Knox County Foundation Grant Equips Library’s “Ourdoor Annex” Program Events


August 31, 2021—— Thanks to a generous grant from the Knox County Foundation, the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County will offer outdoor meeting space in its west parking lot and present programs under sturdy canvas tents this fall. The tents provide the Library with the flexibility to innovate and improve patron services, ensuring that the community stays connected during the pandemic. The grant was awarded as part of the Knox County Foundation’s Small Grant Program, which accepts proposals from local nonprofit organizations for projects with budgets under $5000.

Along with other peer libraries, The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County shifted in-person programs to online formats during the shutdown. This spring, the Library began holding book discussions, Summer Reading Program and MakerSpace events outdoors. Outdoor programs were overwhelmingly popular and well-attended, but the Library was limited by aging event equipment. The Knox County Foundation grant solved three problems by expanding the Library’s event capacity, enhancing Library preparedness for COVID19 outbreaks, and providing outdoor meeting space.

The Library used its grant funds to purchase several heavy-duty canopy tents, event tables, an outdoor projection screen, a small generator, ADA-compliant cable covers, a propane grill, and a wheeled hospitality cart for staff programs. The grant also provided two large steel cabinets for arts and craft supplies so that Teen MakerSpace activities can go mobile.

To meet patrons’ desire for meeting and event space, Library Director John K. Chidester and staff devised a plan to designate part of the Main Library’s West Parking Lot as the “Outdoor Annex,” a pilot program that will run from September 7- October 8th. The Outdoor Annex provides the general public, library staff, and patrons with a tented area for events and programs.

One tent will be made available to the general public from 10 am-4 pm, weekdays, weather permitting. The Public Tent provides space for casual use, where patrons can read, use the wireless, or hold informal meetings.

 A second area in the Outdoor Annex is designated for staff Programs and is reservable by patrons who wish to hold public meetings and events. The “Reserved” tent can be scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis and is available free of charge. Flexibility is key when booking the “Reserved” tent, because cancelations may occur in the event of inclement weather. For more details, or to schedule a meeting in the “Reserved” tent, please contact Library Office Manager Lisa Blaisdell at (740) 392-BOOK extension 236 or via email at

 The Outdoor Annex is located in the West Parking lot at the Main Library, 201 North Main Street, Mount Vernon. Please visit the library website at or call (740) 392-BOOK for more information about Library programs and services.