that will be hosted during your series. Note that at least three programs or events which will be promoted to a broad public audience must be listed to meet eligibility requirements.


5/22/18, 7:00 p.m., Main Street Public Library, Screening/discussion event, The Great American Read Launch Party, 75, N/A.

8. Certify Authorization to Submit Application

An application for The Great American Read opportunity is an application for an award from the ALA, with support from PBS. ALA is required by law to ask applicants to identify for each application a certifying official who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the organization.

To complete this section, you must enter all the information that is requested.

9. Review and Edit Your Application

The Review and Edit page summarizes all the information that you have entered, including your Project Director Information and your Proposal Narrative. From this page, you can:

  • Review and edit each section;
  • Save the entire application and log out of the system; or
  • Move ahead to certify and submit your application.
10. Submit Your Application

Once you have completed all parts of your application, you may submit it at any time by selecting the Submit button. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CDT on April 17, 2018. Applications submitted after that time will not be considered.

Note that once you have submitted your application, you can no longer alter it. The application will then be submitted for review.

You will receive an e-mail confirming submission of your application. At the confirmation page, you will be able to print out a copy of your application. Print and keep this copy for your records.

VI. Application Review

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Clarity and completeness of the application. Has the applicant supplied all required information, including all sections of the proposal narrative and the programming schedule? Are plans and ideas for programs described clearly?
  • The overall reach and creativity of the plan, as well as how programs expand upon relationships with literary organizations, educational partners, and PBS member stations, where applicable. How does this project relate to your community?

Other factors that may influence the final selection of libraries include the following:

  • Location of the sites. The selection committee would like programs to take place in all regions of the country.
  • Size and demographics of the community. The selection committee seeks a mix of communities of different sizes and varied demographics.

Applicants are encouraged to address questions about the selection guidelines, process and requirements to the ALA Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Review and Selection Process

Each application will be assessed by a panel of librarians and project staff of ALA and PBS. ALA’s Public Programs Office and PBS will make the final decisions.

VII. Award Administration Information

Application deadline: April 17, 2018, 11:59 pm (CDT)

Award notification: April 30, 2018

Programming Period: May 1 – November 30, 2018

Final Report Due: December 31, 2018

VIII. Points of Contact

If you have questions, contact:

Public Programs Office

American Library Association

1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045

The Great American Read Production Credits:

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is a production of Nutopia for PBS. PBS Funding for THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is provided by The Anne Ray Foundation and PBS.

2018 Broadcast Schedule:

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ premieres Tuesday, May 22 at 8/7c on PBS stations with a two-hour launch special, kicking off a summer of reading and voting. Then in the fall starting Tuesday, September 11 at 8/7c, six new episodes of the series will air as the quest to find America’s most beloved book moves into high gear. Episodes from the series will feature appearances by celebrities, athletes, experts, authors, and everyday Americans advocating for their favorite book. The finale will air Tuesday, October 23 at 8/7c and will countdown the top books and reveal America’s best-loved novel as chosen by the American public.

About PBS:

PBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches nearly 100 million people through television and nearly 28 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a new 24/7 channel, online at, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices.

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