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Wisconsin Libraries to Benefit from Stimulus Bill

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Public library systems have promoted the services they provide go well beyond books.

And now, they're getting extra federal aid to offer more help to those who need it, including Wisconsin communities.

The $1.9 trillion stimulus package recently signed by President Joe Biden sets aside $200 million for libraries.

Sherry Machones, president of the Wisconsin Library Association and director of the Northern Waters Library Service, said the Badger State will get about $3.2 million.

Machones pointed out branches have been a lifeline in low-income communities with limited internet access during the pandemic. She also runs the Northern Waters Library Service, which covers eight counties in a rural area with broadband gaps.

"As someone who's probably familiar with Northern Wisconsin, lack of broadband is a huge concern," Machones explained.

She suggested if her system is awarded funding, they could work towards boosting access, especially for branches in tribal areas.

The Association said system directors around the state have been talking about ways to maximize federal resources so many regions will benefit. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction will review applications for funding.

For her system, Machones noted they're talking about other ways to reach underserved communities.

"There's bookmobile possibilities for libraries, those that don't have that," Machones stated. "There is putting more money into our electronic collection; our e-books, because that exploded in use this year."

Also in the stimulus package is $7 billion in funding to reimburse library systems and schools for the cost of providing internet hotspots, as well as devices that have Wi-Fi capabilities.

Republicans in Congress have criticized some provisions, such as the one for libraries, saying it goes beyond responding to immediate needs from the crisis.

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