The library aims to help the city recover economically

FAYETTEVILLE – Administrators at the city’s public library say they know the type of resources the newly expanded facility is making available to the community.

It’s about finding staff and programs to meet demand and help the city recover from the covid-19 pandemic.

An editorial published Jan. 1 in the Washington Post, titled “The Golden Age of Public Libraries Rises Again,” ranked the Fayetteville library among the best in the world. The article indicates that an abundance of new or recently renovated libraries have opened in the past two years. In addition to books and other physical materials, libraries offer workforce training, audio and video studios, event spaces, instructional kitchens, and hands-on learning for children, all features included in the city library.

The editorial lists Fayetteville among the libraries in Haikou, China; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Oslo, Norway; Manhattan, New York; and Washington DC

David Johnson, executive director of the Fayetteville Library, said he and his colleagues take the large facility’s role in the community seriously.

“It is confirmation that what we wanted to do for this community is being adopted around the world,” he said. “We’re not just a lone wolf doing something that others don’t believe in.”


Administrators asked the city for $ 2.3 million in US federal bailout money spread evenly over three years. The goal is to help residents and business owners recover from the negative economic impacts of the pandemic by fully realizing the library’s potential for workforce development, according to an application letter in the city.

The city received $ 17.9 million in US bailout money. Cities can spend federal aid money for four purposes: responding to the pandemic or its negative economic impact; replace lost income; provide a bonus for essential workers; and improving water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Library administrators hope to hire 12 people to staff their Innovation Center and a teaching kitchen programmer to provide free certification training to clients in various fields.

The Innovation Center has aircraft simulators, backhoes, semi-trailers and forklifts. Software and equipment upgrades, along with additional staff to provide training, would allow the library to issue certification for the use of these vehicles, Johnson said.

The centre’s audio and video production studios also provide customers with access to state-of-the-art multimedia equipment. Additional software and staff are needed to create certification opportunities, according to the letter.

Additionally, the library wants to start a program that would provide certification and vocational training for aspiring chefs and culinary workers in its teaching kitchen. Federal aid money would help start the program, the letter said.

The request also includes the construction of a computer and coding laboratory with equipment and an instructor for the courses.

The aid would provide enough money over time as the library grows revenue for its event center and deli, Johnson said. From there, the library could support the positions and costs on its own, he said.

“We can’t wait to go. We’ve been ready for about four to six months,” Johnson said. “We felt we had spent the first half of 2021 figuring out what we had on our hands. Now that we are very comfortable with what we have, we want to do a lot more.”

The certification services that the library is prepared to offer free to residents have the potential to help workers change careers or find employment if they have lost one due to the pandemic and generally help some local businesses to recovering from a skilled workforce, Johnson said.


The city has a committee that explored opportunities for economic recovery with federal aid money. The library’s request came as only preliminary guidance was available from the federal government, said Devin Howland, the city’s director of economic vitality. The government released the final guidelines on Thursday, and city officials can now review them to determine which requests are viable, he said.

Even if the hiring of staff at the library does not meet the requirements, there are almost certainly opportunities to be explored with regard to the programming and development of the workforce that the library is able to handle, a Howland said. There are also other grant opportunities, through such means as the US Department of Labor and the State Economic Development Commission, which could help carry out the library’s mission, he said. he declares.

City officials plan to hold meetings next week and will discuss the possibilities, especially the role the library’s Innovation Center could play in the economic recovery, Howland said.

“We know what the center is capable of, so let’s look at how we can best use it to craft a proposal that helps the most people and activates this center towards recovery from Covid-19,” he said.

City administrators plan to present city council with a list of recommended ways to spend the US bailout money, although a timeline has yet to be determined, Howland said.

Times of uncertainty and societal change, such as the covid-19 pandemic, are precisely when communities need libraries the most, said Sarah Ostman, deputy director of the American Library Association’s office of public programs. . Libraries, like so many other industries, have faced staff cuts, time off and budget cuts, she said.

“Even with all the hurdles that covid presented, the pandemic inspired public libraries to innovate,” Ostman said. “Among the things we saw during the pandemic were efforts to fight disinformation, virtual local history tours and virtual programs of all kinds, Herculean efforts to reach people without internet access via phone and book delivery services, and more. “

Ostman agrees with the Washington Post’s claim that libraries are experiencing a golden age. Libraries provide communities with access to resources far beyond books, she said.

“They are perhaps the only place in our society that does not require anything from their users,” said Ostman. “You don’t have to buy anything or believe in anything to access everything public libraries have to offer, and you get the same access no matter who you are or how many people you are. ‘money you have. “

Caleb Meehan, Assistant Chef of the Instructional Kitchen at the Fayetteville Public Library, cleans up on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Education begins next month in the Instructional Kitchen with a monthly cooking class called Conquering the Kitchen. For more information on the library’s activities, see A Washington Post editorial over the weekend named the Fayetteville Public Library among the world’s best serving communities, especially in light of the covid-19 pandemic. Visit for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / JT Wampler)

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