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Santa Barbara Public Library System Receives Federal Grant

The Santa Barbara Public Library System has received a $249,000 National Leadership Grant to promote reading for low-literacy families. The award is part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ $9.2 million grant program that addresses challenges in the library field and evaluates library innovations. The Santa Barbara Public Library was one of 51 grant projects selected out of 212 applicants.

The Library will implement and evaluate the three-year Juntos Leemos/Read Together Program. This initiative will target reluctant readers and low-literacy families by promoting family read-alouds where an older sibling or trained mentor becomes a family reading support. The project grows out of a year-long pilot project, the Siblings Project, also funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). During the pilot project, the Library developed an afterschool Read Together Program in collaboration with A-OK, a family reading homework project in collaboration with Peabody Charter School, new venues for parent outreach, and a “read together” component of the annual summer reading program. Evaluation showed that reluctant readers in particular demonstrated increased motivation to read after participating in these programs and that 89% of summer readers with a younger sibling read at least one book with them. Summer Reading participation rates have also increased by more than 50% for two consecutive years since receiving the pilot grant.  “We are delighted to have the chance to continue and expand upon these programs with this new grant,” said Lisa Gonzalez, Youth Services Project Coordinator.

This year’s National Leadership Grant recipients will generate new tools, research, models, services, practices, and alliances that will positively impact both the awarded institution and their community. Successful projects are chosen for their potential to improve library services nationwide.

“Libraries are changing to meet the evolving learning, social, and informational landscapes of their communities. These grants reflect truly creative thinking by library and archive professionals—along with their university, professional association, and local government partners—that will ensure the continued role of libraries as community anchors for generations to come,” said IMLS Director Susan H. Hildreth.

The Library staff plan to work with local community organizations such as the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the A-OK! Program, Partners in Education, the UCSB Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, All for Animals, Carpinteria THRIVE, the Boys and Girls Club, as well as national education and library organizations to promote older siblings’ role as potential family literacy pioneers. Scholars from UCSB will aid with project evaluation, and an advisory panel of national researchers and library leaders will contribute to project design. “Staff is very excited by this tremendous opportunity to boost reading skills for those families who most need assistance,” said Library Director, Irene Macias. “The Library first received a pilot grant for this program from IMLS in 2013, and we had great results come out of it. The IMLS grants expand and support our existing array of programs for children and families such as Fabulous Fridays, ARF!, and After-School Homework Help.” When the new children’s library is finished, there will be more space to accommodate the many children who want to use these programs.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Their mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Their grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit

Information about Santa Barbara Public Library System locations, hours, events and programs is available at All Library programs are free and open to the public. We're building a love of reading, one reader at a time.

For more information about IMLS grant programs:

Siblings Project Pilot results:

IMLS Press Release:

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