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We got our first grant!

ALA awards $10,000 grants to 16 libraries serving incarcerated persons or assisting those re-entering society to build capacity

CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) today announced $10,000 Building Library Capacity Grants to 16 libraries across the country serving incarcerated persons or assisting those re-entering society.

The ALA Building Library Capacity Grants are supported through a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each year focuses on helping add capacity to different segments of the library community. The grants are intended to bolster library operations and services including literacy and other skill development, developing collections, staffing, expanding outreach, as well as maintaining and amplifying existing service strategies or adding new ones to make an impact.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, nearly two million individuals were incarcerated in 2023 in the United States- in prisons, jails, juvenile correctional centers, and other detention institutions. Research shows that increasing the literacy rates and strengthening the library and information access opportunities for detained and formerly detained individuals often correlates to reduced recidivism and successful reentry.

Located in northeast Mississippi, the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department jail library consists of books that are badly damaged, outdated, or both. The materials are not representative of the current jail population and lack diversity. With the grant, the librarian will update the collection to promote reading and literacy activities and purchase educational resources and technology that will help facilitate completion of GED and other courses with community college partners.

The Griswold Memorial Library in rural Massachusetts has provided outreach services to the Franklin County Jail since 2021. The grant will allow the library to create a small resource library at the new Re-Entry Center and to facilitate a “Read to the Children” program for caregivers of those incarcerated in the jail to create and share recordings of themselves reading to their children.

Adult literacy and basic education are a pressing need at San Quentin Rehabilitation Center in California. Forty-four percent of the residents test below an 8th grade reading level. Low level literacy greatly diminishes prospects for successful re-entry to society. The Friends of the San Quention Library will use the grant to improve services for patrons with low literacy or limited English proficiency.

“The American Library Association is committed to library access for everyone, especially for those whose access is too often unfairly restricted. These grants directly contribute to our mission,” said ALA President Emily Drabinski, “ALA truly appreciates the generous support and long-standing commitment of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to assist under resourced libraries serving underserved or marginalized communities.”

A full list of the grantees can be found at

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 145 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government, and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library's role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit

About the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation's largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

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