Lynette Roberson

Lynette Roberson

The Little Elm Public Library has been awarded $17,000 through a CARES Act grant funded by the United States Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC).

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law March 27, provides economic relief to protect residents from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

The TSLAC CARES Act Grant Program funds operating expenditures directly related to the COVID-19 emergency, including the purchase of supplies, materials and technology to support the goals of increasing digital access and inclusion.

The library, along with other town of Little Elm departments, closed to the public on March 17, to stop the spread of COVID-19. The library quickly switched its public services online, offering virtual storytimes and other programs via Facebook, Zoom, its website and its YouTube channel.

During its closure, the Library experienced a 100 percent increase in digital e-card sign-ups and the downloading of e-books and e-audio and has handed out 80-100 “grab-and-go” craft kits each week.

The TSLAC CARES Act funds will be used for the purchase of additional e-books and e-audio materials, protective equipment for the public and staff, additional mobile hotspots, computer hardware, and software including BrainFuse online tutoring, which will be free for use and can be accessed remotely with a library card.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” said Library Manager Lynette Roberson. “I thought about all the community needs that have arisen due to COVID-19; some of our needs may be greater because we’re smaller. I knew our Library had as much chance as any other to receive a grant, so I applied.”

Of 116 total applicants, 38 libraries were selected to receive grant funding, with Little Elm Public Library placing sixth.

Although the library remains closed to the public, staff continue to work behind the scenes to process hold requests for physical materials and contactless curbside pickup services.

“Our curbside pickup service has been extremely popular,” Roberson said. “Patrons simply log in to their accounts using their library card number and password (typically the last four digits of their library card number) and place items on hold. We run the Holds report a few times each day, pull requests and check them out to the patron’s card. We call when items are ready for pickup, and patrons just park out front in the designated spaces, call the library’s main number, and bring their items out to them. People are thrilled to be still able to check out books and DVDs. We pull several hundred requests each week, which keeps us very busy.

“When we do reopen to the public, we’ll look a bit different,” Roberson said. “We’ve reconfigured our physical spaces to ensure social distancing for employees and the public. We’ll have to amend our service delivery model for the same reason, but our goal is to continue to offer the best service possible to our patrons while keeping everybody safe.”

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