Two local libraries were among the 38 awarded a part of the $1,063,469 in funding from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to support local efforts to respond to COVID-19 and increase digital inclusion throughout communities.
Libraries in Pottsboro and Bonham each received a portion of the funds. A statement from TSLAC said this is the first cycle of the TSLAC CARES Grant Program that comes from the federal appropriation made to the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The full list of grant recipients can be found at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/cares/recipients.
Pottsboro Library Director Diane Connery said the library received $25,000 from the TSLAC which will be used to provide internet access to low income students in Pottsboro. She said during the COVID-19 crisis a lot of schools have been relying on hot spots to connect students that didn't have home internet. However, she said, those don't really work that well in Pottsboro. The money will be used to by equipment that will be placed at Diamond Point and North Texas Regional Airport and boost internet signals to 40 homes in the area. She said the library is also waiting on pending funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for $232,000 which will allow them add about 85 homes to the project.
The point of the project, she said, it to provide equity in educational opportunities for those students. Libraries have long been the place that people looked to find out information. Connery said in days gone by, that information source was books stacked on shelves. Now, more and more, the information is available online and the library is trying to serve as the source helping people access that information. The library, she said, hasn't generally been in the business of providing infrastructure for such projects so this is something new.
She said the equipment needed has been ordered and they are waiting on getting it in to get the program up and running. Even if Pottsboro Independence School District decides to return to the classroom, Connery said, probably not all students will do so and this program will help those students get a quality education. Additionally, she said, even if all of the students were to return to campus, students still need the internet to do homework and this program will provide that.
Connery said while the program is starting in Pottsboro, it is hoped that eventually it will go county-wide.
TSLAC CARES grants will fund community needs identified by Texas libraries for the programs, training, and tools necessary to increase community access to vital digital technologies and services. Additionally, funds may be utilized for library initiatives that support prevention, preparation, and response to the COVID-19 emergency. This reimbursement grant program will fund operating expenditures such as library supplies and materials, technology, furniture, and contractual services. Texas libraries received funding to extend services, including:
• WiFi hot spots (devices, service contracts, transmitters, antennae, and accessories).
• Electronic devices and equipment (desktop and laptop computers, tablets, headphones, webcams).
• E-resources such as e-books, databases, and subscription-based services.
• Equipment, supplies, and training needed to offer online programming for patrons.
• Supplies, materials, and equipment supporting curbside services.
• Sanitation and personal protective equipment (PPE) to provide a safer library space for patrons and staff.
• Contactless or automated services (self-checkout kiosks, teleconferencing services, book bins, lockers).
• Furniture such as study carrels, tables with built-in power, and addition indoor or outdoor seating to enable social distancing.
This initial grant program represents the first $30 million of $50 million appropriated nationally in the CARES Act in March, of which Texas received $2.6 million.
IMLS Director Crosby Kemper III said in a written statement, "COVID-19 has not only created a public health emergency, but it has also created a deep need for trusted community information, education, and connection that our libraries and museums are designed to provide. Access to and use of all kinds of health, job, government, educational, and community resources are necessary to weathering the current situation, beginning efforts to reopen, and sustaining our institutions."