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July 28, 2021
For More Information Contact:

JP O'Hare

(518) 474-1201



New York State Education Department Announces Availability of $6.2 Million in Federal Funds to Assist Libraries and Other Cultural Institutions Address the Digital Divide

Visit the State Library Website for Funding Available
to Each Reference and Research Library Resources Council

More than $6.2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds are available to help libraries and other cultural institutions across the state address the digital divide, increase access to the state’s cultural history and expand student access to digital learning materials, State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced today.

“Libraries are critically important to communities, playing a crucial part in New York’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said. “There is a moral and an economic imperative to remove the inequities that stand in the way of success for whole segments of our student population, as highlighted when school buildings were shut down and many students had little or no access to remote learning. Staff at libraries statewide stepped up to help students and families during the crisis and are doing so again by helping to provide more equitable access to digital services.”

“These funds will support collaborative efforts to find real and sustainable solutions to address the digital divide in New York State,” Commissioner Rosa said. “This significant investment represents meaningful progress in achieving our vision of digital equity and inclusion for our students and their families. Our libraries will continue to develop bold, creative and critical ways to serve communities during recovery from the pandemic.”

Funds to Libraries and Cultural Institutions

The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded the ARPA funds to the New York State Library to help communities respond directly to the pandemic and related economic and community needs. The funds will be used to help establish equitable approaches to digital inclusion and services from all types of libraries and other cultural institutions.

The State Library will allocate more than $5.5 million to the nine regional Reference and Research Library Resources Councils to implement three priority programs in their regions: advancing digital inclusion, encouraging library/museum partnerships, and expanding student access to digital resources. Each library council is required to submit an application to the State Library demonstrating accordance with IMLS ARPA guidelines.

The regional library councils will collaborate with public library systems, school library systems and other libraries, museums and cultural repositories to address New York’s three priority programs and meet federal and state goals. Libraries and systems are strongly encouraged to partner with each other and with other community, education and cultural organizations in their region on collaborative projects.

Visit the State Library’s website to see the allocation available for each regional library council. The State Library anticipates issuing detailed guidance, including a timetable and application instructions to the nine regional library councils, by early September 2021. The regional library councils must complete all project activities by June 30, 2022.

Statewide Services through the Office of Cultural Education

The State Library, State Museum and State Archives will also use $700,000 to improve and expand access to the Office of Cultural Education’s services for all New Yorkers through a range of collaborative initiatives including to:

  • Build upon the 2021 Digital Equity Summit recommendations by providing expertise, training and tools to support implementation of collaborative Digital Inclusion solutions statewide;
  • Partner with public library systems and libraries to conduct a broadband infrastructure needs assessment for small and rural public libraries in New York;
  • Collaborate with organizations across the state to create a diversity, equity and inclusion framework and toolkit for libraries, museums and cultural institutions;
  • Digitize and make available online core collections from the State Library, State Archives and State Museum for increased public access;
  • Develop collaborative online Museum exhibits showcasing treasures from the collections of the State Library, State Museum and State Archives; and
  • Expand and improve the State’s online summer reading program tools.

In accordance with funding requirements, New York State must expend this $6.2 million by September 30, 2022.