The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) is the recipient of the Jerry Kline Community Impact Prize, a national award that recognizes the public library as a vital community asset.
Developed in partnership between the Gerald M. Kline Family Foundation and Library Journal, CALS will receive a $250,000 grant from the Kline Family Foundation and be profiled in the December issue of Library Journal in recognition of the award.
“This is a wonderful achievement for Central Arkansas and our library staff,” said CALS executive director Nate Coulter. “We are enormously grateful to the Kline Foundation. The Kline Prize emphatically highlights the trust our community has placed in CALS, the dedication of our staff that honors that trust, and the effectiveness of our many partners who help us serve our patrons.”
As the largest public library in Arkansas, CALS serves 344,553 people in urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods with a top goal of increasing CALS’s service to constituents from under-resourced and underserved communities.
Coulter noted that the recognition from the Kline Foundation “affirms the wisdom of our CALS board when it adopted a three-year strategic plan focusing on communities and lowering barriers to resources.”
Recent CALS initiatives include:
- The Be Mighty Little Rock campaign (through which CALS has served more than 450,000 meals from library branches);
- The hiring of a community outreach team (with liaisons dedicated to Black and Latinx communities);
- The hiring of a social worker to make referrals for patrons accessing community resources;
- The Rock it! Lab for entrepreneurs, the Count UP math tutoring program, and CALS’s tech card program, which has connected thousands of local students with library cards to access virtual resources from home.
The award comes less than a month after voters approved an increase in the Little Rock property tax rate that funds CALS’s operations and maintenance.
“Following so closely on the heels of our successful November millage election, where 71% of Little Rock voters renewed their commitment to sustaining their extraordinary public library, this recognition further affirms CALS’s role as a vital community asset,” said Coulter.
The Jerry Kline Community Impact Prize was created in 2019. Previous winners include the Sacramento Public Library and Rhode Island’s Cranston Public Library. CALS received an honorable mention for the prize in 2020. All U.S. public libraries are eligible to apply for the prize.
The Gerald M. Kline Family Foundation is based in Emeryville California and has provided millions of dollars to philanthropic causes since its inception, with a particular focus on libraries.
The Central Arkansas Library System includes 15 branch libraries located in Little Rock, Perryville, and throughout Pulaski County. CALS has the largest research collection in central Arkansas.