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 www.ala.org.

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.  

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