ESSER stands for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief. ESSER is part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a federal law that was passed in 2021 to provide relief to states, including funding to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students. Part of these funds are set aside to support student learning beyond the classroom in out-of-school settings and summer learning programs. Students spend 80% of their time outside of school, and libraries are uniquely poised to help mitigate the impacts of lost school time and unfinished learning. Libraries play a crucial role in learning outside of the classroom. They offer afterschool programs, teen programs, summer reading programs, and more.

Early in 2022, the Idaho Commission for Libraries, the Idaho STEM Action Center, and the Idaho Out-of-School Network collaborated on a proposal to the Idaho State Board of Education to fulfill the requirements for out-of-school learning in the ARP ESSER appropriation. In total, the three agencies received $6 million in ARP ESSER funds to distribute to Idaho’s out-of-school organizations and help them address unfinished learning in their communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next two years, the ICfL will invest $1.25 million in grants and resources for Idaho libraries to support learners in grades K-12.

The funding to the ICfL is divided into two buckets: Out-of-School Time (OST) and Summer Learning. The OST funding will be used to support programs and services for youth in grades K – 12 in Idaho public, school, and tribal libraries. We will offer two sets of grants for libraries related to OST funding: Planning Grants and Programming Grants. The OST Planning Grants will be for larger amounts – up to $20,000 – for library systems or school districts to engage in activities to strategically develop services and programs for youth. This grant application will be open from September 1 – September 30, 2022. The second set of grants, called OST Programming Grants, will be for smaller amounts – $1,000 – $3,000 –for library locations to use research-based best practices in programming with youth. This grant application will be open October 3 – October 31, 2022, and public, school, and tribal libraries are invited to apply.

Three Summer Learning grants will follow a similar format. The ICfL’s Summer Strategies Grant will be larger – up to $30,000 – for library systems to use research-based best strategies to build high-quality summer learning programs that align with the library’s mission and strategic plan. This grant application will be open from September 1 – September 30, 2022. Summer Support Grants will be smaller – $1,000 – $2,000 – for libraries to enhance current summer learning or summer reading programs. This grant application will be open October 3 – October 31, 2022. An additional summer grant for school libraries will also be offered. The Summer School Libraries Grant will make available up to $7,000 for school libraries to remain open during the summer months. For many communities in Idaho, school libraries may be the closest library that families can access. Keeping these libraries open for even a few hours each week can have a big impact on learning outcomes. The Summer School Libraries grant application will also be open October 3 – October 31, 2022.

You can learn more about the grants and ask question about the application during a virtual Info Session on Wednesday, September 7, at 2:00 p.m. MDT / 1:00 p.m. PDT.

We are still working out the details, but ICfL staff plan to support libraries’ services to youth whether or not they receive a grant. Part of this support includes a robust professional development schedule. For out-of-school time, we hope to offer virtual trainings on Asset Mapping in the fall and virtual trainings on Program Assessment in the spring. We will also offer a free 2-day conference on Teen Services on March 1 and 2 at the Riverside in Boise. Travel and per diem for the conference will paid for by the ICfL. We also hope to send several Idaho library staff members to the National Conference on Summer Learning in Washington, D.C., to be held Oct. 24 – 26. If you would like to attend this conference and have ALL of your conference-related expenses (including travel!) reimbursed, check out this webpage and review the program requirements (requirements and application will be released on Sept. 2). Also, in February and March, the ICfL will also host a series of regional summer planning workshops to help libraries connect with each other and plan summer programs. We are working with existing library consortiums to plan these workshops.

In addition to direct funding through grants, and professional development, the ICfL will offer additional resources to help libraries better serve youth in their communities. We will develop and print support materials for you to hand out to the public. We will create kits to help your library try new materials or offer new programs for both OST and Summer Learning. We will also provide professional development books to help library staff improve their knowledge and skills.

ARP ESSER funds provide a unique opportunity for libraries to shine in the out-of-school environment. We know that this is a LOT to unpack and that every grant and resource won’t be a good fit for every library. At the end of the day, the ICfL is oriented toward helping your library best serve your community. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on Idaho’s youth and the way that they learn. We hope that you will be able to use funding and resources from the ARP ESSER grant to help you address the needs of young learners in your community who have been impacted by COVID-19. Check out the ARP ESSER page for an overview of this project and links to grants, professional development, and resources.