Fifty Oklahoma institutions and organizations have been awarded Digital Inclusion Grants totaling $290,000 from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, courtesy of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the CARES Act legislation passed by Congress.
This is the second of the CARES Act grants that ODL has awarded. The first grant addressed the health and safety needs of libraries and cultural institutions. You can see these PPE Grant recipients here. Together, the two grants provided $350,000 for COVID-19 response.
This second grant was designed to help public libraries, tribal libraries and cultural centers, adult literacy programs, and museums expand access to their digital services and enhance digital inclusion in their communities. The current pandemic has been a harsh reminder of the digital divide that exists in our state and nation, and ODL planned these CARES Act grants to help more Oklahomans access important services online.
For Oklahoma’s public libraries, State Aid payments can mean everything from enhancing services to keeping the doors open. Although we don’t know what these difficult state budget times have in store for the future of State Aid, we do know what a difference the program has made over the years.
A bit of history…
Oklahoma’s State Aid efforts have been going on nearly 50 years, and the payments have been leveraged to help raise the level of library services across the state.
In the late 1960’s funds budgeted for State Aid were offered to a limited number of libraries through an application process. By the late 1970s, a larger legislative appropriation and a robust State Aid Rules and Regulations policy allowed payments to all “eligible” libraries, which served to increase the number of public libraries that became “legally-established” as part of their local government. These libraries continue to be motivated to meet service criteria based on the populations they serve.
The use of State Aid funds as an incentive for establishing—and then elevating—basic library services has proven successful time and time again. Over the years, the promise of State Aid funding has encouraged libraries to schedule evening and weekend hours of operation, to hire degreed directors, to establish various policies and strategic plans, and acquire various technologies for use by the public—from fax machines and photocopiers to public access internet.