Image of Tanya Diggs and Leigh Grinstead

Our December Instructors Spotlights Leigh Grinstead as the Program Lead for the Catalyst Fund and Tanya Diggs, who is the Lyrasis Grants Administrator. Leigh and Tanya work closely together to manage the Catalyst Fund grant activities. They advise and support members as they develop concepts into polished ideas or proposals and work with recipients to share project results. The Catalyst Fund is an award program that provides support for new ideas and innovative projects that advance the mission and reach of Lyrasis member organizations. Managed by Leigh and Tanya, the Fund expands opportunities to explore, test, refine and collaborate on innovations with potential for community-wide impact. The Catalyst Fund is in its 7th year of providing funds for Lyrasis Members' innovative projects and ideas. Let's learn a little more about how Leigh and Tanya work with Lyrasis members and how you can apply for the Catalyst Fund in January 2023.

Leigh, you've been managing the Catalyst Fund since its inception. Tell us why the Catalyst Fund is widely supported at Lyrasis? 

The Catalyst Fund is so widely supported because it's such an incredible opportunity to find out the latest trends and learn what’s happening at public and academic libraries, archives, museums, research institutions, and in special collections across the Lyrasis network of institutions. The innovation, creativity, and problem-solving that goes on daily in member institutions is incredibly inspiring! The fact that we can support and learn from one another to expand the mission and reach of individual institutions is what Lyrasis is all about. Bringing these amazing projects together and sharing the results openly so that people can model, adopt, or adapt their own programs based on project results and learning outcomes is part of the Catalyst Fund vision.

Why should Lyrasis Members apply?

Leigh: I think Lyrasis members should apply because you never know where the next great idea will come from! Over the past six years I’ve heard incredible concepts from small, medium, and large institutions, from those that are public and private, from those involved in collaborations, and from single institutions. Lyrasis member organizations have submitted applications from the southwest, and the northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, the great plains, the mountain west, and the pacific northwest. Location has no bearing. I've heard from organizations in Canada, and Italy, and elsewhere outside of the United States—no one has the corner on the market for great ideas.

This application process is an opportunity to think creatively, to challenge yourself to think: what if?

  • What if, we experimented and tried something small?
  • What if, we tried something brand new?
  • What if, we could change the way that we, as a field, operate?
  • What it, we could, in some small way, change the world?

I think that’s pretty powerful, and that motivates me every day.

Tanya, as the Lyrasis Grant Administrator, how is the Catalyst Fund different than a typical grant?

A benefit to Catalyst Fund applicants is the fact that we’re more accessible than most grantors to all interested applicants throughout the application process, and in fact, we encourage applicants to reach out to us prior to the application process to workshop application concepts and get feedback before starting an application. We’ll also review and comment on applications before they’re formally submitted. Just email us to schedule a time.

On the one hand, the application process isn’t as cumbersome as many other grant applications since it’s limited to two pages. The two-page limit, however, can be challenging because many applicants are interested in funding projects/or programs which are quite technical, so the challenge is in crafting a narrative that is direct, clean, spare, and to the point, while still giving enough detail that the reviewers can understand the nature of the work. It’s a delicate balancing act! The page limit can sometimes make it difficult to:

  • Address all aspects of the project/program
  • Make a solid case for the need of the project/program
  • Express how it will benefit or can be used by the broader community
  • Include a comprehensive budget and budget narrative

That’s why we recommend you work with us—so we can review your narrative with “an outsiders’ perspective” and provide feedback early on.

Leigh and Tanya, with the Catalyst Fund application opening in January, what are some things that members can do now to prepare their application?

Potential applicants should review the website for application requirements and to review our values. You can also research prior awards for the variety of creative concepts and perhaps use them to spark a new project of your own.  Take a look at previous recipient presentations which are available via Lyrasis Learning and white paper results in the Lyrasis Research Repository.  We’re also available and encourage potential applicants to reach out to us with their ideas, questions, and proposal reviews, prior to submission of an application

Leigh and Tanya, tell us what types of projects , topics, or ideas that you are hoping to see within this years application season?

One focus that we’re emphasizing this year is on community driven projects and projects having community impact. We want to see that these projects are not being confined to a specific institution or geographic area. They should be as inclusive and far reaching as possible. Be as inclusive and think about scale. How can this impact the overall community? Is it scalable from smaller to larger communities and vice-versa.

Now for fun, tell us something fun about you? What are you listening to, reading, or watching that you recommend right now?

Tanya: I recently watched the short Netflix series “From Scratch”.  It was excellent and I later discovered that it is based on a true story. I listen to smooth jazz; some of my favorite artists are Marcus Anderson, Cindy Bradley, Boney James, Robert Glasper.

Leigh: I’ve been reading some obscure biographies and non-fiction recently, so I’ll focus on media instead. I just watched Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, which I thought was just beautifully filmed, the previews would have you think that it’s just a fluff piece, but there was more there than I expected—and for anyone that has any interest in fashion or textiles it’s a must!

In the Grinstead house, we listen to a lot of Jazz as well, although it tends to be more along the lines of John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, or Billie Holiday. Although, at the end of September we got to see Javon Jackson play live downtown on a Friday night—so, I don’t only listen to historic musicians!