April 23, 2018

Phyllis Larison | Movers & Shakers 2003

Granting Wishes

“Just by chance,” says Phyllis Larison when asked how she manages to secure grants to fund a plethora of new services. One could call it luck if it happened once, but Larison managed to win three grants in roughly four years, including $5000 from the MetLife Foundation, making Bemis PL among an elite group of only 12 libraries to be selected. The MetLife Foundation grant provided a series of health programs for immigrants. Larison said that other issues also were raised during those sessions: “Some people felt that they were being discriminated against in their apartments and that repairs weren’t being made, but because of the culture they come from they didn’t know if they could speak up. We talked to the city about this, and they began putting up flyers in Spanish to inform residents of their rights and what they could do if they had a problem.” MetLife is giving Bemis PL $2000 more for a series on government next year.

When pressed, Larison admits she continually monitors library-based web lists to watch for grant announcements. And perhaps timing also plays a role. When Littleton’s Spanish-speaking community grew, Larison “began to wonder what we could do for them,” she says. “I noticed that the school district had a small literacy program. I called the head of the program, and she said that she was working on an application for a state grant, so we decided to work together.” They won the grant, which is funding daily ESL instruction in the library. “We have more than 80 people in those classes,” she beams.

Thanks to Larison, the library also received $50,000 from U.S. West Foundation to establish a computer lab. “We also used the money to train teenagers to instruct seniors to use the web.” The library later used teens on a web project in which they interviewed local World War II veterans. “It was really a positive experience because that was right after 9/11, and the teens bonded with the vets because they had both been through traumatic experiences.”


Current Position: Head of Adult Services, Bemis Public Library, Littleton, CO

Degree: MLS, University of Denver, 1972