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ARPA Grants to CT Public Libraries

Information about grants for Connecticut public libraries made possible through funding from the American Rescue Plan Act

Introduction to the Digital Navigation Pilot Project Grant Program

The Connecticut State Library (CSL) has been awarded $2,775,000 in ARPA funding by the IMLS. CSL will be using $500,000 of that funding to pilot a digital navigation project, partnering with CT libraries to help close the digital divide in our communities. The IMLS identified projects addressing digital inclusion as a high priority spending category. The goal is to offer resources and support with and alongside CT libraries to make people comfortable with digital connectivity and devices, as both are necessary to access healthcare, benefits, job opportunities and workforce development, education, and much more.

Digital navigation begins with one-on-one connection to assess internet needs and supply affordable broadband and devices, and continues with technical and digital literacy training to ensure individuals and families achieve their own goals and needs.

Digital Navigation Pilot Project Grants Overview

To help meet the spending priorities of the IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) for the American Rescue Plan Act funds to be allocated for libraries in the state, the CT State Library is making available approximately $500,000 for subawards to libraries willing to pilot a digital navigation project. The goal is to create data and experience that can inform a future state digital inclusion plan and activities suitable for ongoing support from federal, state, municipal, and foundation sources.

A principal public library, an academic library, or group of principal public libraries/academic libraries are eligible to apply for grants of up to $100,000 to carry out a 11-month project that will run from September 1, 2021 through July 30, 2022. The project is to be based on the model developed by the Salt Lake City Public Library with the support an IMLS leadership grant and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.  Such a project will include mapping community need, mandatory staff training, the contracting and training of digital navigators, and the managed deployment of navigators to assist low-income, immigrant, and senior households. This assistance will include acquisition of high-speed broadband and suitable devices, as well as ongoing technical and digital literacy skills training for a period of approximately 9 months.

Each navigation assignment will strive to help individuals reach their internet use goals, be it telehealth, job searches, benefits support, employment skills, community involvement, or simply an end to isolation.  For each patron served, those connectivity and digital adoption needs are to be clearly identified, clarified, and documented by the digital navigator at the beginning of the engagement. “Success” with respect to the individual participant is defined as fulfilling the participant-identified needs. This might include: Did the participant get a home internet connection if that was needed? Was the participant able to carry out schoolwork online? Submit unemployment compensation reports? Schedule and complete an online healthcare appointment? Bank online? Attend a streamed church service?

“Success” for the navigators will be measured and evaluated as 1) the extent to which the digital navigators met the overall service goal and 2) the extent to which participants met their stated personal connectivity and digital adoption goals through their engagement with digital navigators. The goals will be measured with tools to collect qualitative and quantitative information that have been developed by NDIA for intake, exit, and follow-up.  “Success” for the library managing the overall pilot will include its ability to collaborate with community partners and to effectively evaluate and report out project results according to the pilot grant instructions.

The cost of project manager and navigator training, as well as the provision of monthly check-ins with NDIA experts will be covered by the State Library and available without cost to the libraries awarded the grant.  Refurbished laptops or tablets for free distribution should be part of the grant budget.  In addition, libraries may be able to take advantage of the Emergency Broadband Benefit and the Emergency Connectivity Fund to help residents get free or low-cost devices.

Eligible Expenses Include:

  • Project management of the pilot project
  • Digital Navigator fees
  • Marketing the availability of Navigation to target communities
  • Refurbished laptops or tablets for distribution

Sample Budget Might Include:

  • Project management costs of  $21,000.
  • Digital Navigator costs of $70,000.
  • Publicity cost for yard signs, door hangers, posters, local newspaper and radio advertising, or related means of up to $1000.  Contracts for publicity distribution are allowed.
  • 75 refurbished laptops @$120/device to total up to $9000.


  • Applicants will attend 2 Digital Inclusion/Digital Navigation training sessions in June.
  • Application completed according to pilot grant instructions.
  • Awardees will attend 4 one-hour training sessions in August/September 2021.
  • Project manager will attend monthly check-in sessions with NDIA experts and/or DLD consultant
  • Navigators will attend monthly check-in sessions with NDIA experts and/or DLD consultant.
  • Late Fall 2021 mid-cycle progress report on mapping, partners, device acquisition, and hiring.
  • Winter 2022 mid-cycle financial expenditure report with invoices.
  • Winter 2022 mid-cycle evaluation and data report.
  • Any budget changes after the award is made must be approved by the LSTA grants coordinator.
  • All funds must be spent.
  • Final expenditure report with invoices.
  • Final pilot project evaluation and results.
  • Adherence to the IMLS Grants to States program rules and regulations, which include the Cost Principles described in the Code of Federal Regulations.


June 2021           

Digital Inclusion/Digital Navigation Training Sessions (2) required for applicants

July 15, 2021

Application due

September 1, 2021

Grant cycle begins

September 2021

4 one-hour training sessions for project managers (required)

December 1, 2022

Mid-cycle progress report on mapping, partners, device purchase, hiring

February 15, 2022

Mid-cycle financial expenditure / project evaluation and data sets

July 31, 2022

Grant cycle ends

August 30, 2022

All funds must be expended

September 15, 2022

Final financial expenditure report with invoices is due

September 15, 2022

Final Pilot Project Evaluation with data set is due

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Our library is just about to purchase all new computers.  Could we use the grant money to pay for refurbishing our old computers and using those for device distribution to folks who need computers?  Answer:  If you have devices that are appropriate to give away as part of this program--i.e., laptops, tablets--with sufficient speed and functionality, you might choose to pay for refurbishment rather than buying refurbished devices.  However, this must be cost-effective and the devices must match the need.  Please note that DLD has found no studies that suggest that low-income users are likely to need a desktop, rather than a laptop computer. 

2. If our contracted navigators are part-time and have a second job, will they have trouble making the navigator peer group sessions and bi-weekly check-ins?  Answer:  NDIA says that they will work to accommodate all navigators.

3. Is it reasonable for us to work with a partner to serve the unhoused? We don't know how long those without homes stay in the partner's facility.  Does this matter?  Answer:  Serving those without homes is a key part of the national digital inclusion mission. We suggest that you reach out to the prospective partner now, learn about the process, and discuss with them the possible ways that you might be able to help individuals stay connected if they are on the move from one accommodation to another, and, perhaps to a more permanent location.

Four Libraries Awarded Grants for Digital Navigation Pilot Projects!

Congratulations to 4 Public Libraries Who Will be Piloting Digital Navigation Projects!

The CT State Library, Division of Library Development, is pleased to announce that 4 public libraries have been awarded ARPA funds to carry out Digital Navigation Pilot Projects.  The libraries will be deploying “navigators” who can work one on one with residents who need computers, low-cost broadband in the home, and/or skills to participate fully in the digital world and gain access to such necessities as telehealth, employment assistance, social benefits, educational resources, and cultural enrichment.  The National Digital Inclusion Alliance will be training and advising libraries throughout the grant cycle, which ends July 31, 2022.

The awards:

  • $100,000 to the East Hartford Public Library for “Digital Navigator Pilot Project, East Hartford”
  • $96,400 to the Ferguson Library, Stamford for “Stamford Digital Navigators” (This award was increased to $100,000 in mid-cycle).
  • $100,000 to the Hamden Public Library for “Navigating Opportunity”
  • $100,000 to the Hartford Public Library for “Digital Inclusion for Older Adults”

Anecdotal experience and qualitative and quantitative data collected as part of these pilots will analyzed with the assistance of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and compiled into a state report that will not only show the centrality of libraries in the effort to reach digital equity but help inform best practices for librarians in our state.  DLD will also use the report to plan for digital inclusion projects as part of the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), Library Services and Technology Act 5 Year Plan.


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