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Great Stories Club

ALA Great Stories Club: Online Application Guidelines for "Empathy" and "Heroism" Series

RECEIPT DEADLINE: Monday, July 9, 2018, 11:59 p.m. CST
Date posted: Monday, May 7, 2018

Questions? Contact the American Library Association (ALA) staff at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or publicprograms@ala.org.

I. Program Description

The ALA Great Stories Club (GSC) is a thematic reading and discussion program series that will engage teens who are facing difficult challenges through literature-based library outreach programs.

Participating libraries will work with small groups of approximately 10 teens, provide up to four theme-related books for each participant to keep as their own, and convene opportunities for exploration and discussion of relevant humanities content among peers. The titles—selected in consultation with librarian advisors and humanities scholars—are chosen to resonate with reluctant readers struggling with complex issues like academic probation, detention, incarceration, violence and poverty. Book discussions will be led by the library's GSC project director, often in cooperation with staff from a partner organization or department, such as teachers and counselors.

The goals of the Great Stories Club are to:

  • engage youth facing difficult circumstances with powerful works of young adult literature;
  • facilitate personal exploration of universal humanities themes;
  • inspire teens to consider "big questions" about the world around them and their place in it, affecting how they view themselves as thinkers and creators;
  • offer emotional benefits by reducing feelings of depression and isolation, and encouraging empathy through peer-based discussion groups;
  • establish important connections between underserved youth, their public library, and their local librarian, as well as local nonprofits (e.g., museums, universities, cultural centers, churches, adult education centers, community centers) that have proven to be important to success after incarceration, treatment, graduation, or during other transitions;
  • contribute to improved literacy and changed, positive attitudes toward reading; and
  • inspire avoidance of future negative behaviors and outcomes in the lives of participating youth.

The GSC program also seeks to make a positive impact at the institutional and community level by:

  • prioritizing specialized, literature-based library programming for underserved groups;
  • establishing new partnerships between libraries and community and cultural organizations;
  • increasing library use during and after the project term; and
  • providing a curated collection of literary programming resources for future use.

For each themed series described in Section II below, ALA will award up to 75 GSC grants to eligible institutions around the country. Up to 75 libraries will be selected to receive a GSC "Empathy" grant, and up to 75 libraries will be selected to receive a "Heroism" grant. Libraries may apply to receive a grant to implement one or both GSC series.

All GSC programs must take place between during the one-year programming term, September 1, 2018—August 31, 2019.

II. Key Theme and Supporting Works

Applications will be accepted for the two Great Stories Club series described below. Libraries may apply to host one or both series during the one-year project term, September 1, 2018—August 31, 2019.

"Empathy: The Cost of Switching Sides"

Essay written by Anna Mae Duane, Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut

Empathy has been held up as a balm for our divided society by everyone from neuroscientists to primatologists to political thinkers. Yet as the consensus grows that we need to cultivate more empathy, the scarcer it seems to become. From political debates, to cultural choices, to classroom conversations, we seem increasingly unable to engage in empathetic exchange. Instead, we pick sides and dig in against perceived enemies.

Recent studies have made the case that literature is perhaps our greatest resource for developing empathy; as authors push us to inhabit the lives of their characters, we find ourselves a little less likely to retreat behind the walls of our own moral certainty. The books chosen for this series complicate that equation: each text encourages readers to explore the power of empathy, but also helps us understand why empathy can be so hard to come by. Each text invites the readers to, in the words of Joyce Carol Oates, "slip ... into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul." They also confront readers with the dangers of feeling—and acting on—another's pain.

Empathy can be considered the emotional corollary to the Golden Rule: "do unto others as you would have done to you." As useful as this model can be, it assumes that our own feelings are a good metric for judging the feelings of others. According to the Golden Rule, what I want (what I would want "done unto me") must be what anyone else would want. What I find pleasurable will also be pleasurable for others. But what happens when our feelings and experiences don't align with those of others'? How, if at all, do we feel for each other without simply imposing our own expectations on everyone else?

Applicant libraries may select up to four books from the reading list below. Core titles marked with an asterisk (*) will be featured during the project's orientation workshop on September 6-7, 2018. At least two core titles must be used if you wish to attend the workshop.

  • "Flight" by Sherman Alexie* (Read ALA's statement about the use of "Flight" for this project.)
  • "Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation" by Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy and John Jennings*
  • "All American Boys" by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely*
  • "Stuck in Neutral" by Terry Trueman
  • "March: Book Three" by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

"What Makes a Hero? Self, Society and Rising to the Occasion"

Essay written by Maria Sachiko Cecire, Director of Experimental Humanities and Assistant Professor of Literature at Bard College

Legends, literature, media, and history are full of stories about heroes who rise to the occasion in moments of need, taking on great risk for the good of others. What makes a person able to perform heroic acts? Is this something that certain people are just born with, or does it grow out of our circumstances and upbringing? Related to this is the essential question of how much control we actually have over our own self-making. Major thinkers have debated these questions for centuries, and individuals continue to grapple with them as they face down the challenges—sometimes seemingly small, other times impossibly large—of everyday life.

The books in this series each take a different view of what it means to be a hero, considering how the combination of unique social circumstances, compassion for others, and inner resources can make it possible for young people to perform acts that they may not have imagined themselves capable of achieving. At the same time, these texts explore the conditions that create the need for heroism, probing the underlying social problems that can lead to oppression, discrimination, and even genocide. Rather than serving as a simple celebration of heroism, each book acknowledges the psychological pressures of taking on the responsibilities of a "hero," and considers the costs and benefits of both individual and collective action.

Applicant libraries may select up to four books from the reading list below. Core titles marked with an asterisk (*) will be featured during the project's orientation workshop on November 15-16, 2018. At least two core titles must be used if you wish to attend the workshop.

  • "Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1" by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze*
  • "Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began" by Art Spiegelman*
  • "Binti" by Nnedi Okorafor*
  • "Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two" by Joseph Bruchac
  • "What Can(t) Wait" by Ashley Hope Pérez
  • "Buck: A Memoir" by MK Asante

III. Award Information

The ALA Public Programs Office will make up to seventy-five (75) GSC grants for each of two themes above, "Empathy" and "Heroism." Programming requirements appear below under Requirements for Grantees.

IV. Benefits for Grant Recipients

Recipients of GSC "Empathy" grants will receive the following:

  • 11 paperback copies each (10 to gift to participants; 1 for discussion leader/library collection) of up to four books on the reading list: "Flight" by Sherman Alexie, "Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation" by Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy and John Jennings, "All American Boys" by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, "Stuck in Neutral" by Terry Trueman, and "March: Book Three" by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.
  • Travel and accommodation expenses paid for attendance at a project orientation workshop for library project directors, September 6-7, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Training will include a thorough review of the humanities content of the series led by national project scholar, Anna Mae Duane, and sessions that focus on library outreach and discussion moderation best practices.
  • Additional training through periodic project webinars, a program planning guide, and other online support materials.
  • Online access to professionally designed, customizable, and downloadable resources for use with GSC program participants. Resources will include bookmarks, related reading brochures, discussion group sign-up sheets, certificates of completion, and promotional posters and flyers.
  • Technical and programming support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the grant term, including participation in an online discussion list for librarians and partner organization staff.

Recipients of GSC "Heroism" grants will receive the following:

  • 11 paperback copies each (10 to gift to participants; 1 for discussion leader/library collection) of up to four books on the reading list: "Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1" by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze, "Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began" by Art Spiegelman, "Binti" by Nnedi Okorafor, "Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two" by Joseph Bruchac, "What Can(t) Wait" by Ashley Hope Pérez, and "Buck: A Memoir" by MK Asante.
  • Travel and accommodation expenses paid for attendance at a project orientation workshop for library project directors, November 15-16, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Training will include a thorough review of the humanities content of the series led by national project scholar, Maria Sachiko Cecire, and sessions that focus on library outreach and discussion moderation best practices.
  • Additional training through periodic project webinars, a program planning guide, and other online support materials.
  • Online access to professionally designed, customizable, and downloadable resources for use with GSC program participants. Resources will include bookmarks, related reading brochures, discussion group sign-up sheets, certificates of completion, and promotional posters and flyers.
  • Technical and programming support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the grant term, including participation in an online discussion list for librarians and partner organization staff.

NOTE: If your library is applying to host both the "Empathy" and "Heroism" themes, ALA may only be able to support your attendance at one workshop. If you indicate interest in attending both, we will assign you to attend one based on availability. If space allows, we will accommodate both requests.

V. Requirements for Grantees

  • Each library must implement the humanities-based book discussion programs described in their application (in cooperation with their program partner, if applicable).
  • Each library must hold a minimum of one discussion program for each book they select, with participation by at least 8-10 young adults.
  • Grantees must confirm their programming schedules with ALA by August 31, 2018.
  • Up to one copy of each book may be retained for use by the book discussion leader and one copy may remain in the library collection.
  • The libraries must supply the remaining books to participating teens to keep. The books will not revert to the library collection, but be a gift to the participants. Please contact ALA if there is an institutional barrier to this requirement.
  • The library must complete an online final report form by the September 30, 2019 deadline, or within 30 days of their last program, whichever comes first.

VI. Eligibility

    Applications will be accepted from all types of libraries (public, school, academic and special) in the United States and its territories that meet one of the following criteria:
  • The applicant library is located within an organization that reaches underserved, under-resourced, or at-risk teens (e.g., a tribal library, alternative high school, juvenile detention facility), OR;
  • The applicant library is working with a partner organization that reaches underserved, under-resourced, or at-risk teens. Possible partner organizations include but are not limited to juvenile justice facilities, drug/alcohol rehabilitation centers, nonprofits serving teen parents, alternative high schools, agencies serving teenaged foster children, and shelters serving homeless and runaway youth. For a list of national organizations that serve youth and may have local affiliates interested in forging a partnership, please visit the Resources page. Please contact publicprograms@ala.org if you have a question about partner eligibility.

NOTE: Applications from public libraries, high school libraries, community college libraries, or others that are submitted without an appropriate partner organization MUST INCLUDE a plan to recruit a high-need teen population to be considered eligible. Please contact publicprograms@ala.org prior to applying if you feel that your circumstances merit special consideration or discussion.

Individuals and organizations other than libraries are not eligible to apply. Late, incomplete, or ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

Application and Submission Information

ALA will accept applications for the Great Stories Club "Empathy" and "Heroism" series from May 7—July 9, 2018. Please review the Frequently Asked Questions before filling out an application.

Getting Started

To begin the application process, go to the online application and complete the following steps:
  • Register for an account
  • Confirm your email address
  • Log in
  • Complete the application form
    • Project director information
    • Partner organization information, if applicable
    • Grant themes and book selection
    • Proposal Narrative
    • Affirm program schedule
  • Upload your project director's résumé
  • Upload letters of commitment (optional)
  • Review and submit your application

Register for an account

PPO is using a different application system for this round of Great Stories Club. You will need to create a new account, even if you already have an account on https://apply.ala.org/.

Go to the application site here:

Click the Register link at the top of the screen. On the screen that follows, you may create an account using your email address, or if you prefer, using an existing Facebook, Google or Twitter account.

Confirm your email address

You will receive an email from the Surveymonkey Apply site asking you to confirm your email by clicking on a link. (If you do not see this message, please check your junk mail folder; if you still do not see it, please contact the Public Programs Office for assistance.

Log in

At any time after creating your account, you can log in at https://ala.smapply.io/. After logging in, you can click View Programs on your account home page, or navigate to https://ala.smapply.io/prog/greatstories to find the Great Stories Club materials. To begin your application, click the Apply button on the right hand side of the page.

Complete the application form

On the next screen, you will see a list of the three tasks that comprise your application: the application form, the upload form for your project director's résumé, and optionally, an upload form for letters of commitment from your institution or community. Click "Complete Application" to start the application form.

Project director information

On the first screen, you will enter contact information for the person responsible for coordinating your GSC programming. They will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant library. Please be sure to include a shipping address for the applicant library, as all books and related materials will be shipped to the address provided for succesful applicants.

At the bottom of this screen, you will indicate whether you are working with a partner organization. As a reminder, applicant libraries must be located in an organization that reaches a specific underserved, under resourced, and/or at-risk teen population (e.g., alternative school, detention center), OR must work with a community partner to be considered eligible. For more, see Section VI (Eligibility) above.

Partner organization information

If you answered Yes to the previous question, you will be taken to a page to enter information on your partner organization.

Grant themes and book selection

On this page you will indicate which theme(s) you are applying for, and which workshop(s) you would like to attend. Libraries may apply to host one or both themes. For each theme you apply for, you will also indicate 3-4 books your would like to use in your programming.

Proposal Narrative

Before you compose the narrative section of this proposal, we strongly recommend that you read these guidelines carefully. If you do not, your proposal is unlikely to be competitive. Please answer each narrative section, describing your plans for hosting GSC reading and discussion series at your organization. The proposal narrative consists of seven sections (described immediately below). Please note that each section of the narrative may not exceed 500 words. The narrative sections are as follows:

  1. Please tell us why you are interested in applying for a GSC grant. Include why you believe the theme or themes selected will be meaningful to the individuals who participate in your programs, and what you hope to achieve for your library and your participants during the grant term. What will a successful GSC series look like to you?
  2. If you are partnering with another organization, what is the nature of the partnership? Tell us about the work that this organization does, why you have chosen to work with them, the history of the partnership, and anything else that will convey how you will work together on the GSC program. If you will work with more than one community partner, please describe. Enter "N/A" if you are not required to work with a partner organization.
  3. Describe the population from which your Great Stories Club discussion group will be drawn. Include information about the individuals who will participate in reading and discussion events (e.g., age, gender, other relevant background), and describe how the group currently relates to reading (e.g., reading levels, interest in reading, access to similar programs). If your program will target more transient populations (e.g., within a sentencing facility), explain how you will address this in a way that meets the GSC programming requirements.
  4. How will participation in your reading and discussion group be achieved? Tell us how you will invite or require individuals to participate, how information about the program will be distributed, whether incentives like class credit will be used, and if there will be prerequisites such as behavioral or academic good standing. If you anticipate any challenges in recruiting participants, please describe them along with your plans to address them. Finally, please tell us of any other outreach or promotion that will be conducted in your community about the GSC (e.g., press releases, news articles).
  5. Please clearly describe your plan to implement the Great Stories Club. Important information to provide includes how books will be distributed, how often discussion groups will meet (e.g., one program per title, or multiple chapter-specific programs), how discussion group meetings will be structured (length of program, lead presenters or moderators, discussion format, additional activities), where programs will take place and if transportation is required, and anything else that will help reviewers understand your proposed series.
  6. Describe how you will highlight and explore the humanities content of this series. Beyond using the book-specific discussion points that will be provided by ALA, how will you encourage participants to think about and discuss the issues presented in the books? If activities, projects, assignments, field trips, or other materials (e.g., books, films, music) will be part of your programming, please describe them.
  7. How will you evaluate your GSC series and sustain your work serving your target audience? Grantees will be required to submit a final report to ALA, describing how programs went, recording attendance information, and offering other details about activity during the grant term. Below, please tell us how you will keep track of this basic information, evaluate your institution's work on the project overall, maintain key relationships with community partners in the future, and offer referral opportunities for underserved populations after the project's conclusion (and/or after release, transfer, graduation).

Program Schedule

Use this page to affirm that you will provide ALA with a completed schedule of all programs your library will offer during the grant term (September 2018—August 2019). Programming schedules must be submitted online following grant notification and will be due by August 31, 2018.

Use the button labeled Mark as Complete to move on.

Upload your project director's résumé

From the menu of tasks on the left side, select Project Director Résumé. Use the uploader to attach this file, and if applicable, the résumé of the lead contact person at your partner organization as well.

Upload letters of commitment (optional)

If you have letters of commitment from your community or library board that you would like to share, you may attach them here. This upload is strictly optional.

Review and submit

When you have completed these tasks, click the Review and Submit button to go over your work, and then click Submit at the bottom of that page. Note: if your application is not submitted, it will not be considered for the award. You will receive email confirmation for your submission.

VIII. Application Review

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Target audience appropriateness and need
  • Evidence of a workable and appropriate partnership (if applicable)
  • Clarity and completeness of the application. Has the applicant supplied all required information, including all sections of the proposal narrative? Are plans and ideas for programs described clearly?
  • Quality and completeness of program description (including information about the target audience, plans to recruit participants, etc.)
  • The overall vision for the program series, including creative plans to engage participants with the theme(s), books, and related humanities content. How does this project relate to your community and your program participants?

Another factor that may influence the final selection of libraries is the location of the sites. The selection team would like programs to take place in all regions of the country.

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 publicprograms@ala.org

IX. Review and Selection Process

Each application will be peer reviewed by programming librarians and ALA project staff. Applicants for the "Empathy" theme will be notified of their award status on July 20, 2018. Applicants for the "Heroism" theme will be notified on August 1, 2018.

X. Award Administration Information

  • Application deadline: July 9, 2018
  • Grant notification: July 20, 2018 ("Empathy") and August 1, 2018 ("Heroism")
  • Book collections, promotional materials ship: Week of August 13, 2018
  • "Empathy" orientation workshop: September 6—7, 2018 in Chicago, IL
  • "Heroism" orientation workshop: November 15—16, 2018 in Chicago, IL
  • Programming period: September 1, 2018—August 31, 2019
  • Required final report due: September 30, 2019, or within 30 days of final program (whichever comes first).

XI. Point of Contact

If you have questions about the program, contact:
Public Programs Office
American Library Association
1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045
publicprograms@ala.org

To access the application system, sign in with your apply.ala.org profile.