Leaders with Twin-Cities libraries say grant funding will bring new services to the community

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MCLEAN COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Thursday, Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White announced nearly $6 million will be allocated to libraries across Illinois, including several in Central Illinois.

Funding comes from a combination of sources, provided through the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA.)

The $6 million is being allocated to libraries across the state under three categories:
Bouncing Back From the Pandemic; Expanding Digital Inclusion; and On the Road to Recovery.

The Normal Public Library received more than $47,000 under the Bouncing Back From the Pandemic category. The goal: to provide job readiness resources.

Rhiannon Shoults, Public Services Librarian with Normal Public Library, said the bulk of their funding will be going toward two standalone office pods.

“We don’t currently have study room space in the library, so we hear from a lot of patrons who say, ‘oh I need a place to do virtual meetings, I need a place to do virtual interviews,’ so much of everything has moved online now,” said Shoults.

She said the funding will also go towards circulating technology kits.

“They will be kits that have Chromebooks, hotspots in them, something that the pandemic has really laid bare is just the digital divide, so much of the world went online and not everybody has access to that,” said Shoults.

She said the rest of the funds will go toward a series of speakers and job programs, ranging from resume building to networking, to digital skills development.

At the Bloomington Public Library, which received $11,000 plus in funding, Electronic Resources Librarian Mimi Davis said they will use some of their funds from the Bouncing Back From the Pandemic Category, to buy more mobile hotspots.

“We’ve also partnered with a lot of area agencies to bring us 20 programs designed for people to get back into the workforce,” said Davis.

Davis added, those programs include resume writing classes, cover letter classes, Microsoft Office classes, and even some mock interview classes as well.

Leaders with both libraries said some of those programs have already started, but are free to the public. They added that the best way to register for programming is to head to their websites, or give them a call during business hours.

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