Community Connect: Fostering Digital Access Guidelines

Date Posted: February 14, 2023

Deadline for Submission: April 3, 2023

Award Notification Date: May 11, 2023

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Contact the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Table of Contents

  1. Initiative Description
  2. Project Overview
  3. Eligibility
  4. Award Information
  5. Application and Submission Information
  6. Application Review
  7. Award Administration Information
  8. Contact Us

Initiative Description

Digital access is critical to connecting rural communities to opportunity and vital services. In the first pilot stage of Community Connect 20 rural libraries received resources to offer a hotspot lending program to their patrons. Findings from this phase reflect the high need for internet access in rural communities and showed that providing patrons with the ability to access resources in an online space, especially during the pandemic, supported an improved quality of life in these communities.

ALA and Capital One are launching a second pilot phase of this project, Community Connect: Fostering Digital Access. Capital One continues to recognize that digital access is a lever that has the potential to unlock opportunities for education, entrepreneurship, and employment, as well as increased connections to health, financial well-being, and other services that are increasingly only accessible online. Rural libraries in particular provide an important nexus for learning and connectivity in their communities.

This phase of the pilot aims to continue supporting digital access to rural and low-income communities by providing an additional 11 rural libraries with the tools to raise awareness about the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), as well as the ability to assist patrons in establishing at home digital access and provide them with hotspot and laptop lending programs at the library.

Project Overview

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)


This opportunity is open to public libraries serving rural* communities in the following states:

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

*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 with a population of 25,000 or less.

Individuals and federal entities are not eligible to apply.

Award Information

Up to eleven rural public libraries will be selected in this application period (February – April 2023).

Selected Public Libraries Will 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.

Requirements for Selected Sites

All selected 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.
  • If staffing permits, 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


The Community Connect pilot will include a formal evaluation of the implementation and impact of this program. Libraries who receive this grant award will be required to work collaboratively with our third-party evaluation partners, PIE Org, to do the following:

  • Track program attendance and hotspot/laptop lending numbers
  • Implement pre- and post-surveys for both library staff and program participants
  • Track circulation of personal finance collections within the library
  • Participate in potential interviews with PIE Org
  • Identify program participants for potential interviews by PIE Org
  • Attendance, surveys, and interviews will help ALA learn about its impact and improve this pilot in the future. Key questions that will guide this evaluation are the following:
  • How was the program implemented?
  • What was the impact of this program? How did hotspots, laptops, and/or financial capability programs support participants to use online banking resources? Other important online resources?
  • How can this program be improved? ALA and PIE Org will work in partnership with selected libraries and support them throughout the evaluation process.

Eligible Expenses

Community Connect grant funds are restricted to project-related expenses. Eligible expenses may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Library staff time
  • Honoraria for program facilitators
  • Payment to project partners for services and support provided
  • Financial literacy books or other collection materials
  • Project supplies
  • Promotion and publicity

Grant funds may not be used to support indirect costs (e.g. general library administrative expenses) or as donations to other organizations.

Application and Submission Information

Applications will be accepted from February 14 – April 3, 2023. Applications must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time on April 3, 2023. Late or incomplete applications, and applications from ineligible institutions, will not be reviewed. Applications and support materials may not be submitted by mail or e-mail.

Getting Started

To submit a proposal, go to the online application form and complete the following steps. If this is your first time submitting an application through our grants management system, you may want to first review our How to Apply webpage. Please note that the grants platform requires a login that is separate from ALA membership credentials.

Note: ALA recognizes that libraries that most need support are often those with the least capacity to apply for grants due to inadequate resources and staffing. If you feel you need support developing your application, please contact the Public Programs Office at or 312.280.5045 to speak with a member of the ALA Public Programs Office staff.

If you encounter problems interacting with our online grants management platform due to difficulties with assistive technologies, please contact or call 312.280.5045. Please also include information about the nature of your accessibility barrier so we can best provide support.

To apply for the Community Connect: Fostering Digital Access grant, you must complete the following steps:


1. Create/Access Your Account

Applications will be completed via the ALA PPO grants management platform.

  • Existing Users should log into the grants management platform.
  • New Users should sign up for an account. Please follow the instructions below.
    • Additional information for how to create an account can also be found on the How to Apply website.
    • Watch a tutorial about accessing the site and how to create an account.

Create a New Account (New Users)

  • Visit the Log on page.
    • It’s recommended that you bookmark this page in your internet browser for ease of access.
  • Click “Create New Account”.
  • Enter your personal information then click “Next”.
    • The email address you enter will act as your username when logging on to the site in the future.
    • Fields with an asterisk next to them are required fields, and you must complete them before moving forward.
    • Note you can always click on the “Cancel Account Creation” button to abandon the registration process.
  • Create a password for your account and click “Create Account”
  • Upon creating an account, you will be taken to the Email Confirmation page, so you can confirm that you are receiving emails from the system.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions and click “Continue” to finish the registration process.
  • Now you have an account in the system; and remember, this is an account that you will use for both present and future applications.

If at any time after creating an account, you can’t remember your password, you may click on the “Forgot Your Password?” link on the Logon page, enter your email address, and you will be sent a link to reset your password.

Ensure you receive messages regarding your application! Emails regarding your application status will come from Save this email address as a contact to ensure messages are not marked as spam.

Once signed in, go to Active Requests and click “apply” to bring up a list of available grant opportunities. Select the blue “apply” button next to the Community Connect: Fostering Digital Access opportunity to begin your application of this opportunity.

2. Enter Project Name

To begin your application, enter CCFostering into the “Project Name” field. Please do not enter an original project name.

3. Complete Project Director Information

To complete this section, provide all the information that is requested about the Project Director. Note: The project director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating the entire proposed project. They will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution.

4. Complete Library Information

To complete this section, provide all the information about the applying library including type, total population served, and community type.

5. Write Grant Narratives

Before you compose the narrative part of this application, we strongly recommend that you read these guidelines carefully. Please ensure that you fully answer the questions listed below in each section. If you do not, your application is unlikely to be competitive.

  1. Patron Internet Access Describe your community’s current internet connectivity and digital literacy. Do library patrons have internet access at home? Are they able to access educational, personal finance, health, or other important, trustworthy information online from home?
  2. Digital Capability Briefly describe your library’s existing capacity to meet the digital capability needs of patrons, including collections, services, and programming. How did you learn about your community’s needs for digital capability programming?
  3. Personal Finance Needs Briefly describe your library’s existing capacity to meet the personal finance needs of patrons, including collections, services, and programming. How did you learn about your community’s needs for financial capability programming?
  4. Benefits to Target Population Describe how increased internet access, digital literacy, and financial capability would benefit individuals in your target population?
  5. Proposed Project Plan Please describe how you plan to implement the project. How will you publicize and promote the hotspot and laptop lending? How will you market the required programs? A general description of how you envision it, with relevant examples of previous programming, is fine.
  6. Evaluation

ALA is committed to understanding the impact of its programs and gathering data that will help bring this program to more libraries in the future. As a result, libraries chosen for this grant will be required to collect data on their programs, with support from ALA and evaluation consultants.

This section will ask you to indicate your library’s capacity and comfort level with the following, using a ranking system of 1 (no capacity or comfort level) to 5 (high capacity and comfort level).

  • Implement surveys for hotspot and laptop lending program participants
  • Implement surveys for financial capability program participants
  • Track program attendance and repeat participants
  • Participate in an interview about the program
  • Collect information from program participants (I.e., capture success stories)
  • Document/capture the circulation of the library’s financial texts during the program

7. E-Sign Application

An application for a Community Connect: Fostering Digital Access grant is an application for a grant from the ALA, using funding provided by an award from Capital One Bank. 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 information that is requested.

8. Review and Edit Your Application

9. Submit Your Application

Once you have completed all parts of your application, you may submit it by selecting the “Submit” button. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 CT on April 3, 2023. Applications submitted after that time will be ineligible.

Note that 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 of your application.

Ensure you receive messages regarding your application! Emails regarding your application status will come from Please save this email address as a contact to prevent notification emails from being marked spam.

Application Review

Each eligible application will be assessed by a review panel of library workers. Capital One Bank and ALA will make final decisions based on peer reviewer feedback, and other possible considerations such as geographic distribution. Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity and completeness of the application. Has the applicant supplied all required information, including all sections of the proposal narrative?
  • Demonstrated need for a program of this nature in their community.
  • Ability to carry out a successful series of programs and device lending.
  • The quality of the marketing and outreach plans and the likelihood of engaging the target audiences.

Award Administration Information

Application Deadline: April 3, 2023

Award Notification: May 11, 2023

Grant Implementation Period: August 1, 2023 – July 31, 2024

Final Report Due: September 2, 2024

Contact Information

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

Public Programs Office

800-545-2433, ext. 5045 (include project name in subject line)