Parnell Library among grant funding recipients

Published 11:10 am Thursday, April 22, 2021

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MONTEVALLO — Parnell Memorial Library in Montevallo will benefit from a portion of nearly $1 million in funding for small and rural libraries.

The American Library Association (ALA) announced the funding, which is the second grant distribution as part of the association’s Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this project focusing on small and rural libraries, and can’t wait to begin using this grant to help create community dialogue in Montevallo,” said Director Savannah Kitchens of Parnell Memorial Library.

The funding will enable libraries to lead community engagement efforts in more than 300 small and rural communities on topics like the COVID pandemic, mental health, public land use, the climate crisis and Black history. Grant funds may be used to cover a range of expenses, including staff time and collections and technology purchases.

“Through community engagement, libraries are continuing their important work on literacy and access, while also working to fill gaps in other areas that may not have fallen to libraries in the past,” said ALA president Julius C. Jefferson. “We are excited to provide the resources for hundreds of libraries to take on new challenges in their communities and look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish.”

The 317 funded proposals — public, academic, school/K-12, special and tribal libraries — represent 45 U.S. states. Eligibility was limited to communities with populations less than 25,000 in accordance with Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) definitions.

Two hundred grants were awarded during the first round of Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries in January, for a total of 517 participating libraries.

Each library will receive online staff training in how to lead conversations, a skills vital to 21st-century librarianship, and $3,000 to support their proposed community engagement work. Community engagement is the process of working collaboratively with community members — library users, residents, faculty, students or partner organizations — to address issues for the betterment of the community.

ALA announced plans in fall 2020 to award nearly $2 million to small and rural libraries in 2020 and 2021 to help them address issues of concern in their communities.

Since 2014, ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative has re-imagined the role libraries play in supporting communities. Libraries of all types have utilized free dialogue and deliberation training and resources to lead community and campus forums; take part in anti-violence activities; provide a space for residents to come together and discuss challenging topics; and have productive conversations with civic leaders, library trustees and staff. The initiative is part of ALA’s longtime commitment to preparing library workers for the expanding role of libraries. Learn more at

Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries is offered in partnership with the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL).