RAILS My Library Is... Grants

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In our 2018 strategic plan revision process, RAILS heard repeatedly from libraries of all types and sizes that they needed help proving their value and telling their story more effectively. As a result, RAILS has changed the name and focus of our Partnership Grant program.

The RAILS My Library Is... Grant program provides an opportunity for libraries to focus on projects that help tell the library story and that increase visibility and support for all types of libraries.


Libraries can choose to work collaboratively (with other libraries, organizations, etc.) or alone. At least one project partner must be a RAILS member and a RAILS member library must be the fiscal agent for the grant application. All types (academic, public, school, and special) of RAILS member libraries are eligible to apply.

All grant partners are required to submit a brief letter of support for the project as part of the grant application. Even solo projects must have a letter of support (preferably from the library staff member who is taking ultimate responsibility for the project).


Individual awards are limited to $5,000. We will fund up to $25,000 in total awards for the entire FY 2020 fiscal year. Grants will be awarded and funds distributed approximately 6-8 weeks after the application deadline. 

Application Deadlines

For FY2020, there will be two award periods. The application deadline dates are:

Criteria and Evaluation

See the My Library Is... grant criteria and evaluation rubric. 


The following types of projects will not be considered for RAILS’ My Library Is... grants:

  • Individual author visits, book fairs, conference/seminars, or any other one-time events that do not correspond with an ongoing promotional effort.
  • Building projects, vehicles, or purchases of furniture; please note that projects that include promotion/marketing of these materials may be considered, but funds cannot be used for construction costs or the physical materials themselves.
  • Requests for reimbursement of staff-time, wages or salaries. 
  • Purchases of alcohol, gifts, or catering for events.

Grant Conditions

All conditions must be met to be considered for this award:

  • At least one project partner must be a RAILS member library; the RAILS member must also be the fiscal agent for the grant application; the fiscal agent will receive the check for any awarded funds.
  • The amount requested cannot exceed $5,000.
  • Grant recipients must submit a formal grant report within 30 days of the completion of grant activities. RAILS will provide a template to the primary contact after the grant has been accepted. This report will include an evaluation of impact and sustainability plan. 
  • A copy of relevant invoices must be sent with the completed grant report.
  • Any unused funds must be returned to RAILS upon completion of the grant. 
  • RAILS will not assist in funding costs associated with items deemed non-essential to the project, including but not limited to food, incentives, gifts, and prizes.
  • RAILS is authorized to promote the projects of all grant recipients through the RAILS website, social media, RAILS E-News, and other sources. Libraries are responsible for providing RAILS with information for publicity purposes.
  • Grant recipients are required to acknowledge RAILS financial support of their grant in any promotional activities. 
  • Grant recipients must commit to making project products or outputs available for reuse under a Creative Commons license or otherwise freely available.
  • Grant recipients are required to write a blog post for the RAILS My Library Is... website. 
  • Grant recipients are required to participate in RAILS Member Update at an available RAILS videoconference location to give a brief overview of their project. 


Below are examples of types of projects RAILS is interested in funding. This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list. We welcome creativity and innovation and will consider both in the decision-making process:

  • Working with a marketing consultant on a promotional campaign to promote a specific library program/service, upcoming initiative (building campaign, referendum, etc.), or to attract nonusers to any type of library.
  • Purchasing advertising to promote a specific library program/service or to show the value of libraries in general. This includes the possible purchase of social media ads or advertising to run on Illinois TV channels or online outlets like Hulu. Advertising could be shared with other libraries.
  • Planning a coordinated campaign to promote a library program/service or libraries in general using a variety of different media, including print, social media, cable TV, radio, etc.
  • Working on a campaign to promote the value of school libraries.
  • Partnering with other libraries to develop new and innovative ways to promote library programs/services, such as social media contests or promoting the electronic resources available at the library.
  • Producing videos that show the value of the library or specific library programs and services.