Libraries pivot to survive pandemic
“Libraries store the energy that fuels the Imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life,” said famed writer and producer Sidney Sheldon. During COVID-19, libraries across the country have had to re-imagine themselves so they can continue fueling imaginations and serving communities. This National Library Week and on this National Library Workers Day, we celebrate our beloved libraries—and the librarians who sustained library services through the challenges of the past year.
Bridging the digital divide has become essential during the pandemic as many communities, particularly rural ones, do not have sufficient access to Wi-Fi or computers for students. Libraries have helped fill the void by providing hot spot access and in some cases laptops computers to students. According to the Public Library Association, 93 percent of public libraries report leaving Wi-Fi on when buildings were closed to the public. This connectivity has allowed patrons to access the internet when they needed it most over the past year.
Libraries have adapted to COVID-19 challenges in unique ways. Although library parking lots may not have been designed for curbside pick-ups, many across the country are offering the service to meet the needs of communities. They’re helping offset virtual learning and meeting fatigue with take-and-make programming, which allows patrons to go to a library and pick up supplies for hands-on activities that supplement online programs. In addition, libraries have invested in digital services such as Hoopla to ensure expanded and increased access to online content.
The recently passed COVID-19 relief bill contains $200 million specifically for public libraries. This is welcome news, as libraries will play a vital role in community recovery in the years ahead. A 2010 study by the American Library Association found that libraries were crucial during the economic recession, offering valuable job-seeking technology, training, and resources. Libraries today are preparing for even greater demand for their services.
To support that work, we’re pleased to share Visualizing Funding for Libraries. Candid created this grant-mapping platform with generous support from the Knight Foundation and continues to offer it as a free resource with funding from the Tocker Foundation. Library professionals and supporters use the platform to identify funding opportunities for innovative projects and community solutions. Visualizing Funding for Libraries contains grants from Candid’s database awarded to public, academic, school, and digital libraries, along with special collections and archives.
The map highlights more than $5 billion in private funding for libraries since 2006. Although we are still collecting data for 2020, the map already contains more than $21 million in grants in 2020. Funding includes large awards such as $1 million from the Annenberg Foundation to the United States Library of Congress. But the majority of grants are much more modest, such as a $5,060 grant from the Innovia Foundation to Stevens County Rural Library District supplying PPE for local libraries.
In addition, Candid’s Funding Information Network partners with nearly 400 public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions nationwide and around the world. Through this network, Candid provides local nonprofits and community organizations free access to fundraising, nonprofit management, and capacity-building materials and services, including Foundation Directory. The directory offers data and insights into more than 140,000 foundations and corporate donors and 13 million grants. As libraries began closing because of the pandemic, Candid pivoted this program from in-person to virtual. A librarian in the South shared, “Many local nonprofits have used our [Candid] access to research grants for their programs. One in particular, a local organization that repairs bicycles, secured funds for a program to give used bicycles to youth in the community.”