Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

Libraries across the commonwealth will receive thousands of dollars, thanks to the American Rescue Plan.

DANVILLE—Do you remember when you first learned to read? Ironically, there aren’t many words that can accurately describe the magical feeling of having an entire world of books suddenly at your fingertips. Same goes for walking into a library, having the opportunity to select any book on the shelves to take home and explore. 

Nowadays, libraries serve as central hubs that don’t just rotate books from household to household. They also provide internet services, copying services, and classes geared toward the interests of the people in the neighborhood. 

In other words, libraries are important strongholds in communities across the commonwealth and country. 

“The role of libraries has never changed: connect people with the information resources they need. Only the delivery format has changed—now it’s the pixel and not the page,” said Nan Carmack, the Library of Virginia’s director of library development and networking division. “Libraries enable individuals to make up their own minds, chart their own courses and serve as a bridge over the digital divide.”

A 2019 Gallup poll found that adult visits to the library outpaced trips to the movie theater by more than double. On average that year, adults took 10.5 trips to their local library, compared to five theater experiences and attending five live sporting events. The study also found that people falling within three categories were the most frequent library visitors. They included young adults, women, and those living in low-income households.

Soon, libraries across the country will receive a financial boost geared toward continuing their vast efforts to support their local communities, all thanks to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. 

ARPA and Your Local Library 

The ARPA—championed by President Joe Biden and the Democrats—provided $200 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and billions more for library-eligible programs, including over $7 billion for broadband and devices, according to the American Library Association.

Carmack also serves as one of the lead project managers for ARPA grants at the Library of Virginia; the commonwealth was allocated more than $2.2 million. 

For the Library of Virginia, that means a few upgrades.

“We purchased a number of digital assets that every resident can use, focused on school remediation and workforce development,” Carmack said.

While not yet finalized, Carmack shared current plans that show libraries in 46 counties, 21 regions, 21 cities, and three towns across Virginia stand to benefit from the funds. 

The proposed funding allocations range from $1,170 to more than $96,000.

Helping a Local Library

The Ruby B. Archie Public Library has a middle-of-the-road proposed allocation of $21,699. The Danville library serves a community of more than 40,000 residents in a 43.7 square mile footprint. 

Photo by Amie Knowles

While there’s no definitive timeline at the moment, the space has some big updates planned if its application gets approved by IMLS.

“We have requested to use the funds to purchase an interactive smart board, furniture, and additional equipment to convert one of our programming spaces into a hybrid virtual and in-person meeting space,” said Russell Carter, the Ruby B. Archie Library library director.

That’s because teachers, tutors, and homeschool associates in the area, among others, need more places they can host virtual meetings. This year, Danville Public Schools created its own virtual academy. At the start of the school year, more than 900 students signed up.

City leaders also often use the library to host virtual interviews and public meetings, according to Carter.

If granted, the funds will also provide necessary upgrades to a programming room within the Danville library building. The current space features public wireless internet, six public iPads provided by the City of Danville Information Technology Department, and three adjustable tables.

The proposed upgrades will create a community space capable of hosting both in-person and virtual meetings. In addition, the space will also assist programming staff as they deliver programs and offer services. 

“I started my career at Ruby B. Archie Library—formerly Danville Public Library—almost two years ago. It was not, however, my first time in the building. I grew up visiting this library once a week with my mom and sister until I started school and even then, we came often during the summer. The impact the services rendered here have played on my life have been immense,” Carter said. “I firmly believe that mine is not the only story like this and that libraries enhance communities through individualized experiences. It is our passion to connect our patrons with the resources they need for their pursuit of leisure, education and information.”

Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. You can reach her at amie@couriernewsroom.com .