Orange public libraries land $10K pandemic relief grant

  • The Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Moore-Leland Library in North Orange. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Assistant Children’s Librarian Kat Chaisson works in the Children’s Room at the Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Children’s Librarian Jason Sullivan-Flynn works in the Children’s Room at the Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 2/23/2022 2:25:43 PM
Modified: 2/23/2022 2:25:19 PM

ORANGE — Having landed among the 200 libraries nationwide that are benefiting from money disseminated through the American Library Association, the town’s public libraries plan to expand children’s access to free music education and books.

The Wheeler Memorial and Moore-Leland libraries will receive $10,000 from the association’s American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries, an emergency relief program to assist libraries adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The money, originating from the National Endowment for the Humanities, will fund 24 weeks of free music instruction for children 6 to 12 years old, as well as free books for youngsters in Book Kids, a weekly online reading club for 7- to 10-year-old children.

Children’s Librarian Jason Sullivan-Flynn, who applied for the grant, said he was inspired to dedicate money toward music education after Orange elementary schools eliminated their music program due to budget cuts, “which is a tragedy,” he said.

“This is not by any means a replacement for the program. I was hoping we could help with that situation,” he said, adding that the music program meant a great deal to many people. “To see it cut was a real shame.”

Sullivan-Flynn explained he started Book Kids when the pandemic began about two years ago. Children meet remotely to read and talk about books for 20 to 25 minutes starting at 3:30 p.m. on Mondays. The club runs for six- to eight-week stints and can accommodate up to eight children at a time.

“I needed something that would work as a remote program,” he explained. “It’s fun for me to hear about what they have to say about the books we’re reading.”

According to the American Library Association, more than 370 libraries applied for the grant. They consist of public institutions as well as ones associated with colleges, elementary and secondary schools, Indigenous tribes and prisons. The recipients represent 45 states and Puerto Rico and reportedly serve communities ranging in size from Los Angeles to the 642 residents of Weir, Kansas. Sullivan-Flynn said the libraries chosen were chiefly rural ones that serve traditionally disadvantaged populations.

“And we’re certainly a small library on a small budget,” he said.


The grant will also fund a performance by Li Liu, a Chinese acrobat and cultural ambassador, during the children’s summer reading program. Liu lives in Connecticut and maintains the website

“It was surprising, in a wonderful way,” Sullivan-Flynn said of learning he had won a grant for Orange’s two libraries. “I sort of was just stunned for like an hour before I could figure out exactly what the next step would be. I am very grateful to the ALA.”

American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries is an initiative of the American Library Association made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

“Libraries have faced significant hardships throughout the pandemic — from budget cuts to staff furloughs to building closures — especially in our communities of the greatest need,” said American Library Association President Patty Wong. “This crucial support from NEH will enable our beloved institutions, and the dedicated people who run them, to rebuild and emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.”

Reach Domenic Poli at or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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