Tarleton receives Rural Libraries Grant


Jessica Blakely/The JTAC

Jonathan Hernandez and Presley Riddell studying in the Dick Smith Library.

Tarleton Libraries was recently awarded a $3000 grant from the American Libraries Association. Titled the Libraries Transforming Communities grant. The library hopes to use the funds to assist in tackling the unemployment issue that currently plagues the Stephenville community.
“[The grant] focuses on places that have been hit hard by COVID and where the community and the libraries are trying to come together and make things a little better,” The Tarleton Libraries Librarian and the lead for applying for the grant, Yvonne Mulhern said. “Right here, we are talking about unemployment.”

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stephenville community was faced with a string of unemployment claims beginning in March as the nation went into lock down. According to the U.S. Census data compiled by the Texas Association of Counties that Mulhern and her colleagues gathered, Erath County had experienced a total of 448 unemployment claims between the months of March and October 2019, averaging at 13 claims per week. They found that between the months of March and October 2020, the number of claims increased to 3,195 cases, an average of 94 cases per week. Seeing this spike in unemployment, Mulhern pushed for the library to apply for the grant.
“We knew that there was a difference, but when we saw those figures, it was pretty impactful,” Mulhern said.
The grant and the initiative to flatten the unemployment curve is set to be a collaboration between Tarleton Libraries, the Stephenville Public Library and Tarleton’s Career Services. They plan to use the funds to host a hybrid event where job hunters will be able to learn job hunting skills while networking with other job hunters.
“We will also have some job-hunting books that we’re going to give away,” Mulhern said. “Part of the grant is going to go here to give us money to buy books about looking for jobs. The Public Library is going to get a part of the grant to make their collection [of job-hunting books] bigger.”
To apply for this grant, Mulhern mentioned that the association had certain requirements that they had to meet in order to be considered for a grant. Part of these requirements included the population size of the community.
“They were looking for libraries in communities that had the size requirement of 25,000 residents,” Mulhern said. “They wanted a connection that we can show that there was a need [for funding].” This connection included the statistics for the unemployment rate that showed the drastic increase in claims in 2020. They also had to provide background information regarding the Stephenville community and Tarleton State University, as well as an explanation of how the funds will be used.”
“$1,200 will be going towards the event and the rest will go towards both libraries,” Associate Director or Resource Management & Discovery Tracy Holtman said. Holtman added that the remaining $1,800 will be split between the two libraries, and will be allocated towards expanding their collection of job-hunting books and resources.
With regards to the Rickett Library in the Fort Worth campus, as well as the remaining satellite campuses, Holtman said that they will look towards making these materials accessible to all students in the satellite campuses.
“Some print materials will be housed [In the Stephenville campus library], and then we’ll also buy some that are electronic so that they may be used here, in the Fort Worth campus, the Midlothian campus, the Waco campus, and for all Tarleton students.” Holtman said.
A date for the event as well as a detailed schedule has yet to be decided at this time. But Mulhern and her colleagues at the Tarleton Library hope to be underway in preparing this event alongside with Stephenville Public Library and Tarleton’s Career Services.

Autumne Gagnow working on homework on the first floor in the Dick Smith Library. (Jessica Blakely/The JTAC)