EveryLibrary Creates Fund to Help Library Workers in Need Because of COVID-19 Shutdowns

Librarians and other library staff, especially part-time workers and those who have been laid off or forced to take pay cuts or personal leave because of COVID-19 shutdowns, are often struggling to pay their bills, the promised $1,200 stimulus check notwithstanding. To address that need, the EveryLibrary Institute has launched the Help a Library Worker Out (HALO) Fund.

UPDATE: The HALO Fund is ready to start taking applications on a cash-available basis. You can apply at everylibraryinstitute.org/haloapply.

HALO Fund logo

The inclusion of $50 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in the CARES Act Economic Relief Plan legislation is good news for libraries everywhere. But librarians and other library staff, especially part-time workers and those who have been laid off or forced to take pay cuts or personal leave, are often struggling to pay their own bills, the promised $1,200 stimulus check notwithstanding. To address that need, the EveryLibrary Institute, the educational and charitable arm of political action committee EveryLibrary, has launched the Help a Library Worker Out (HALO) Fund—a mutual aid fundraising drive for library workers, staff, and librarians in financial need because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we're looking to do is provide a little gap filling,” EveryLibrary Executive Director John Chrastka told LJ. He was inspired by the UK’s CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), which has had a benevolent fund for a number of years. Members can contribute to the fund, which is available to other members in times of need.

“In any economic crisis, folks who are hourly are affected more dramatically than folks who are salaried,” said Chrastka. “Folks who are in areas that are already economically depressed will be affected more than folks who are in more economically stable places. We're hoping that being early to this conversation about mutual aid and relief will help us build a good enough bank so that the library industry can work with trust, and we don't have to throw money at multiple GoFundMe’s.”

 

SMALL GRANTS ON A TRUST SYSTEM

The HALO Fund will make small, unrestricted grants to United States–based individuals to help with housing expenses, child care, groceries, cell phone or internet, gas, insurance, or other bills. Library workers, staff, or librarians who have lost wages because of a COVID-19 related layoff or reduction in hours are eligible, as are those who are still employed but whose spouse, significant other, co-parent, or housemate has lost wages that affect their household income. “If you're down one paycheck and you still have a job as a librarian, that matters to us too,” said Chrastka.

The application process will open after the first $2,500 has been raised. While that doesn’t sound like much to aim for, said Chrastka, donations are accepted in increments of $5 and up, so it may take some time to build up the pot. (Disclosure: the reporter and editor of this piece have made personal contributions.)

To help get the project moving, the Awesome Libraries Chapter of the Awesome Foundation has made a $1,000 kickoff donation.

"We were all really inspired by Alison Macrina's work organizing the Library COVID-19 Solidarity Network, and we knew that library closures would have an economic impact on library workers,” Joshua Finnell, cofounder of the Awesome Libraries Chapter, told LJ. “With our April grant, our trustees specifically wanted to provide funding that directly supported library workers who have lost wages because of a Coronavirus-related layoff. The Awesome Libraries Chapter of the Awesome Foundation is excited to provide the initial funding for the Help a Library Worker Out campaign, and we look forward to signal boosting this initiative across our networks.”

In addition, Urban Librarians Unite has authorized a one-to-one matching donation of up to $1,200—if you donate $5, the HALO Fund gets $10, until the limit is hit.

The two-part application for support is confidential and simple to complete. The first part requires requesters to state that they are a library worker, staffer, or librarian. The second asks how much they need, within tiers; individual grants will probably be at $100, $250, and $500 levels. Applicants don’t need to provide proof of where the money will go.

“This is one of those moments when you've got to trust,” Chrastka told LJ. “The people who are donating are donating in good faith, and trust that the people who are asking have a legitimate need. I'm not going to police people who can prove that they work in a library and who are going through some sort of financial distress that necessitates them to ask for help. This is not some sort of endowment that we're trying to spend down. This is a response to an immediate crisis.”

He added, “I wish it could be, but this isn't going to be the difference between sending your kid to college and not. This is like, we're a little short this month—it would be nice to be able to buy eggs.”

Money will be administered via check, PayPal, or Venmo, depending on the recipients’ wishes, and will be given away until the fund runs out—although Chrastka intends to keep asking for donations. In the meantime, however, he just wants to get the ball rolling. “This is a rapid prototype because the situation is so fluid,” he said, “and we are, as EveryLibrary Institute, uniquely positioned in this industry respond rapidly.”

The EveryLibrary Institute will regrant 90 percent of the monies raised through the HALO Fund. The remaining 10 percent will go toward the direct expenses of running the campaign—3 percent to the payment platform Stripe, 4 percent for promotions, and 3 percent for overhead. The EveryLibrary Institute is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so all donations are tax-deductible.

Chrastka has faith that the library community will step up. “I've seen it in places like post-Katrina New Orleans and post-riot Ferguson, and every time that there's a natural disaster. It's a little bit like It's a Wonderful Life when the person says, ‘I just need $30.’ This is the crisis moment that Americans, and people everywhere, tend to shine through. And I'm really hoping to be a conduit, and a connector, for that hope that they have.”

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Lisa Peet

lpeet@mediasourceinc.com

Lisa Peet is News Editor for Library Journal.

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