ALA Announces COVID Library Relief Fund, ReMember Fund

The American Library Association launched two relief funds at the beginning of April. The $1.25 million ALA COVID Library Relief Fund will offer grants of $30,000–$50,000 to public, school, academic, and tribal libraries across the United States and U.S. Territories that have been affected by pandemic-influenced budget contractions. The ReMember Fund will ensure that ALA members financially impacted by COVID-19 can maintain their membership.

ALA logoThe American Library Association launched two relief funds at the beginning of April. The $1.25 million ALA COVID Library Relief Fund will offer grants of $30,000–$50,000 to public, school, academic, and tribal libraries across the United States and U.S. Territories that have been affected by pandemic-influenced budget contractions. The ReMember Fund will ensure that ALA members financially impacted by COVID-19 can maintain their membership.

 

LARGE-SCALE RELIEF

Announced on March 8, ALA COVID Relief Fund grants, available through the end of 2021, are intended to augment, amplify, and broaden existing library operations and services, including technology access, collections, online instruction, staffing, and outreach, as well as adding new services. Libraries, library systems, and districts that have seen reductions in funding affecting their ability to serve their community are invited to apply, with an emphasis on those engaged with traditionally underserved populations.

“The impetus for it came from watching what was happening across the landscape of libraries of all kinds,” ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall told LJ. “Funding was being cut across the board for libraries at a time when their public relies on them the most. We knew that we had a lot of grants and programs in smaller amounts, but we deliberately went out to try to find funding that would support libraries in terms of having enough funds to continue a program that might have been eliminated, expand and scale a program, replicate a program or services, or underwrite staffing in key areas.” What makes the COVID Library Relief Fund unique among ALA’s support packages, she added, is “the intensity of responsiveness and the scale of funding available.”

The fund is administered through ALA’s Chapter Relations Office. Funding is supported by Acton Family Giving, as part of its pandemic response grantmaking. Seed funding was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as part of its efforts to bolster educational and cultural organizations experiencing economic hardships from the pandemic.

“We are at a time where the three most important quality of life indicators—access to education, employment, and public health—all are reliant on consistent access to high quality information, as well as broadband,” said Hall. Approaching the funders, “We were able to say this is this is a moment where libraries' work is really primary. We are at this point where, if we're going to have any type of a recovery or any type of public safety plan, it has to be predicated on robust library services. We were able to say that and be heard by Mellon and by Acton.”

Applying libraries will need to demonstrate that they have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, Hall noted, particularly rural or dense urban service areas; Indigenous, Black, or Latinx communities or those with dense immigrant populations; and tribal communities.

“Libraries that have had support in the past for a critical program may find now that that program has been defunded,” she added. “For those libraries and administrators, managers, who know that there are some critical gaps, this is the program for them—this is exactly where they should go to first.”

Libraries that have not taken advantage of ALA assistance in the past should also consider taking the opportunity to look at where their community’s needs might lie. “There's going to be some irreparable interruptions in terms of education as well as employment,” said Hall. “For libraries that are seeing that happening in their community, or who want to know who in their communities is vulnerable to that reality, this is a grant that'll support that as well.”

Applications will be accepted online through May 20. Library systems and school districts may submit only one application each, but that application can request support for one or more library or target audience within that system or district.

ALA will hold a one-hour information session on applying for ALA COVID Library Relief funding on Thursday, April 22, at 2 p.m. Central time. Those interested can register here.

 

REMEMBERING MEMBERS

The ReMember Fund—rolled out on April 6, National Library Workers Day—will cover at least 100 one-year basic ALA memberships for furloughed or unemployed library staff, beginning in May. The fund is open to members who hold current regular, international, library support staff or non-salaried membership types and members whose memberships have lapsed within the last three years, but who plan to continue working in library services.

The fund was proposed by the ALA Membership Committee in January, in response to queries about how to support out-of-work library workers who are unable to cover their memberships—many of whom cover those costs out of pocket. While ALA has a system for gift memberships, these require that the giver know the recipient. And although at least two divisions, Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), have funds in place for members in need who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color, ALA wanted to broaden that reach.

“A lot of our library workers are going through very challenging times,” ALA President Julius C. Jefferson Jr. told LJ. “We felt that what better time for members to be engaged, and to remain engaged?”

Depending on the availability of funds, memberships will be awarded monthly. The first 100 will be covered by seed funding from ALA, with further sponsorships dependent on tax-deductible donations from members (who can contribute here). Jefferson hopes that those helped through the fund will donate when they can. ALA raised nearly $2,000 and received 10 applications in the fund’s first week. Confidential applications will be reviewed by ALA’s Membership Relations and Services office.

Recipients who renew their membership by June will still be able to register for the ALA Annual Conference at no cost through the waived registration fee for furloughed and laid off members.

In addition to ReMember funding, ALA continues to offer members the option of paying dues through semiannual installments with a nominal service fee, discounted non-salaried memberships for those earning less than $30,000 a year, and an extended membership grace period of five months during the pandemic.

“We've been in difficult times before, and we will be through difficult times in the future,” said Jefferson. “I want folks to know, when we ask ‘Why should I be a member of ALA? What is ALA doing for me?’ in addition to advocating for libraries, ALA is also trying to support members.”

Helping members helps the industry as a whole, added Hall. “We want to see library workers continue to learn and move along with the field, and not have that interrupted. We do hope that that will be ongoing, for as long as there is a robust need.”

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Lisa Peet

lpeet@mediasourceinc.com

Lisa Peet is News Editor for Library Journal.

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