Orange County

North Carolina libraries, including Chapel Hill Public Library, get millions to fund lifelong learning

North Carolina first lady Kristin Cooper, left, sits with parents and children in an activity room of the Chapel Hill Public Library after announcing grants to local libraries.
North Carolina first lady Kristin Cooper, left, sits with parents and children in an activity room of the Chapel Hill Public Library after announcing grants to local libraries. The Herald-Sun

North Carolina first lady Kristin Cooper shook hands with some of the state’s youngest residents Thursday after delivering the news that the Chapel Hill Public Library would get nearly $120,000 in federal grant money.

“What’s your name?” Cooper, wife of Gov. Roy Cooper, asked each child, kneeling at eye level while inquiring about their favorite books. Right now, she likes to read “things that are a little escapist ... a little light, a little amusing,” Cooper said while touring the library’s other amenities.

The Chapel Hill library received two Library Services and Technology Act grants — among 39 statewide totaling $2.3 million.

The LSTA grants — federal Institute of Museum and Library Services money awarded by the State Library of North Carolina to eligible local libraries — focus on literacy and lifelong learning, expand access to library resources and expertise, promote partnerships and collaboration, and digitize materials important to the state’s cultural heritage. The State Library is a program of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Prior grants have paid for pop-up libraries, workforce development, children’s literacy, and more, Cooper said at a news conference outside the library.

Chapel Hill’s grants will fund an $89,140 STEAM-based — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — outdoor learning program for children and adults in Pritchard Park, which surrounds the library. The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and the Environmental Resource Program at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment will help design the program.

A second $30,600 grant will help the library and the Carolina Public Humanities Carolina K-12 program offer interactive field trips and experiential learning opportunities in civic education and engagement for students and teachers.

Both programs could launch by next spring and also will receive $25,000 in matching grants over two years from The Friends of the Chapel Hill Public Library.

It’s worth noting, Cooper said, that President Donald Trump’s proposed budget puts LSTA library grants at risk. That would be a loss of $4.6 million annually to the North Carolina State Library, she said.

“Libraries serve citizens in all 100 North Carolina counties, providing resources, information, and fostering lifelong learning, and, of course, reading,” Cooper said. “Go into any library, and you will see arts, culture, invention, science and heritage.”

Quoting National Public Radio reporter Linton Weeks, she added: “In a nonstop tsunami of global information, librarians provide us with ‘floaties’ and teach us how to swim. I’m grateful for all the librarians here today who are teaching us how to swim.”

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

More grants

Other LSTA grant recipients in the Triangle include:

▪  UNC-Chapel Hill: $48,924.64 to launch the Triangle Learning Network focused on STEAM and digital media literacy. The education innovation network will launch July 1 in partnership with the Chapel Hill Public Library, said Danianne Mizzy, head of UNC’s Kenan Science Information Services. It will foster collaboration among educators across the Triangle area with the goal of improving learning opportunities at all ages.

▪  UNC-Chapel Hill: $436,403.60 Digital Heritage Center award for community engagement and lifelong learning through preserving and making local and family histories available online

▪  N.C. School of Science and Math: $31,016.57 NCSSM Digital Collection award to provide online infrastructure and access to materials related to the school’s history

▪  Meredith College: $100,000 Shared Library Services Platform award for Meredith College and Chowan University libraries to create a new cloud-based, hosted library services platform, replacing outmoded technology and building the framework for a future system among the state’s private colleges and universities.

▪  N.C. State University: $135,565.26 NC Live Training award to increase awareness of NC Live, which offers free online access to resources statewide, and to train staff in how to use the database more effectively and better serve patrons.

A full list of grant winners is online at