Community Connect: Fostering Digital Access FAQs

Please be sure to fully review the Project Guidelines and FAQs below. If your question is not answered, email ALA's Public Programs Office

What is Community Connect and what are the project goals?

In partnership with Capital One, the ALA Public Programs Office is seeking applicants to participate in Community Connect: Fostering Digital Access. This pilot will provide 11 rural* public libraries located in select states with a resource package to support digital access during a one-year library implementation period.

The goals of this initiative are to:

  1. expand service capacity of rural libraries by offering hotspot and laptop lending policies; digital literacy programs; affordable broadband access information; and financial capability seminars.
  2. improve the digital access of rural library patrons via hotspots and laptops to enhance opportunities for social mobility by pursuing remote education, economic inclusion, financial management and health.
  3. build on the efficacy of phase I by equipping libraries with resources to assist patrons in establishing and sustaining home internet connections via opportunities like the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

*The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) defines a rural community as one that is more than, or equal to, five miles from an urbanized area and a small community to be libraries with a legal service area population of 25,000 or less.

What benefits will participating libraries receive?

  • Five Verizon Wi-Fi hotspots with one-year contracts and service for lending to patrons.
  • Five HP laptops for lending to patrons.
  • Professional development resources including a practitioner’s guide, webinars on the topics of digital literacy, financial literacy, and about programs that help patrons establish at home internet connections (ACP).
  • Travel and accommodation expenses for attendance of a one-day orientation workshop for library project directors at ALA’s Annual Conference in Chicago, IL in June 2023. Workshop will include how to set-up the hotspots and laptops for circulation; troubleshooting; setting up a library policy for lending them; information about how to help patrons connect with the ACP; project evaluation and patron surveys; and a general overview of all the resources available to selected libraries to support programming.
  • $2,000 stipend to cover costs associated with implementing at least 3 programs. All sites must host at least one financial literacy program, one digital literacy program, and one Affordable Connectivity Program. Eligible expenses may include hiring a facilitator, buying additional technology, providing refreshments, or purchasing materials recommended in the Practitioner’s Guide.
  • Access to a community of practice for participating library staff to ask questions, share expertise, offer advice, and engage in peer sharing and learning.

What are the requirements for participating libraries?

All selected public libraries are required to do the following:

  • Sign a contract with ALA agreeing to programming, publicity, evaluation, reporting and other project requirements.
  • Participate in training webinars.
  • Send the library project director to attend the one-day workshop in Chicago in June 2023. • Create and implement a hotspot and laptop lending policy, if one is not already in place.
  • Lend hotspots and laptops to patrons, per the lending policy, for one year.
  • Present a minimum of three public programs. Each site should host at least one financial literacy program; one digital literacy program; and one Affordable Connectivity Program. Libraries can use the programming stipend to hire a local facilitator such as a high school teacher, community college instructor or other noncommercial expert to lead the program series. To ensure that all programming is strictly noncommercial, the public programs may not be offered in conjunction with financial services firms, including banks, investment advisers and brokerage firms.
  • Promote the programs in the community and allow the public to attend free of charge.
  • Participate in reporting and evaluation.
  • Appoint one staff member as the library project director. The library project director is responsible for participating in trainings, attending the one-day workshop, overseeing programming and promotions.
  • Agree to all publicity requirements, including use of designated project credits and/or logos on all local publicity materials, both print and online.
  • Spend the grant funds by July 31, 2024
  • Submit a final report to ALA by September 2, 2024

What libraries are eligible?

Community Connect is available to rural public libraries in select states in the United States.

The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) defines a rural community as one that is more than, or equal to, five miles from an urbanized area (area with a population of 25,000 or more).

The eligible states are:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Individuals and federal entities are not eligible to apply.

You do NOT need to be an ALA member to apply.

I work at a library branch that is part of a larger library system. Is my library still eligible?

Yes. If the population that the branch library individually serves meets the grant qualifications, the branch library is eligible to apply for this opportunity. Your application should focus on the community your branch library serves, rather than the community the library system serves as a whole.

Can more than one branch of my library system apply?

While not recommended, more than one branch of a library system may apply for the award. However, it should be noted that the branches will be competing directly with one another for the award, as geographical location is taken into consideration.

I can't attend the Community Connect workshop at ALA's Annual Conference in June 2023 because I'm the only employee at my library. Can I still apply?

Yes, you are still eligible to receive a grant. We understand that for some small and rural libraries attending the in-person workshop in June 2023 may not be possible as it would require shutting down the building for multiple days. As such, virtual recordings of the trainings will be available for grantees who are unable to attend the in-person workshop.

Is Verizon the only broadband provider? Could I use a different provider?

Verizon is the only broadband provider with Community Connect, therefore access to Verizon coverage in your area is needed for participation. Roaming Verizon service coverage should not present an issue for participation.

Why do I get a notification that my email/password is incorrect when I try to apply using my ALA member login information?

Our application for grant opportunities is now conducted through our new grant system, Foundant. You will need a Foundant account (registration is free) to access the application for all ALA Public Programs Office grant opportunities. This account is separate from an ALA membership.

When you are taken to the application page, click “Create Account” under the login information prompt, and you’ll be taken to the Foundant Account Creation page. Registration in Foundant calls for information about yourself, your institution, and your executive officer. Once you have completed registration and created your account (which takes about 5 minutes) you will be taken to our grants application page where you can click the "Apply" button for this opportunity. You do not need an ALA membership to create an account.

When will award information be released?

Application Deadline: April 3, 2023

Award Notification: May 11, 2023

How do I apply?

To apply to be a participating library in Community Connect, please fill out the full grant application here. If this is your first time using our grant management system, please review our How to Apply page for more detailed assistance. 

What will make a successful applicant?

Successful applicants will meet basic eligibility requirements, submit a complete application and also demonstrate that their library has the capacity and ability to:

  • Demonstrate need for a program of this nature in their community, expand and their library’s service capacity and improve digital access for their community.
  • Involve appropriate programming partners.
  • Carry out a successful series of programs and hotspot/laptop lending.
  • Promote the program and hotspot/laptop lending programs to engage the target audiences.
  • Participate in program evaluation.

Other considerations, such as geography and demographics, will play a role in final library selections.

We highly recommend thoroughly reviewing the Project Guidelines. For general grant writing assistance please review our Grant Writing 101 page. 

Whom do I contact with further questions?

If you have questions about the exhibition or the application, contact:

American Library Association Public Programs Office

1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045 (include Community Connect in the subject line)