SLIS Student Jessica Owens Turns Class Assignment into Funded Grant

MLIS student Jessica Owens recently learned that the grant proposal she wrote in her LIBR 282 course on grant writingwas awarded to the Lindsay Community Day School, a San Diego Unified School District program for pregnant and parenting teens, with an affiliated daycare center.

The grant was awarded by the Lisa Libraries, a New York-based organization that donates books, rather than money, to libraries. “The Lindsay Community Day School is 100 percent grant-funded, but most of the money goes toward helping the moms get through high school. My grant was for books for the children to take home and keep,” said Owens, who requested 150 books in her grant proposal. “The program serves low income families. In many cases this is the first book that some of the children will ever receive.”

Owens, who works as a school librarian for Alpine Elementary in San Diego County, chose to target the program in her class assignment because she heard it was low on funds. “So much of library science is underfunded, so grants play a huge role in the field,” she said. “LIBR 282 was one of the best classes I’ve taken, because it helped me learn the business end of library science. I’ve now had the experience of writing a grant proposal, and can say on my resume that I wrote a successful proposal that was funded.”

Owens credits Lecturer Lisa Valdez, who also serves as the School's Communication and Grant Development Coordinator, as an essential factor in her grant’s success. “Valdez is a professional grant writer, so I could talk to someone who knew what she was doing,” Owens said. “Throughout the course, Valdez worked on developing our writing skills to make every word carry weight. She also focused on the importance of original ideas, which I will take with me as I enter my career.”

With an undergraduate degree in Art History and History from University of California, San Diego and with some experience in business, Owens felt that working in the field of library science would be a good match, given her interests and experience. Prior to her current position, she volunteered at the San Diego Public Library, where she worked the “death database.” “I logged in obituaries from the local papers as far back as the 1920s so patrons could look up a person’s name and find out the age at the time of death, as well as the name of the paper and page number,” she explained.

Owens began the MLIS program in Fall 2009 and has followed the course suggestions for students interested in the Academic Librarianship career pathway, since she would prefer to work in an academic library after earning her degree.

Aside from the grant writing course, Owens said that LIBR 244 & 245 (Online Searching & Advanced Online Searching) with Lecturer Amelia Kassel were particularly influential courses. She also recommends LIBR 256 (Archives and Manuscripts). “The class was really great.  It gave me just enough knowledge to know how specialized that field is,” she said. Owens plans to graduate in Fall 2012.