ALA will award nearly $2 million to help small and rural libraries address community needs.
ALA has announced plans to award nearly $2 million to small and rural libraries in 2020 and 2021 to help them address issues of concern in their communities.
Through Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries, up to 650 U.S. libraries in small and rural communities will receive $3,000 to tackle issues ranging from media literacy to COVID-19 safety to unemployment. The initiative is part of ALA’s longtime commitment to preparing library workers for the expanding role of libraries.
“2020 has laid bare many of the issues that small and rural communities have long struggled with, from isolation due to a struggling Postal Service to inequalities in the broadband access that is vital for remote learning,” said ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, Jr. “With its core values of access, education, social responsibility and the public good, the library field is uniquely situated to lead local change in this time of crisis, and ALA is proud and excited to offer the funding for them to do so.”
Library workers may apply online for grant funding from September 21 to December 2, 2020, at ala.org/LTC. Up to 650 grants will be distributed over two funding rounds. Read the full project guidelines.
The opportunity is open to libraries serving small and/or rural communities in the U.S. and U.S. territories. The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) defines small communities as those with a legal service area population of 25,000 or less and rural communities as those more than, or equal to, five miles from an urbanized area.
Selected libraries will develop their facilitation skills through online training, talk with community members (virtually or in-person) about local needs, and undertake a project that benefits their community. Grant funds may cover a range of expenses, from hotspot purchases to personal protective equipment to staff time to undertake community engagement work.
Community engagement is the process of working collaboratively with community members — be they library patrons, residents, faculty, students or partner organizations— to address issues for the betterment of the community.
In February, ALA released a set of free professional development materials to help workers in small and rural libraries prepare for and lead discussions and overcome common challenges that arise when people gather to speak in groups. Available materials include:
- "Leading Conversations in Small and Rural Libraries,” a practical 30-page guide that covers the basics of leading discussions in the library, including roles and responsibilities, setting ground rules and managing group dynamics, with a section about leading virtual conversations.
- “Libraries Transforming Communities: Facilitation Training for Small and Rural Libraries,” an e-course available on ALA’s eLearning platform, with a module about leading virtual conversations.
Grant recipients will also receive a copy of “Ask, Listen, Empower: Grounding Your Library Work in Community Engagement,” edited by Mary Davis Fournier and Sarah Ostman (ALA Editions, 2020).
Since 2014, ALA’s community engagement initiative, Libraries Transforming Communities, has reimagined the role libraries play in supporting communities. Libraries of all types have utilized free dialogue and deliberation training and resources to lead community and campus forums; take part in anti-violence activities; provide a space for residents to come together and discuss challenging topics; and have productive conversations with civic leaders, library trustees and staff.
Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries is offered in partnership with the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL). The initiative is supported by a private donor and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).