The ALA COVID Library Relief Fund - 2021 Grants

The American Library Association (ALA) has provided $1.25 million in emergency relief grants to 34 libraries that have experienced substantial economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. Through the ALA COVID Library Relief Fund, grantees representing academic, public, school, and tribal libraries have received grants between $30,000 and $50,000 to support library services and operations. 

The ALA COVID Library Relief Fund represents a significant non-federal grant opportunity for libraries. The funds support libraries' efforts to increase and enhance technology access, collection development, digital instruction, staffing, and outreach, while maintaining and amplifying existing services through the end of 2021.

The ALA COVID Library Relief Fund is generously supported by Acton Family Giving as part of its response to the pandemic. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided initial seed funding as part of its efforts to bolster educational and cultural organizations devastated by the economic fallout from COVID-19.

"We greatly appreciate the generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Acton Family Giving," said then ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, Jr when the awards were announced during the ALA Annual Conference in June 2021.  "Their tremendous support of libraries and understanding of the invaluable role libraries play in uncertain times is greatly appreciated by the ALA and the millions of library patrons who depend on library services."


Library Awardees 

Tribal Libraries


Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Library and Archives, Albuquerque, NM                        

Dedicated to the history and culture of the Pueblo people, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Library and Archives suffered a 30% budget cut, reducing staff from three to just one. The Library and Archives serves the 66,0000 members 19 Pueblos of New Mexico and Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Texas, as well as researchers, and the public.  The grant allows the library to hire back staff, upgrade computers that are ten years old, and purchase new books and other resources for the community.


Navajo Technical College Domenici Library, Crownpoint, NM

Due to the pandemic the already minimal budget for the library to serve the 1,2000 students was cut more than 30% with more reductions anticipated.  Through the support of the grant the library will be able to subscribe to two important databases, Science Direct and Lexis-Nexus.  New and updated books will be purchased to provide relevant resources for the students and faculty, along with needed supplies for operations. 


Oneida Community Library, Oneida, WI  

With school age children to elders dependent on the broad range of services in this rural community provided by the Oneida Nation Library, especially for computer access and educational activities, a 67% budget cut has been devastating, resulting in the closure of one of the libraries two locations. New laptops, hotspots, and public access computers will be purchased, and training provided. With an emphasis on literacy focused activities, the library will buy kits for the summer and fall reading program, new activity kits for elders, along with new books for all age groups.

Public Libraries


Tri-Valley Community Library, Healy, AK

The small non-profit library for 1,500 residents near Denali National Park, mostly funded by community support and donations, is in jeopardy of closing after losing half of its budget.  The library serves as a community center with free internet access and is often the only place open during the long winters.  The grant will keep the library open by funding staff, paying for Internet service, and adding needed Wi-Fi hotspots for loan, and adding new books for its collection.



Birmingham Public Library, Birmingham, AL

Due to the pandemic, nearly five million dollars has been cut from the Birmingham Public Library budget, resulting in the loss over fifty staff positions and the ability to procure access to important resources for the community of 210,000. These difficult times have compounded the need for the provision of additional services to marginalized areas of Birmingham. The grant will allow the Birmingham Public Library to continue to provide important online tools which are especially relied upon by the elderly, those needing legal forms, and recovering businesses.  It will also continue provision of access to local newspapers and e-resources for young children.



Gravette Public Library, Gravette, AR

The Library had to cut 11% of its budget with more expected in the coming months. The small library in rural northwestern part of the state focuses on literacy, hands-on learning, and connectivity as these are the key needs of its community of 4,000. The library will purchase laptops to expand its Coding Clubs and Digital Skills programs as well as new literacy sets. It will add new large print books for senior adults and YA patrons with vision challenges. STEM kits will help assist students with their school assignments, and replace a broken, out of production microfilm reader.



North Miami Public Library, North Miami, FL

In an economically challenged and widely diverse community, the North Miami Public Library is located in the heart of the city of 63,000. The library is walking distance to four schools, attended by hundreds of students who would normally find a safe-haven and support in the library before the pandemic, but budget cuts have resulted in a 30% reduction in staff and a great reduction in services. With the grant provided by ALA, the library will be able to hire a much-needed Youth Services librarian, and new resources, to support children, teens, and their families.



Maywood Public Library, Maywood, IL

Located outside of Chicago, the Village of Maywood is a predominantly Black and Latinx community that has struggled economically for many years, the Pandemic has exacerbated the situation. On top of the budget cuts from last year, The Maywood Public Library is expecting upcoming budget cuts, for a total reduction of nearly thirty percent by the end of 2021. The grant will allow more staffing and an increase of print and digital materials in English and Spanish for the community.



Carter County Public Library, Carter County, KY

Located in rural eastern Kentucky, the Carter County Public Library sees its role as a problem-solving entity. Serving an economically challenged community with limited access to technology, internet, phone service, and education resources. A 19% cut to a lean budget makes keeping the doors open a challenge.  The grant will ensure that the rented Olive Hill survives, and the costs to operate the Grayson Branch will be covered. 



Fennville District Library, Fennville, MI

The Fennville District Library serves several agricultural communities with a growing number of Spanish-speaking residents, its services include English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction and a partnership with the Allegheny Head Start to provide early childhood initiatives. With a 40% cut to its primary funding source last year, the grant will help the Fennville District Library acquire tablets which will be pre-loaded with educational apps, games, and books, buy Wi-Fi hotspots for the many who cannot afford Internet access at home, and add more Spanish language and ESL materials.



New Brunswick Free Public Library, New Brunswick, NJ 

Nearly 75% of the 57,000 residents that the New Brunswick Free Public Library serves are Latinx, Asian, or Black, with 56% of all residents speaking a language other than English at home. The library is visited by many immigrant newcomers from an array of nations who see English as a critical skill in advancing their career goals. Forced to cut 25% of their staff, the grant will allow the re-hiring of two part-time staff to continue providing English as a Second Language instruction and career efforts to assist displaced workers and jobless out-of-school youths. 



Niagara Falls Public Library, Niagara, NY

The Niagara Falls Public Library serves approximately 50,000 residents in three separate counties. It has suffered a 30% budget reduction with upcoming budget cuts expected soon. The staff has been cut by 25% and nearly 30% of the community does not have dependable access to Wi-Fi, which impacts resident children’s access to educational lessons, as well as adults looking for new employment opportunities.  The grant will increase the number of Wi-Fi hot spots that can be loaned to families, add a part-time technology support staff, and create a needed a makerspace to develop skills through hands-on learning.



Tryon Public Library, Tryon, OK

Tryon has one of the highest unemployment and poverty levels in Oklahoma, and the library is vital to the well-being of the residents of Tryon and its surrounding communities.  With an already slim budget, losing a major portion of its budget due to the pandemic, has made continuing operations increasingly difficult. The grant will provide funds to continue the digital inclusion initiative with more laptops and hotspots to loan, support for needed staff, and the creation of a STEM focused community garden, a venture with the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension.



Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

A six-million-dollar budget cut and the subsequent loss of 22% of staffed positions has made providing support and needed new technology for the Library’s flagship program- Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program (LEAP) – a free, drop-in program where nearly 150,000 students in grades K-12 find a safe and supportive place to go after the school every year difficult. The program’s shift online has been hindered by the outdated slow-functioning laptops.  Through the Library's Foundation, the grant will provide 40 new laptops across the system for LEAP for the return to in-person programming starting this fall.



Biblioteca Juvenil de Mayaguez, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico

The Mayagüez Children’s Library, located where nearly 50% live below the poverty line, serves to contribute to the transformation process of this community, by providing and facilitating access to books and programs that promote recreational reading as a family. Due to revenue losses of 35% this IMLS award winning library needed to cut its staff by half. The grant will allow the library to add hours and services by rehiring staff, including those involved in programming and outreach, especially for the library’s tutoring program.



Marathon Public Library, Marathon, TX

This small rural library, that includes a large Latinix population, is heavily dependent on donors and grants, and has seen its operating budget shrink by 40% as the pandemic hit funders hard. As the only publicly available digital access point in the community, the library has helped residents find jobs, connect with social safety net programs, and find a sense of place during a turbulent time. Funds will be used to help cover staff salaries to ensure the continuation of the summer reading and arts program and add a previously planned makerspace and digital lab for school students to use in the fall to encourage STEAM exploration.



Elkins-Randolph County Public Library, Elkins, WV

Small but creative in serving the 14,000 residents in the city and county, the Elkins-Randolph County Public Library has had to reduce its budget by nearly 35% and furlough staff. Staff will be funded for the Beverly branch which had its grand opening in January 2020 a few months before the shutdown. Assessing the need to provide more service outside the libraries, the library will add mobile hot-spots and pre-loaded tablets will be available to loan out in addition to newly purchased children’s books. 

School Libraries



Hillsborough County Public Schools, Hillsborough County, FL

A reallocation of funds and revenue loss resulted in the library and media services budget being cut by over 50%.  Concerned about those most impacted by school closures, the grant targets six school libraries where 73% of students are Latinx or Black, and 86.15% of all students are eligible for the National School Lunch Program. Additionally, access to resources and technology has been a huge challenge. The two libraries in most need will receive 24 laptops each for whole group and small discussion and research this fall. The other libraries will add hundreds of culturally relevant high interest books to their collection. 



Brooks County Schools, Brooks County, GA

Designated as a Title 1 District and serving a community where 100% of students are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, the Brooks County School libraries are the sole source of books for many students. The three schools in the county and their 1,500 students will receive new books and other resources, including crucial access to eBooks for those who will continue to attend school remotely this fall.  With library staff stretched, grant funds will also be used to hire part-time staff, including senior students, to provide much needed assistance.



Blackfoot School District,  Blackfoot, ID

The Blackfoot School District is located in southeastern Idaho, encompasses a service area of nearly 500 square miles, including students from the Shoshone-Bannock Reservation. The affects of the pandemic highlighted the need to provide eBooks to 7-12 graders who are spread across the district. The grant will be used to obtain access to titles on platforms such as SORA, Comic Plus, and Library Pass, and to cover the cost of the library management system, and updated circulation devices.



Stanton County United School District 452, Johnson City, KS

The Stanton County United School District faced several challenges when it had to shift to online learning. This rural, culturally diverse school district highlighted the need to reinvigorate the library at the junior high and high school, partnering with the Staunton Public library which already supports students with after school homework and a YA Book Club. In addition to supporting new collections and new technology, the grant will provide staff support from the public library to serve at the school library, create educational programs and career themed and learning workshops.


Howard County Public School System, Howard County, MD

With twelve Title 1 elementary schools where 70% of the students are eligible for the National School Lunch Program and where performance gaps persist, the need for the libraries to be able to provide students access to new, diverse, high-interest fiction and current relevant non-fiction is needed. Pandemic budget cuts have hindered purchasing books which address specific gaps in diversity curricula. With input from students and teachers, librarians will acquire new titles for the Howard County Public School System’s collection. 



St. Ignatius School District, St. Ignatius, MT

The school library not only serves the nearly 500 students but it is also the community library for this part of rural Montana. Before the pandemic, students, and community members could go to the library during and after school hours. New books to update the library’s aging collection will be added to enhance the variety of culturally diverse materials made available to the students and community, which has a large indigenous population. Technology such as iPads, laptops, and learning programs will be purchased to allow for technology integration at the school library. 



Irvington Public Schools, Irvington, NJ

Grove Elementary School serves an urban neighborhood where 95% are eligible for free and reduced lunch. The library collection is decades old and not aligned to the curriculum or culturally relevant. The grant will provide a new collection of diverse fiction and non-fiction including books in Spanish. A 3D printer, LEGO educational resources, and iPads will help boost collaborative work during lessons that incorporate technology, STEAM, and innovation.



Guildford County Schools, Greensboro, NC

The Doris Henderson Newcomers School serves students in grades 3-11 and is specially tailored for students in their first year of English language acquisition. The media center extends programming to support families, offering workshops for parents on language, jobs, and other timely topics. During the pandemic, resources needed to be directed to supporting remote learning. The grant funds will be used to rebuild the non-fiction collection, add high interest fiction and graphic novels, and books for the mobile and outreach bus and supportive technology.


Shawnee Public Schools, Shawnee, OK

Shawnee Public Schools is made up of seven school campuses and serves a highly diverse, high-poverty community. Due to the pandemic, library budgets were frozen, and each campus suffered a loss of collections. Working to meet AASL Standards for School Library Learners the grant will provide new books to each library in the seven schools, eBooks and reference collections, and learning technology such as iPads, 3D printers, and robotics equipment; makerspace materials will be added and introduced to students and teachers as well. 



Alief Independent School District, Houston, TX

Alief Independent School District is an urban school district where 87% of the students are identified as experiencing socioeconomic barriers, including humanitarian and political refugees from Haiti, Pakistan, Syria, Somalia and immigrants from Central and South America. More than half of the library’s services budget has been cut, making the need for bibliotherapy and literacy greater now, than ever. The grant will provide new books for the 42 district libraries, and eBooks that are vital for students’ virtual learning.


Academic Libraries 


Glendale Community College Library, Glendale, AZ

The Glendale Community College Library serves 15,000 students, with 57% its student body being first generation to attend college. The loss of revenue was harshly felt for this library that is split between two campuses and made it difficult for staff to provide remote assistance, especially to essential course materials, as demand outstripped capacity. With the grant funds, the library will be able to add new scanning technology and purchase mobile hotspots for students, which is vital to their success as many are not able to afford broadband internet home.



Gwendolyn Brooks Library, Chicago State University, Chicago, IL

CSU is a designated Predominantly Black Institution and was already under-resourced before the beginning of the pandemic.  The Gwendolyn Brooks Library has struggled during the pandemic as state allocations were reduced, resulting in a $350,000 cut from the library’s budget, which directly forced the administration to cut 30% of the staff. The grant will allow the library to rehire staff to continue to provide evening and weekend hours and services to the student body. 



Kishwaukee College Library, Malta, IL

This rural community college, which serves a diverse student population experienced revenue losses of 30% during the last twelve months, forcing the library to cut part-time positions.  As the library reopens and resumes in-person services, online services need to continue and expand as more courses and students go online. The grant will allow the library to re-add part-time and temporary staff to provide needed technology and public service support to its students and faculty.


Theofeld G. Weis Library, Washington Adventist University, Takoma Park, MD

Due to the pandemic, the library and the rest of the university had to make difficult cuts. The library serves as a critical location for its predominantly Black, Indigenous and POC student body to discover and study both individually or in groups. The library has an inadequate number of computers and space for information literacy instruction, class research visits, and training.  The grant will provide additional computers and a lab that will be well used when the students and faculty return to campus.



Biblioteca Encarnación Valdés, Ponce, Puerto Rico

As its 8,500 students, faculty, and staff were forced to go online during the pandemic, the library did not have an adequate number of eBooks, especially textbooks.  The library will purchase licenses for eBooks to support online classes and research needs. Providing eBooks will alleviate some economic strain on students who are most in need. Priority will be given to subject areas in demand.



University of the Virgin Islands Libraries, St. Croix, USVI

As the pandemic ground tourism to a halt, government revenue in the U.S. Virgin Islands plummeted.  The University of the Virgin Islands Libraries has multiple locations across the islands and online, serving students, faculty and all 100,000 residents of the islands. Due to revenue losses, these libraries have had to eliminate part-time staff positions and reduce work hours to less than 30 hours a week. The grant will allow the library to be open for more hours per day, by adding part-time librarians and a part-time technician to provide in-person and online support. The additional staff will also continue the important work of digitizing the university’ unique special collection. 



L. Douglas Wilder Library, Virginia Union University, Richmond, VA

The L. Douglas Wilder Library & Learning Resource Center at Virginia Union University, a Historically Black College and University, has faced a 39% budget cut which has hindered its ability to pay for an integrated library system. The library serves 1,500 students, faculty, alumni, and the public in Richmond, who all rely on the library system to research the library’s collection and access materials located in consortiums of other libraries. The $40,00 grant will cover the cost of the system, allowing the library staff to manage its collections and provide access and assistance to those who need to find resources.


Read the full announcement of the ALA COVID Library Relief Fund Awardees here


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