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The Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) has awarded a $4,000 PPE grant to the Southern Oklahoma Library System to help purchase personal protective equipment and supplies to keep staff and visitors safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This includes all six branch libraries: Atoka County Library; Champion Public Library; Davis Public Library; Healdton Community Library; Johnston County Library; Love County Library; Parker Memorial Library; and Wilson Public Library.
The Southern Oklahoma Library System is one of 64 institutions to receive a grant from ODL courtesy of the federal CARES Act and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
A total of $60,000 was distributed by ODL to address the coronavirus concerns of public libraries, tribal libraries, tribal cultural centers, museums, and historic sites in the state.
Executive Director Gail Oehler said the funding will be used to provide personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, customer safety supplies, and other materials and equipment to help keep our staff and visitors safe.
“As we deal with this virus, it’s very important that we follow CDC guidelines while providing services to the public,” said Oehler.
“This grant will provide the supplies we need to help reduce risk of exposure for our employees and customers.
“Our mission is to serve our community, and we want to continue that mission in the safest way we can.”
The Southern Oklahoma Library System’s branches are now open to the public. For the safety of patrons and staff, SOLS has put several policies into place.
• Guests must wear a face covering (masks, bandanna, scarf, etc.)
• Customers must follow social distancing practices and remain 6 feet apart
• Patrons must sanitize their hands upon entering the building
• Guests experiencing any flu like symptoms must refrain from entering the library.
In developing the grant, ODL Director Melody Kellogg said institutions were surveyed about any hurdles they might face in returning to service during the pandemic.
The top concerns of libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions were a shortage of cleaning supplies and PPE equipment, fear on the part of staff and the public, and the challenge of enforcing social distancing and other best-health practices in their facilities.
“We developed the grant proposal to help address these concerns,” Kellogg said. “We were very fortunate in that we were able to provide some funding to all 64 of the eligible institutions that applied.”
The PPE grant is the first of two that will be available from ODL, with funding from IMLS and the CARES Act.
The grants were designed to help the state’s important cultural institutions address two impacts of COVID-19: public health concerns, and the need to breach the digital divide and improve digital inclusion to better serve the public.
“The pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the digital divide in our state and nation,” Kellogg said.
“At a time when, for safety reasons, we are depending more than ever on electronic communication, far too many of our fellow citizens don’t have the tools or access needed to take ad-vantage of important services.”