Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett delivered grant checks to a couple of local libraries while visiting the area to promote early voting Wednesday.
His first library stop was at E.G. Fisher Public Library in Athens where he presented a $2,831 technology grant and a $5,148 CARES grant.
Interim Library Director Peyton Eastman expressed her excitement for receiving the grants.
“We have really been able to adapt our services to respond to COVID, with the help of the CARES grant, and continue to upgrade our technology and make sure we have the best up to date technology services available for our patrons,” said Eastman. “We are thrilled.”
She believes the grants are “integral” to the library.
“No one could have expected that we would be in the midst of a pandemic when we drafted our budget for the year so this has really helped us,” she stated. “The CARES grant helped us provide the safety supplies that we needed to reopen safely as well as these exciting new services.”
Among the new services are Chromebooks and hotspots that allow their “most vulnerable” patrons to have access to the library’s resources without placing themselves at risk of the virus.
“We are still trying to stick as closely to our services in the best way that we can, of course the virus has altered some of our programming such as group programs,” she stated. “We are offering those online, we have had live story times and we have recorded story times on there right now, so we are adapting those services as best we can.”
Safety precautions in the library consist of wearing mask, practicing social distancing, limiting the number of people in the library along with other practices that have become the standard during the pandemic.
“We have had really good support from the community,” she expressed. “People have been staggering their visits so things have gone smoothly considering all of the changes that COVID has presented.”
She believes the silver lining brought about from COVID-19 was presenting new ideas for services from the library.
“Hotspots are something that other libraries had been circulating for a little while prior to COVID, but it is not something that we had the opportunity to bring to our patrons here in McMinn County,” she stated. “Thanks to the CARES grant, that has now opened up some funding to initiate that program. Also, circulating Chromebooks, which is something that I don’t think other libraries were really doing ... That has really opened up some new ideas of ways that we can serve our community.”
Hargett also made a stop at Madisonville Public Library for a check presentation with a CARES grant for $3,797.