PGCMLS Vaccine Hunter Hotline: A Case Study in Advancing Equity with Library Foundation and Corporate Philanthropy

Wednesday, August 18, 2021, 1:00 pm Eastern

In April 2021, the Prince George's County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) in Maryland and PGCMLS Foundation launched a bilingual (English/Spanish) COVID-19 Vaccine Hunter Hotline to assist customers with direct vaccine bookings, pre-registrations, and eligibility/access questions. The hotline was made possible by the Capital One Foundation and PGCMLS Foundation, which supported the Library's vaccine education efforts and hiring temporary staff to operate the hotline. The principal aim of the hotline was to assist non-English speakers, senior citizens, and individuals with digital literacy limitations with accessing life-saving vaccinations as quickly as possible. This panel will discuss the hotline as a case study for how library foundations, library staff, and corporate philanthropy can combine to rapidly develop and deploy emergency relief services. The concept and funding proposal for this program was developed within 72 hours, funding secured within 10 days, and the program launched within 2 weeks, including hiring temporary staff and promoting the service, which received significant earned media attention throughout the Washington, DC region and national financial press.

Prince George's County, Maryland is a majority Black (64.4%) and Latin (19.5%) community adjacent to Washington, DC. The community was the hardest hit jurisdiction in Maryland and the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) region by COVID-19, with glaring systemic inequities that have existed for decades becoming more blatantly apparent. These inequities were exacerbated by the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, which had numerous barriers to access locally. The Library and PGCMLS Foundation, which began collaborating with Capital One on their Ready, Set, Bank online banking literacy program in 2021 (for seniors and Spanish speakers), proposed the Vaccine Hotline and education effort to Capital One with evidence of the urgent community need for assistance. The Library leveraged its role as the most trusted government agency locally to assist over 1,100 customers with obtaining vaccines in the first 6 weeks of the hotline's operations. Using the social media vaccine hunter model, the Library's team worked with individuals to identify their personal situation and then obtained appointments for them or directed them to clinics that would meet their needs. Assistance ranged from directing homebound customers to mobile vaccine clinics that could make house calls, securing appointments at retail pharmacies within walking distance for individuals with no vehicle or public transit access, advising undocumented individuals about their rights with vaccine access, and securing second dose appointments for customers who had difficulties with their first dose providers.

Learning Outcomes

Participants will:

  • Be able to develop and implement a library program or service that aligns library foundation and corporate philanthropy support for addressing local healthcare inequities.
  • Understand how to pitch a new service to funders across sectors based on a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the needs of underserved populations.
  • Be able to leverage social impact stories for long-term philanthropic partnerships with corporate foundations, based on shared goals with advancing equity in a local setting.


Nicholas A. Brown
COO for Communication and Outreach, PGCMLS 

Nicholas Alexander Brown is a Honduran-American library executive, arts producer, and musician based in Prince George's County, Maryland. He currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Communication and Outreach at the Prince George's County Memorial Library System. He previously served as director of special productions & initiatives at Washington Performing Arts, where he led Mars Arts D.C. In 2019, Brown was named to the Library Journal Movers & Shakers - Innovators list for his work in programming and community engagement. Brown served on the Librarian of Congress' strategic programming team (Office of Special Events and Public Programs). He held the position of music specialist/concert producer for the Library's Music Division from 2012-2017, programming the historic Concerts from the Library of Congress series. Brown co-produced the Library of Congress Bibliodiscotheque series, featuring Gloria Gaynor and Tim Gunn. He is currently an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Library and Information Science at The Catholic University of America and a past president of the District of Columbia Library Association. Brown previously worked in the Office of the President and Provost at Harvard University, and held internships in the Office of the First Lady at The White House (Obama Administration) and in the Boston Symphony Orchestra Press Office.

Shelley R. O'Brien
Director of Development and Donor Engagement, PGCMLS

For the past 25 years, Shelley O’Brien has been leading successful national and regional nonprofit advancement programs. Currently serving as the Director of Development and Donor Engagement for the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS), she is the first staff fundraiser for the Library and restarted the PGCMLS Foundation in 2019. Her emphasis is on community-driven fundraising. Shelley’s career has focused on fundraising for programs that empower and serve women and their families. This includes fundraising on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Park and Recreation Association, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and the University of Kansas, School of Social Welfare.  Shelley is a graduate of the University of Kansas and has a MA from Baker University. She is currently working on her Master in Information and Library Science from San Jose State University, with an anticipated graduation in December 2021. In addition, she is a CFRE – Certified Fund Raising Executive and a CRE – Certified Association Executive. As an active volunteer, Shelley served eight years on the nominating and governance committee of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee/Team U.S.A. Locally she is a sustainer and former board member of the Junior League of Washington D.C. A political junkie at heart, Shelley has volunteered for countless political campaigns and knocked on thousands of doors for progressive causes and candidates.

Lia Jones
Principal Associate, Community Impact and Investment, Capital One Foundation


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