American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries Guidelines

American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries logo

Applications open online: October 5, 2021
Deadline for submission: December 2, 2021 (by 11:59 p.m. CT)
Award notification date: February 1, 2022
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 45.164

Apply online via our grants management platform.
View a PDF of the grant application.


Before starting, read the project FAQ and carefully review the requirements below.

If you have additional questions, contact the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Table of Contents

  1. Initiative Description
  2. Eligibility
  3. Award Information
  4. Participation Requirements
  5. Eligible Expenses
  6. Application and Submission Information
  7. Application Review
  8. Key Dates
  9. Point of Contact

I. Initiative Description

American libraries are incubators for the humanities. Every day, libraries engage people in reading and discussing literature; host authors and speakers; lead important, and often challenging, conversations that stretch their patrons’ understanding of the world around them; and record and archive their communities’ stories through oral history collections and digitization projects. 

With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the American Library Association (ALA) will distribute $2 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to help anchor libraries as strong humanities institutions as they emerge and rebuild from the coronavirus pandemic. The purpose of this emergency relief program is to assist libraries that have been adversely affected by the pandemic and require support to restore and sustain their core activities.

ALA will distribute up to 200 ARP grants of $10,000 each to libraries, with an emphasis on reaching libraries in historically underserved and/or rural communities. Libraries will be selected through a competitive, peer-reviewed application process.

II. Eligibility

To qualify for this grant, the applying institution must be a library of any type (e.g., public, tribal, K-12, academic, special, prison) located in the United States or a U.S. territory.

Note: Libraries that received funding through NEH’s American Rescue Plan: Humanities Organization program are not eligible to receive funding through this offering.

Only complete and eligible applications that are received on time, via our grants management platform, will be reviewed.

III. Award Information

Up to 200 libraries will be selected to receive ARP: Humanities Grants for Libraries funding. Selected libraries will receive:

  • $10,000 to support humanities functions of the library
  • One print copy of “Going Virtual: Programs and Insights from a Time of Crisis” by Sarah Ostman for the ALA Public Programs Office (ALA Editions, 2021)
  • Access to a community of practice for grant recipients, via the ALA Connect platform, throughout the grant term
  • Online resources to announce the grant locally (e.g., template press release, social media messaging, web graphics)

IV. Participation Requirements

Libraries that receive ARP grants must agree to:

  • Appoint one staff member as the Project Director (local point of contact) for the grant. This individual will be responsible for attending a required Orientation Webinar (see below) and overseeing the library’s grant performance and reporting. 
  • Attend a required Orientation Webinar on Thursday, February 24, 2022, from 1-2 p.m. CT.
  • Use the ARP funding to support humanities efforts of the library; grant funds must be spent within the six-month period of performance. 
  • Complete a final report, using ALA grants management platform, by Oct. 31, 2022. 
  • Share information about their grant with elected officials. A template email will be provided.
  • Share information about ARP-funded achievements with ALA staff, as requested, for communications purposes. 

V. Eligible Expenses

ARP: Humanities Grants for Libraries funding is designed to provide libraries with flexible funding to reaffirm and strengthen their roles, post-pandemic, as vibrant centers of humanities learning, conversation, and connection. 
The general goals of this ARP funding opportunity include: 

  • To assist with creating or preserving jobs
  • To support or maintain general operations
  • To create or sustain humanities programs
  • To implement new humanities activities or sustain existing activities

Below are several examples of eligible expenses; note that this list is not exhaustive:

  • Salary and benefit support for library workers engaged in humanities activities
  • Costs related to humanities programming (in-person or virtual), such as book clubs, guest lectures, exhibition development, oral history collection, digitization projects, or heritage festivals
  • Purchases of books, e-books, or technology for use in humanities programming
  • Marketing and advertising to support library humanities efforts

NEH defines “humanities” as follows: The term 'humanities' includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of the social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.

Ineligible expenses include:

  • overlapping project costs with any other pending or approved application(s) for federal funding and/or approved federal awards 
  • competitive regranting 
  • cancellation costs 
  • pre-award costs incurred more than 90 days before the subrecipient’s period of performance 
  • equipment costs in excess of 20% of total project costs 
  • travel (both foreign and domestic) 
  • construction, purchase of real property, major alteration and renovation
  • collections acquisition (note that purchases for use in humanities programs are allowable)
  • the preservation, organization, or description of materials that are not regularly accessible for research, education, or public programming 
  • promotion of a particular political, religious, or ideological point of view 
  • advocacy of a particular program of social or political action 
  • support of specific public policies or legislation
  • lobbying 
  • projects that fall outside of the humanities and the humanistic social sciences

VI. Application and Submission Information

ALA will accept applications for this opportunity from October 5 to December 2, 2021

Note: ALA recognizes that libraries that most need financial support are often those with the least capacity to apply for grants due to inadequate resources and staffing. If you feel you need support in developing your application, please request a 20-minute phone consultation with a member of the ALA Public Programs Office staff so we may assist you.

To begin the application process, go to the online application and complete the following steps. You may also wish to preview the application as a PDF before getting started.

Create a New Account

To apply for ARP: Humanities Grants for Libraries, or any grant from the ALA Public Programs Office, you must first create an account in our grant administration platform.  If this is your first time submitting an application through our grants management platform, you may want to first review our How to Apply webpage.

To create an account, you will need:

  • Organization Information: Provide contact information for your library, including your library’s Employer Identification Number (EIN)/Tax Identification Number. 
  • User Information: Provide contact information for yourself (the person submitting the application on behalf of the library).
  • Executive Officer Question: If you are not the library’s executive officer, provide contact information for that person.
  • Password: Create a password for your account.

If you already have an account in our grants management platform, you will be taken to the Local Information section of the application after logging in.

Complete the Application

To apply for this grant, you must complete the following steps:

  1. ENTER PROJECT NAME (all applicants must type “ARP”)

The application contents are explained in detail below, or you may view a PDF of the application.

Enter Project Name
To begin your application, enter the letter letters “ARP” into the “Project Name” field.

Complete Project Director Information
Provide contact information for your library’s Project Director for this grant. The Project Director is the lead representative from your library and will be the primary point of contact for this grant.

Complete Library Information
Identify your library type, number of branches in your system (if applicable), total population served annually, community type, closest metropolitan area, and briefly describe your community demographics. Share the number of library cards issued in active use, your overall library operating budget, and whether your library has received American Rescue Plan funds from NEH or any other source.

Write the Proposal Narrative
Answer the following five narrative questions. Each one has a character limit of 5,000. Please respond to all elements of each narrative question.

  • Community: Describe your library and the community it serves, including demographics, dynamics, and key issues or challenges it faces. What should reviewers know about your library and community in order to understand your proposal?
  • Impact of the Pandemic: Describe your library's humanities efforts before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic. How has the pandemic and related events (e.g., library closures, budget cuts, resource reallocations, layoffs, furloughs) impacted your library’s humanities efforts?
  • Budget: Describe how you will use the American Rescue Plan funds to support your library’s humanities functions. Please be specific. The total amount of your proposed budget plan should add up to $10,000.
  • Outcomes: Describe what the anticipated outcomes and impacts of the grant will be on the community/target audiences and how you will measure them.
  • EDIA (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility): How does your library currently prioritize EDIA? How will the requested funding help your library reach under-represented groups, historically marginalized audiences, or members of your community that your library has not reached previously?

5. Upload Supporting Materials (Optional)
You may upload supporting materials for your application, such as letters of support, in this section. These are optional.

6. Sign Application (must be signed by Authorized Official)
An application for ARP: Humanities Grants for Libraries funding is an application for an award from ALA, using funding provided by NEH, an agency of the federal government. ALA is required by law to ask applicants to identify a certifying official who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the institution. To complete this section, you must enter all of the information that is requested.

You will be asked to confirm that all statements contained in the application are true and correct; and that the applicant organization is neither presently debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, nor voluntarily excluded from participation in this transaction by any federal department or agency. You can check the status of your institution with regard to debarment at the website of the System for Award Management.

7. Review and Edit Your Application
The grant application system will save your work periodically as you fill out your proposal. You can edit your application as many times as you like prior to submission. Once your application is submitted you will no longer be able to alter your proposal.

8. Submit Your Application
Once you are satisfied with your application and all required questions have been answered, you can submit it by selecting the Submit button. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm (CT) on December 2, 2021. Applications submitted after that time will be ineligible.

Once you have submitted your application, you can no longer alter it. The application will then be submitted for review. You will receive an email confirming submission.

VII. Application Review

Throughout its decades of grantmaking, the ALA Public Programs Office has developed decision-making procedures that ensure the selection of qualified, prepared libraries. At the same time, the Public Programs Office takes steps to ensure a fair, equitable process for libraries that are under-funded or that serve under-resourced or historically marginalized communities. 

Applications for ARP grants will be peer-reviewed and evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Evidence that the library’s humanities efforts have been impacted by the pandemic. 
  • Evidence that the library has a clear, well-thought-out, and actionable plan to use the ARP funds to support humanities efforts in the six-month period of performance.
  • Evidence that the library is committed to prioritizing equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (EDIA) through their ARP-funded efforts, and/or evidence that they have a plan to reach under-represented or historically marginalized groups. 

Other factors that may influence final selection of libraries include library type, community size, community demographics, and geographic distribution. 

VIII. Key Dates

Application deadline: December 2, 2021, 11:59 p.m. CT
Award notification: by February 1, 2022
Grant checks distributed: by February 28, 2022
Orientation Webinar (Required for Project Directors): Thursday, February 24, 2022, from 1-2 p.m. CT.
Grant implementation period: March 1 - August 31, 2022 (6 months)
Final report due to ALA: October 31, 2022

IX. Points of Contact

If you have questions, contact:
American Library Association
Public Programs Office
1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045


Next Section: Frequently Asked Questions