The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded $2,660,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the Arkansas State Library (ASL); $2.4 million of the funds were set aside for direct aid to public libraries.

This round of IMLS funding gives the country’s libraries an opportunity to improve technology access and connectivity to support the education, health and workforce development needs in their communities. The funding’s intent is to help libraries update spaces and equipment for safe operations and expand programming possibilities, with the overall goal of improving and increasing services.

Library receives $14,971.73

The Arkansas State Library awarded a grant to the Lawrence County Library in the amount of $14,971.73 to support pandemic recovery efforts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lawrence County Library identified that the most used in-person services were business services.

“Serving our patrons during the shutdown, we delivered several materials curbside, but also made more deliveries of printed items and faxed materials,” Ashley Burris, Lawrence County Library director, said. “Reopening gave way to more computer users than patrons selecting materials and the essential need for computer availability was exemplified.

“Even though our area schools now provide students with laptops, internet accessibility on those devices is not always provided at home. In the past year, we have upgraded our internet speeds and WiFi reach in all three communities we serve.”

The library system will be using the ARPA funds to upgrade internal hardware for patron access (17 new computers divided among all three locations), routers to help deliver the quicker speeds (one for each branch location), and software to protect patron privacy and keep personal information from being accessed.

The Arkansas State Library granted funds to city, county and regional libraries for approved projects according to a formula which included a per capita base, along with additional credits for indicators of need: unemployment, poverty, rurality and low levels of home internet connectivity.

“These funds are an unprecedented shot in the arm for Arkansas’ libraries,” said Jennifer Chilcoat, Arkansas State Librarian. “The decision to push this money out to the public libraries in our state was an easy one. Our libraries know the needs of their own communities, and the pandemic has affected those communities in different ways. The librarians themselves are the best ones to make the decisions about how to use these funds.”

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