LEWISTON — The Lewiston Public Library will be one of six Maine cultural organizations to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help pay for essential operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a city news release, the library applied for the grant May 11, and was among 2,300 applications to the federal grant program through the coronavirus relief bill.

The library will use the $121,846 toward its youth library program, as well as salaries for two full-time children’s staff and four part-time children’s staff through the end of 2020.

“We are excited and honored to receive this funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities,” Director Marcela Peres said. “For over a century, the Lewiston Public Library has worked to foster a love of reading, learning and community both in and out of our building. This grant will allow us to bring the library to Lewiston’s families and ensures that we can continue this important work by helping local youth through these challenging times.”

According to the release, the youth library Where You Are program will expand library digital offerings, increase virtual programming by staff and presenters, and convert its BookReach program to a virtual format.

The Summer Reading Program will be offered in online (application) form and through to-go program kits and book giveaways. Programming will also extend beyond virtual, the library said, including StoryWalks installed throughout the community, craft and activity kits mailed to families and print newsletters supporting humanities learning.

“This program will also address the digital divide in literacy opportunities by purchasing a number of digital learning devices to circulate to families,” the release said.

A total of $731,189 will be distributed through the NEH grant. Other Maine recipients include the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay; Bowdoin College in Brunswick; The Monhegan Museum; the Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport; and the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, U.S. Sen. Angus King and Congressman Jared Golden issued a joint statement on the award, stating, “For decades, the Lewiston Public Library has provided an educational space for students to learn, collaborate and strengthen their reading skills. As the coronavirus pandemic disrupts our daily lives and routines, it’s vital that LPL is still able to provide these services to youth in the region. As distance learning has left many students without access to additional literary support, this investment from NEH will help Lewiston Public Library bridge this digital divide by shifting more of their services online to help our students succeed.”

According to library officials, in-person youth programming at the Lewiston Public Library will likely be one of the last services to return, “given challenges of ensuring safe social distancing among children.”


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