Student Angela Ocana Uses Knowledge Gained in SLIS Course to Garner a $50,000 Grant for a Public Library

Community Profile

San José State University School of Information student Angela Ocana used skills she learned in class to write a grant application that garnered $50,000 for the library where she works.

Ocana, a student in the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, started working at the Santa Clara (California) City Library 16 years ago while in high school. Currently, she spends about half her work week in the circulation department, and the rest of the time as a grant coordinator.

In spring 2013, she took the INFO 282 Grant Writing course taught by Patty Wong. The class gave Ocana a chance to develop an idea she had for an “urban homesteading” program, which would give Santa Clara residents an opportunity to grow and share fresh produce and learn skills like baking bread and putting up jam.

“It was a way to connect people to gardening and growing things and getting their hands dirty,” she said.

In Wong’s class, Ocana worked on her grant application, submitting portions of it to Wong each week. At the same time, she researched possible funding sources for her project. Then her library director sent out an email saying funding was available under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and asking for grant ideas.

“I immediately emailed her back that I was working on this grant proposal for class and sent her a rough draft of my application,” Ocana said.

Her director reviewed Ocana’s draft proposal, tweaking and rewording portions of it, and then suggested they submit it to LSTA. So for the rest of Wong’s class, Ocana worked on what she needed to do to pitch the grant proposal.

Ocana’s application asked for $70,000, and LSTA approved it for $50,000. After the library submitted a revised budget, LSTA awarded the grant.

The grant-funded program, called Sustainable U, started in August 2013, and has met with great success, Ocana said.

Ocana, who earned a bachelor’s in history at Santa Clara University, recommends the grant-writing course for MLIS students, especially those who plan to work in libraries, archives and other nonprofit agencies. In this era of shrinking library budgets, she said, finding alternative funding sources such as grants is essential.

“A few years ago, our library budget was a lot larger than it is now,” she said. “Our budget is either holding steady or decreasing each year, so we can’t just be dependent upon our city organizations to give us money.”

Ocana, who expects to complete her MLIS degree in May 2014, wants to work with children and teens, while still writing grant applications to meet needs in her community. Her next grant application will pertain to teens and the arts.

“You don’t realize how much a grant can help your library,” she said. “Fifty thousand dollars can stretch a long way.”

LSTA funding is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Influential Classes

“INFO 267 Intellectual Freedom for Youth made me realize that everybody has rights, especially kids and teens who don’t always know they have rights, and it’s up to librarians to forge the path for them. So that was a huge thing for me. But in every class, I’ve been blown away by all that I’ve learned, and I’ve worked in a library my whole life.”

Career Tip

“No matter how much you know, being able to communicate and deal well with people is essential. I think in a tight job market, being able to talk to people and convey your ideas in a way that people can understand is extremely helpful.”

Professional Affiliations

American Library Association

Best Conference

“ALA conference last year in Chicago. It was really just awesome.”