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Local libraries receive grants to improve technology for users

Monday, April 25, 2022 - The Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) has awarded a $108,479.00 grant to Eastern Oklahoma Library System to address impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. ODL offered targeted grants to Oklahoma public libraries as part of the agency’s plan for use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. “Stanley Tubbs Memorial Library and the Muldrow Public Library are recipients of some of those funds.” announced librarian Bethia Owens.

Executive Director Mary Moroney says the grant will be used to improve computer connectivity and network enhancement throughout the system.

“The pandemic created a need for better technology access for our patrons, who rely on the library’s connectivity for everything from online schooling and meetings, to job hunting and applying for public assistance,” Moroney said. “Wifi is available from the parking lots even when the libraries are closed, providing 24/7 access for those who may otherwise have none. ARPA funds have now provided 82 desktop computers, 15 laptops, a network extender and some additional hotspots for several branches. We have switched out upholstered computer chairs for 49 cleanable mesh task chairs; 8 computer guest chairs with arms are on order.”

Jackie Kropp, director of the Office of Library Development at ODL, said grants totaling $1.45 million have been provided to 93 municipal libraries and all eight of the state’s library systems.

“The grants are funding a diverse array of items and projects to protect public health and assure continued services,” Kropp said. “The process allowed for a variety of options so that individual libraries could request grant funds to meet their most pressing needs.”

Kropp said libraries could purchase PPE and easily-cleanable furniture, fund network enhancements and Wi-Fi expansion, purchase connectivity devices for social distancing and remote access to online resources, support video conference capabilities, order health and wellness materials for their collections, and even pay for temporary staffing to help in the recovery process.

The spending criteria was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and based on ARPA legislation.

In addition to the public library grants, ODL is using ARPA funds to also provide grants to adult literacy programs, museums, and tribal libraries and cultural centers. Other ODL-sponsored ARPA projects in the works include an Online High School pilot with six public libraries, the launch of a telehealth pilot program, online resources for homework help, an early literacy program for 30 small and rural public libraries, and procurement of document scanning stations for selected libraries.

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