Will County Executive Provides Update on ARPA Library Investments
Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant is spotlighting $1.2 million in grant opportunities being provided to local library districts as part of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocations. The funding is supporting ongoing efforts to expand service and address needs from 21 Will County library districts.
“Libraries serve as hubs for learning and provide essential services for people of all ages,” said County Executive Bertino-Tarrant. “These investments are ensuring that libraries throughout the county can expand those services to reach more of their community. Now, more than ever, we need to stand with our libraries.”
The ARPA funding is supporting library projects that will help with the increased demand for the vital services libraries provide in the community. The projects include expanding access to remote and digital services, new smart lockers, and 24/7 pick-up/drop-off options.
Four of these smart locker projects are also being used to expand service into Will County communities that currently do not have a library branch, with $195,000 in grant funding supporting expansion efforts by the Aurora Public Library District, Fossil Ridge Public Library District, Fountaindale Public Library District, and Manhattan-Elwood Public Library District.
"We're tremendously excited to receive this grant, which will be used to purchase lockers for our community," said President of the Fountaindale Public Library District Board of Trustees Celeste Bermejo. "These lockers will allow our patrons to pick up their library materials where and when it best fits their schedule—including before and after hours. We hope the addition of this flexible pickup option will make our library even more accessible to everyone in our community."
These service expansions include a $269,000 grant allocation to the Joliet Public Library to purchase a customized bookmobile and outreach vehicle. This mobile library will reach areas without access to a branch, such as the East side of Joliet. The vehicle’s physical and digital book inventory will be customized based on the community it is serving. It will also serve as a hub for library services, including signing up for library cards, material check-outs and returns, and free Wi-Fi.
"We are extremely grateful for the funds from this grant and the opportunity to purchase an outreach vehicle for the Joliet Public Library," said Joliet Public Library Executive Director Megan Millen. "There are many adults and children in our community that are unable to access library services due to lack of transportation or other barriers. With this vehicle, we will be able to reach underserved areas of service and connect more people with their library than ever before."
Of the 21 library districts receiving grant funding, eight have already completed their identified projects to expand service and access. These include $95,000 to the Naperville Public Library for expanded digital content, $70,000 to the New Lenox Public Library District for health-focused renovations, and $145,000 to the White Oak Library District to replace all 150 public computers used at all three of its locations.
"The $145,000 in ARPA grant funding has been crucial for the White Oak Library District,” said White Oak Library District Director Scott Pointon. “With this funding, we were able to replace 150 outdated computers that had been in use at our three libraries since 2012. This updated technology will help our younger residents achieve success with their school projects and help older residents to create resumes, complete projects, and grow as lifelong learners."
Will County has received $134.1 million in ARPA funding from the federal government as part of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. These funds have been fully allocated into the “Pillars” of Health, Economic Development, Infrastructure, and Local Government Unmet Needs, which includes Library Districts. Will County is now entering Phase Two of the allocation process, which includes ensuring that the funded programs are fully implemented and making residents aware of expanded local services.
For a full listing of library grants, and other ARPA allocations, visit www.willcountyillinois.org/libraries.