On July 20, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission met in a special meeting and approved TSLAC CARES grants totaling $1,063,469 to 38 libraries in all parts of the state. TSLAC has issued a press release that contains further information about these grants and the types of projects funded.
These grants were made possible by an appropriation from the federal government as part of the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. TSLAC received the funds from the Institute for Museum and Library Services according to the same formula that allocates funds via the annual Grants to States program. Because that formula is based largely on population, Texas gets the second most funds in the country after California. In this case, Texas received $2.6 million in CARES Act funds, of which at least half will be distributed in direct grants to libraries.
Our grants team, led by Grants Coordinator Bethany Wilson and assisted by LSTA Coordinator Erica McCormick, put the awarding of these funds on a fast track and issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity in early May with grant applications due on May 31. Bethany and an internal grants review panel prioritized the process of scoring the applications and the Commission was able to approve these grants last week, two weeks earlier than the next scheduled commission meeting.
The funded grants of up to $50,000 address Covid relief efforts and digital inclusion. But that short description covers a wide range of needs from equipment and supplies to facilitate contactless services to patrons to devices and e-content to support remote patron access to library services. Libraries of all sizes in all parts of the state were funded.The Kaufman County Library will use laptops and other devices to provide more online learning capability while maintaining social distancing. The Little Elm Public Library, Marathon Public Library, Gatesville Public Library, and several others, will use TSLAC CARES funds to provide mobile hotspots for check out to patrons. Libraries such as Pottsboro and Johnson City will enter into creative partnerships with local organizations to further digital inclusion and remote access to information. And the Tom Green County Library in San Angelo will use grant funds to install permanent hot spots throughout the community with special emphasis on rural, outlying communities.
Libraries are endlessly creative in finding ways to serve the needs of their communities and most are fierce advocates when it comes to seeking funding opportunities to benefit their cities and counties. Unfortunately, need far outstripped available TSLAC CARES funds. Libraries submitted more than 100 applications totaling well over $2.5 million, or two and a half times the amount awarded. Libraries clearly need support and assistance as they struggle with the costs of responding to the Covid emergency and meeting the demand of their communities for remote access to information and library services.
We hope more funding for libraries may be on the way. As Congress debates the next coronavirus relief bill, library advocates are boldly asking for $2 billion to address library needs. While this may seem like a large number, it is probably not nearly enough. We fear that as local governments seek to address a budget emergency caused by the economic effects of the pandemic, libraries may once again be among the first to be cut. Such action would be short-sighted and self-defeating. The pandemic has demonstrated that in times of crisis, libraries are even more essential than ever in addressing the needs of their communities for information, education, economic growth, and social cohesion. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, while schools, businesses, and other services have been closed, libraries have provided a crucial remote link to vital information for students, government, business, and the general public.
TSLAC will be stretching the remainder of its CARES funds to provide more direct grants to libraries and also expanding library participation in high-speed broadband networks across the state. But much more is needed and if you have an opinion about how further relief funding should be allocated, you can share those thoughts with your elected federal representatives.
Meanwhile, congratulations to the 38 Texas libraries that will receive TSLAC CARES grant funding.
Links in this post:
TSLAC Press Release on the TSLAC CARES grants: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/node/67656
Information on the Library Stabilization Act Fund:
Sharing your thoughts with your U.S. representatives: