Back to Books Grant Offering Illinois State Library


The Secretary of State/Illinois State Library supports the Illinois library community’s efforts to develop collections that encourage formal and independent reading; therefore, eligible public libraries and school districts are invited to apply for a Back to Books grant. This competitive grant offering pairs collection development with programming, an activity or service to support reading, learning or using the new books. Applications are due September 30, 2020.

Successful applicants must propose a twofold approach:

  1. 100% of grant funds must be used for the acquisition of books in any format, for any age range, in any language, and for any reading levels based on the needs of identified library users.
  2. Justify purchase of the books proposed by explaining how readers will be engaged to read, encouraged to explore or instructed to discover the new titles through an activity, educational event, reading program, school assignment, library service or initiative.

Illinois residents rely on libraries as a source for reading materials, and this offering supports Goal 3 of Illinois’ Long Range Plan for the Use of LSTA 2018 -2022 to position the Illinois library community to further a literate Illinois by creating a culture that encourages reading.

Expected Outcome

As readers discover enhanced library collections responsive to and reflective of their diverse needs, statewide outcomes expected include:

Eligible Applicants

Illinois public libraries and school districts are eligible to apply.

The applicant must meet the criteria as defined by the Illinois Compiled Statutes and the Administrative Code and be recognized as a full member of an Illinois library system. [23 Ill. Adm. Code 3030.200]

No more than one application will be accepted per agency with the application submitted by the administrative headquarters.

Award Information and Funding Source

Requests up to $4,900 will be considered.

The grant award will be paid as a reimbursement. An agency is required to first appropriately disburse local funds per the approved application then submit documentation to receive reimbursement. Release of award funds will be authorized after the submission of reports documenting proof of expenditure.

Library Services and Technology Act funding is provided to the Illinois State Library/Secretary of State by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the Grants to State Libraries Administrative Agencies program:

Program Guidelines

  1. Identify at least one primary target audience or demographic. (Target Audience and Need) Clearly demonstrate why the target audience needs these books. This could include the state of the books currently available in the proposed subject area(s) supported by statistics or evidence to demonstrate need.
  2. Identify the books proposed for purchase, as well as activities to encourage reading and the results expected. (Project Description) It is not necessary to list titles, but clearly express what format and genre will be purchased. The book topics proposed must have a focus, but may include a mix of formats and topics. Provide reading levels and languages if not obvious.
  3. State how the library’s collection development policy supports the purchase of these books (Administrative Capacity), as well as any additional applicable policies or procedures to ensure the success of the project. It is not necessary to place labels in the books identifying them as grant funded.

Allowable/Unallowable Costs

The following expenditures for grant funding under this offering are allowable:
Purchases may include fiction and/or non-fiction books in a variety of formats, languages and reading levels. The expectation is for the new books to be cataloged and added to the library’s collection. Acceptable formats include:

  • Books – nonfiction or fiction
  • Audio books
  • Bilingual or foreign language books
  • E-books
  • Graphic novels
  • Large print books

Associated shipping and processing costs are allowable but must be clearly identified as such.

Topics must be based on the identified needs of the target audience. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Award winning books, e.g., Caldecott Medal, Coretta Scott King Award, Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award
  • Citizenship
  • Early childhood literacy
  • Employment and workforce recovery
  • Equity, diversity and inclusion
  • High interest/low reading level
  • Homework support
  • Human rights
  • Illinois authors
  • Illinois learning standards
  • Immigration and deportation
  • Public health and safety
  • Reading programs, e.g., Illinois Reads, Read for a Lifetime, summer reading
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM)

The Illinois State Library will not approve the following uses of grant funds:
Proposals that include non-book related purchases will not be funded. Inappropriate purchases and costs include but are not limited to:

  • Accelerated Reader or Reading Counts Tests
  • Books to use as prizes or giveaways
  • Classroom collections
  • Display cases or book trucks
  • Serials or Magazines
  • Software

Application and Reporting Forms

Application Guidelines

Review Process

Grants are awarded by the Secretary of State based on recommendations received from a Grant Review Committee following its review process. Each Back to Books application must stand on its own merit and is evaluated based on the information provided in the application.

Priority will be given to:

Only the awarded grant applications shall be considered public information. Working papers, individual reviewer's comments, notes, and scores are not public information. A summary of the review comments will be shared with the applicant.


Applications are due Wednesday, September 30, 2020.

Awards are expected to be announced in November 2020 with Back to Books projects beginning December 1, 2020, and ending June 30, 2021.

Date Activity
December 1, 2020 Activities and purchasing may begin.
December 5, 2020;
January 5, 2021
February 5, 2021
March 5, 2021
Libraries have the option to request reimbursement monthly. Submission of an interim report by the 5th of the month will ensure a timely reimbursement check.
April 15, 2021 Quarterly Report due. Report covers financial and programming activities during December 2020, January, February and March 2021.
May 5, 2021
June 5, 2021
Libraries have the option to request reimbursement monthly. Submission of an interim report by the 5th of the month will ensure a timely reimbursement check.
June 30, 2021 All grant funds must be paid out or obligated. Grant funded activities end.
July 15, 2021 Quarterly Report due. Report covers financial and programming activities during April, May and June.
July 15, 2021 Encumbrance Report due if applicable.

Legal Authority

Awarded applicants will be required to certify adherence to applicable laws.

Supporting LSTA grant Documentation


For more information about the FY2021 CARES Act Grant, please contact the Illinois State Library, Library Development Group at 217-524-8836; 800-665-5576 ext. 2, or by email to