Library Journal names Amber Gregory to Movers & Shakers List

Library Journal recently named Amber Gregory, manager of E-Rate services at the Arkansas State Library, to its list of Movers & Shakers. The 2021 list spotlights 46 people who are moving the library field forward as a profession.

Amber Gregory

The federal E-Rate program provides vital discounts that make it possible for many public libraries and schools to afford broadband services and equipment. But the application process can be challenging. Over the past 10 years, Gregory has helped Arkansas public libraries secure millions of dollars in discounts.

“Amber has an all-in focus on reducing, even eliminating, the barriers that exist, particularly in small towns and rural areas, to information access because of inadequate connectivity,” State Librarian Jennifer Chilcoat wrote in Gregory’s nomination. “But her passion might be fruitless if she didn’t have the ability to be a calming and encouraging voice in tackling a process that is so daunting, especially to the non-techie library staff in some of our smallest communities.”

Gregory’s expertise and skills have led to major, national roles within the library field. She chairs the American Library Association’s E-Rate Task Force and serves as the library representative on the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) board, the Washington, D.C. organization that administers E-Rate.

“One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is the opportunity to work closely with Arkansas public libraries to see the real-life, boots-on-the-ground impact of E-Rate on individual applicants and their communities,” Gregory says. “The challenges of the application process are real, and being able to communicate ‘what does this look like to local libraries?’ to leaders at the national level is important to make sure those library voices are heard. The communication goes the other way as well. It provides a chance to share with Arkansas public libraries opportunities that may come from federal funding programs.” 


$15 Million in American Rescue Plan Act Grants Now Available for Library and Museum Services

Applications for Pandemic Response Funding Due June 28, 2021

Note: This grant program is not part of the American Rescue Plan Act Grants to States program that the Arkansas State Library is distributing through sub-grants to public libraries.

On May 26 the Institute of Museum and Library Services announced a new funding opportunity for libraries, museums and Native American and Native Hawaiian communities. The $15 million federal investment will provide direct support to address community needs created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and to assist with recovery.

“Museums and libraries have stepped up to provide their communities with essential services and access to all kinds of health, job, government, educational, social, and cultural resources,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “As places begin to reopen, these institutions will continue to be trusted spaces dedicated to sustaining communities. This funding will allow them to continue lifting up their communities and enabling them to thrive.”

The American Rescue Plan Act allocated funding to IMLS to enable libraries, museums, federally recognized tribes, and nonprofit organizations serving Native Hawaiians by supporting the vital programs and services they provide to their communities.

Proposals to this competitive grant program may continue, enhance, or expand existing programs and services, or they may launch new ones to address emergent needs and unexpected hardships. Reflecting IMLS’s goals of championing lifelong learning, strengthening community engagement, and advancing collections stewardship and access, successful projects for this grant program will:

  • Advance digital inclusion through approaches that may include, but are not limited to, improving digital platforms, online services, connectivity (e.g., hotspots), and creating digital literacy programs, as well as creating new processes and procedures needed to sustain a robust online environment.
  • Support hiring new staff and training or retraining existing staff to ensure a workforce that has the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  • Build community-focused partnerships, networks, and alliances with organizations with an emphasis on complementing, rather than duplicating, resources and services.
  • Support the creation and delivery of online and in-person educational, interpretive, and experiential programs and exhibitions for learners of all ages.
  • Provide trusted spaces for community engagement and dialogue to foster recovery and rebuilding.
  • Support efforts to collect, preserve, manage, and interpret documentary sources and tangible objects representing all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic experience.

The deadline for submitting applications is June 28, 2021, with award announcements anticipated in October 2021. A free informational webinar will be made available on-demand on the IMLS website.

FCC to invest $10 billion to bring broadband to American students and households

The U.S. Congress set aside $10 billion of American Rescue Plan Act funds for the Federal Communications Commission to bring broadband to American students and households. The funds are divided into two programs. The Emergency Connectivity Fund Program is for schools and libraries, while the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is for consumers.

Emergency Connectivity Fund Program

The FCC last week unanimously adopted final rules to implement the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. This $7.17 billion program will enable schools and libraries to purchase laptop and tablet computers, Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband connectivity for students, school staff and library patrons in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Arkansas libraries have worked throughout the pandemic to connect their communities, playing an important role in closing the remote learning or connectivity gap via hot spot lending programs and other creative community connectivity solutions,” said Amber Gregory, manager of E-Rate services at the Arkansas State Library.  “The new Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) offers an excellent funding opportunity to continue the important work of connecting patrons outside of the library.  We expect the window to apply for this funding to open sometime in mid to late June, and the Arkansas State Library is ready to help Arkansas public libraries navigate the application filing process.” 

“Between this Emergency Connectivity Fund Program and the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, we are investing more than $10 billion in American students and households,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chairwoman of the FCC. “These investments will help more Americans access online education, healthcare and employment resources. They will help close the Homework Gap for students nationwide and give so many more households the ability to connect, communicate and more fully participate in modern life.”

The Report and Order establishes the rules and policies governing the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. The new rules define eligible equipment and services, service locations, eligible uses and reasonable support amounts for funding provided.  It designates the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) as the program administrator with FCC oversight, and leverages the processes and structures used in the E-Rate program for the benefit of schools and libraries already familiar with the E-Rate program. It also adopts procedures to protect the limited funding from waste, fraud and abuse.

Recent estimates suggest there may be as many as 17 million children struggling without the broadband access they need for remote learning.

Public libraries needing assistance in obtaining E-Rate funding can contact Gregory at, or (501) 682.8576.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

This program will make available up to $3.2 billion worth of consumer discounts on broadband services and equipment like computers and tablets.

The FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will make available to consumers substantial discounts on broadband service and computers. This pandemic-related program will continue until the $3.2 billion in federal funding runs out or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic. Eligible households will be able to receive on their broadband bill a discount of up to $50 per month, or $75 on qualifying Tribal lands. They will also be eligible for a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.

Households can qualify through their use of existing assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, Lifeline or if a child relies on reduced-price school meals programs. The Emergency Broadband Benefit is also available to households who are eligible for a broadband provider’s existing relief program, to those who have received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year, and to those low-income households who suffered a large loss in income during the pandemic due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020.

More than 825 broadband providers are taking part in the program. The benefit is available to eligible new, prior, and existing customers of participating providers.

“Libraries can help get eligible consumers online by raising awareness about the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program and providing patrons with enrollment resources,” Gregory said. “Enrollment for EBB opened on May 12, 2021, and the EBB outreach toolkit is full of information to help libraries spread the word about this program.”

Arkansas libraries receive Libraries Transforming Communities grants

Earlier this month, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the recipients of nearly $1 million in funding for small and rural libraries, the second grant distribution as part of the association’s Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative. This blog posting is based on an ALA press release.

The funding will enable libraries to lead community engagement efforts in more than 300 small and rural communities on topics like the COVID pandemic, mental health, public land use, the climate crisis and Black history. Grant funds may be used to cover a range of expenses, including staff time and collections and technology purchases.

The 317 funded proposals — public, academic, school/K-12, special and tribal libraries — represent 45 U.S. states. Eligibility was limited to communities with populations less than 25,000 in accordance with Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) definitions.

The ALA press release featured a grant to South Arkansas Community College in El Dorado.

  • South Arkansas Community College (El Dorado, Arkansas) will discuss food insecurity with its student body, the majority of whom live in low-income rural areas. Information gathered in these conversations will help the college library determine plans for its SouthArk Library Learning Garden, a previously unused greenhouse owned by the college.

“In Union County, 18% of the population is considered food insecure,” said Philip Shackelford, library director. “At SouthArk we are passionate about empowering our students to achieve their educational goals and develop skills for lifelong learning, and that includes providing a supportive environment where our students are able to succeed.

“Student success, however, is endangered when basic needs may not be met. The LTC Grant from ALA enables us to engage with our students and surrounding community and use their insight in developing the SouthArk Library Learning Garden, which we hope will help support our campus community and beyond. By taking an active role in targeting food insecurity, we hope to eliminate this as a barrier that our students face.”

Here is the full list of Arkansas libraries receiving grants. An * indicates grants announced this month; those without an * received grants in the first round of funding announced in January.

  • Baxter County Library (Mountain Home, AR)
  • Blytheville Public Library (Blytheville, AR)
  • Bull Shoals Library (Bull Shoals, AR)*
  • Calhoun County Library (Hampton, AR)
  • Central Arkansas Library System (Wrightsville, AR)*
  • Danville High School (Danville, AR)
  • Elkins Public Library (Elkins, AR)
  • Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library (Eureka Springs, AR)*
  • Franklin County Library (Ozark, AR)*
  • Gentry Public Library (Gentry, AR)
  • Gravette Public Library (Gravette, AR)
  • Monticello Branch Library (Monticello, AR)*
  • Newton County Library (Jasper, AR)*
  • Pea Ridge Community Library (Pea Ridge, AR)*
  • Polk County Library (Mena, AR)
  • Ralph D. Graf Library of Mulberry (Mulberry, AR)*
  • South Arkansas Community College (El Dorado, AR)*
  • St. Paul Public Library (St. Paul, AR)*
  • Stuttgart Public Library (Stuttgart, AR)
  • University of Arkansas Community College at Rich Mountain (Mena, AR)
  • Warren Branch Library, Southeast Arkansas Regional Library (Warren, AR)*

Each library will receive online staff training in how to lead conversations, a skill vital to 21st-century librarianship, and $3,000 to support their proposed community engagement work. Community engagement is the process of working collaboratively with community members — library users, residents, faculty, students or partner organizations — to address issues for the betterment of the community.

ALA announced plans in fall 2020 to award nearly $2 million to small and rural libraries in 2020 and 2021 to help them address issues of concern in their communities. 

Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries is offered in partnership with the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL).

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit

About the Association for Rural & Small Libraries

The Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL) is a network of persons throughout the country dedicated to the positive growth and development of libraries. ARSL believes in the value of rural and small libraries and strives to create resources and services that address national, state, and local priorities for libraries situated in rural communities.  

Traveler resources named for next three years

Every three years, the Traveler Digital Resource Program goes through a formal bid and evaluation process. The State Library Board approved the Traveler Advisory Committee’s recommendations at its February meeting.

Traveler resources will remain largely the same, with the addition of InfoBase’s Science Bundle, according to Katie Walton, manager of acquisitions.

The following resources will run from Aug 1, 2021 to July 31, 2024.

  • ProQuest – a single source for scholarly journals, newspapers, reports, working papers, and datasets, along with millions of pages of digitized historical primary sources and more than 450,000 eBooks.
  • World Book Online – a collection of resources for students of all ages.
  • Mango Languages – provides language learning experiences with step-by-step lesson plans for 71 different languages. This database features ESL lessons for over 16 languages along with a text translator.
  • InfoBase’s Science Bundle – a supplementary science resource for middle- to high-school grades that includes Science Online and Today’s Science.

The Arkansas Department of Education will continue funding LearningExpress Library through May 2024, and ABC Clio’s School Library Connection and 12 social studies databases through Nov. 2025.

This year the Traveler Advisory Committee, an 11-member group representing all types of public, school, academic, and special libraries, reviewed bids from 23 vendors. Many of these bids included high quality resources, which made it challenging to keep within the $800,000 annual budget. Committee members inform their decisions by gathering input from colleagues, assessing current offerings, evaluating usage statistics, reviewing vendor proposals, and considering the availability of funding.

Traveler training opportunities will be available later this year, Walton said.

The Traveler Statewide Digital Resource project is made possible by a grant from U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Arkansas State Library under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act.

Libraries gain record increases for IMLS, E-Rate in federal relief plan

Libraries are eligible for billions of dollars in recovery funding as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, passed by Congress on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) received $200 million, the largest single increase in the agency’s 25-year history. The package also provides billions of dollars in academic, public and school library-eligible programs, including the Emergency Education Connectivity Fund through the federal E-Rate program.

Of the $200 million for IMLS, $178 million is allocated for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and will go to state library administrative agencies on a population-based formula, with a $2 million state minimum. State libraries will distribute ARPA funding to local libraries according to state priorities, to maintain and enhance library operations and services, including:

  • offering greater access to technology, including through expanding digital networks and connectivity, purchasing hotspots, computers and digital content,
  • establishing mobile digital labs,
  • enhancing workforce development and jobseeker programing, and
  • ensuring training and technical support for libraries, including to assist with the safe handling of materials.

“The coronavirus pandemic persists in taking its harsh toll on communities. This infusion of support for America’s vital community institutions is crucial,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “The need for access to information for health, job, educational, and unemployment resources continues across the country, especially in communities that were already vulnerable. We are dedicated to reaching those who need this funding the most as quickly as we can, through U.S. states and territories and directly to libraries and museums.”

In addition to IMLS funding, ARPA also includes $7.172 billion for an Emergency Education Connectivity Fund through the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program. Participating libraries will receive 100 percent reimbursement for the cost of hotspots and other Wi-Fi capable devices, modems, routers, laptops, tablets and similar devices to loan to patrons.

The rescue legislation provides billions of dollars in library-eligible funding to meet critical needs, including:

  • more than $360 billion to state, local and tribal community governments to offset potential cuts to public health, safety, and education programs,
  • $130 billion for education costs associated with the safe reopening of K-12 schools; hiring additional staff; reducing class size; modifying school spaces; and addressing student, academic, and mental health needs,
  • $40 billion for colleges and institutions of higher education to defray pandemic-related expenses and provide emergency assistance to students, with half the funding dedicated to student financial aid, and
  • $135 million each for National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities to support state and regional arts and humanities agencies. Forty percent of this funding is designated for grants and administration for state arts and humanities agencies.

Arkansas will receive $2.6 million for its libraries. The Arkansas State Library will be planning its priorities for spending the grant over the next few weeks.

Content for this blog posting was taken from press releases by IMLS and the American Library Association.

State Library and Department of Education provides LearningExpress Library resource until June 2024

Last June, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Arkansas State Library purchased a one-year subscription to Ebsco’s LearningExpress Library for the Traveler Statewide Digital Resources program.

The addition was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services with funding through the CARES Act (LS-246521-OLS-20).

LearningExpress Library is available to all Arkansas citizens and provides workforce development resources in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It includes interactive modules for college and high school core competencies, computer skills advancement, standardized test preparation, and career certification exam preparation. Standardized test preparation modules cover the ACT®, SAT®, GRE®, GMAT®, LSAT®, MCAT®, as well as ACCUPLACER, ASSET, CLEP, and high school equivalency degrees.

The Job Skills and Career Accelerator provides career match guidance, information on occupations, resume builders, a job search portal, and tutorials on topics such as interviewing, networking and writing cover letters. Also included are exam preparation materials on a variety of career fields, including nursing and allied health, social work, cosmetology, commercial driving, law enforcement, military, teaching, real estate, and many others.

LearningExpress Library resources benefit unemployed Arkansans seeking to reenter the workforce, as well as any Arkansan desiring to develop workplace skills or investigate a career change, or for students preparing to enter the workforce for the first time.

The Traveler program provides Arkansas citizens with free access to an online collection of reputable, high-quality digital resources including academic and professional journals, learning platforms, and magazines, newspapers and periodicals.

The Traveler collection includes materials suitable for research by audiences at every level, from early childhood education to post-graduate studies. No library card or registration is required, and all resources are accessible from the Arkansas State Library website.

Arkansas library youth programmers to meet virtually for Youth Services Workshop

The Arkansas State Library will host the 2021 Youth Services Workshop on March 12 from
9 a.m to 4 p.m. via Zoom.

Keynote speaker, Jarrett Krosoczka will present three general sessions and practicing librarians will lead 12 breakout sessions.

 About Jarrett Krosoczka

Jarrett J. Krosoczka is the New York Times-bestselling author/illustrator behind more than forty books for young readers, including his wildly popular Lunch Lady graphic novels, select volumes of the Star Wars: Jedi Academy series, and Hey, Kiddo, which was a National Book Award Finalist. Krosoczka creates books with humor, heart, and deep respect for his young readers—qualities that have made his titles perennial favorites on the bookshelves of homes, libraries, and bookstores.

In addition to his work in print, Krosoczka co-produced, co-directed, and performed in the audiobook adaptation of his graphic memoir, which garnered both Audie and Odyssey Awards for excellence in audiobook production.

Krosoczka has been a guest on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and has delivered two TED Talks, which have collectively accrued more than two million views online. Young creatives can also hear Krosoczka weekly on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live and catch his wildly popular web show on YouTube, Draw Every Day with JJK.

Breakout sessions

Attendees will be able to choose three breakout sessions. Some of the topics include the following:

  • Recapturing your Middle Age Readers
  • Guides Your Library Should Have!
  • Synergy Session—Children (6-9 years)
  • Play to Learn–Toddler and Preschool Play Programs
  • Helping From Home: Teens Volunteering During a Pandemic
  • Arkansas Diamond Award
  • So, You’re a New Programming Librarian…Now What?
  • Charlie May Simon Award
  • Synergy Session—Teen
  • Covid-19
  • Arkansas Teen Book Award  
  • Summer Storytime Ideas
  • True Stories of Animals
  • Synergy Session—Tween

Weekly Zoom meetings for Library Programmers

Learning for library programmers continues throughout the year. Since last March, Library Development has held weekly Zoom training sessions. Programmers have the opportunity to share ideas and challenges they face in their libraries.

Library workers doing programming in Arkansas’s public libraries can join the weekly Zooms by sending an email to Ruth Hyatt at

Public libraries planning for 2021 summer reading program

It may still be the middle of winter, but Arkansas’ children’s and young adult librarians are already planning for the 2021 summer reading program.

Arkansas is a member of the Collaborative Summer Library Program. CSLP began in 1987 when ten Minnesota regional library systems developed a summer library program for children, choosing a theme, creating artwork, and selecting incentives that public libraries in the regions could purchase and use. Today CSLP includes representation from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam and the Mariana Islands. Arkansas joined in 2002.

The 2021 CSLP theme is Tails and Tales! Animals of all kinds roam the lands and soar through the air and many have both a Tail and a Tale! Participants are encouraged to explore the world of life around them and find out what is special about so many of the animals who live with us on our little blue planet.

Arkansas libraries may use the materials and the CSLP theme or create their own Summer Reading Program. Libraries can purchase any themed materials directly from CSLP through its website –


Using CARES Act funds, in 2020 the Arkansas State Library provided READsquared to every public library in the state to enable them to host virtual summer library programs. The contract has been renewed through 2022.

Arkansas libraries are able to conduct an online summer reading program with paperless logging, missions, points, badges and games already set up within READsquared. The contract allows every single public library outlet in the state to create their own program, including unique missions and badges and prize drawings for their local participants.

READsquared provides the ability for summer reading participants to:

  • Register for an account;
  • Create a personal avatar;
  • Log progress toward reading goals;
  • Take on the challenge of missions or games;
  • Receive invitations to online library events; and
  • Keep in touch with library staff.

READsquared can be used on a personal computer, smartphone, or tablet.

For more information on the Summer Reading Program or READsquared, contact Ruth Hyatt, Coordinator of Youth Services at

Arkansas Center for the Book to hold virtual program with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Jericho Brown

                The Arkansas Center for the Book will host a virtual poetry program with Jericho Brown on Feb. 4. The hour long program will include Arkansas Poet Laureate, Jo McDougall, and will focus on Jericho Brown’s 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning book of poetry, The Tradition (Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2019). The event will be free of charge and open to the public via Zoom and also livestreamed over YouTube.

About Jericho Brown

                Jericho Brown worked as the speechwriter for the Mayor of New Orleans before earning his PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Brown’s first book, Please (2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront and the Academy of American Poets.  

                In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, his third book, The Tradition (2019), was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award. Brown’s poems have appeared in Buzzfeed, The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Time, The Pushcart Prize anthology, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry anthologies. He is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing and the Director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta.

The Tradition

                Beauty abounds in Jericho Brown’s Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, despite and inside of the evil that pollutes the everyday. A National Book Award finalist, The Tradition questions why and how we’ve become accustomed to terror: in the bedroom, the classroom, the workplace, and the movie theater. From mass shootings to rape to the murder of unarmed people by police, Brown interrupts complacency by locating each emergency in the garden of the body, where living things grow and wither—or survive. In the urgency born of real danger, Brown’s work is at its most innovative. His invention of the duplex—a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues—is an all-out exhibition of formal skill, and his lyrics move through elegy and memory with a breathless cadence. Jericho Brown is a poet of eros: here he wields this power as never before, touching the very heart of our cultural crisis.

— Canyon Road Press

About Jo McDougall

                Jo McDougall has been Poet Laureate of Arkansas since her appointment in 2018 by Governor Asa Hutchinson. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and has published seven collections of poetry and a memoir.

                She has won many awards including a Pushcart Prize (2020), The Arkansas Porter Prize Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry (2019), and an Academy of American Poets Prize. McDougall was inducted into the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame in 2006. With a proclamation from Governor Hutchinson in 2020, she established the first Arkansas Youth Poetry Day, to be celebrated annually.


                Additional information about the program, including registration, is available on the Arkansas State Library’s website at