Public Library’s ARPA Outreach Grant Provides $53,542 for New Bookmobile and Technology Support for Outreach Services


April 1, 2022, MOUNT VERNON, OHIO—While it might be easy to picture a postal carrier or delivery driver combating rain, sleet, and snow or slogging through the mud to reach customers across the county, many people might not realize that a small department of dedicated Public Library employees does the same work, in equally challenging conditions. Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County Outreach Services Manager Amber Hawkins and Library Services Assistant Debi Thayer deliver print and audio materials to toddlers in preschool classrooms, elders in skilled nursing facilities, Amish schools, residents of group homes for the developmentally disabled, people home bound by age or disability, and persons incarcerated at the Knox County Jail. After many years of hard work, Outreach Services’ dedication to patrons has paid off, after being awarded an ARPA Outreach Grant from the State Library of Ohio in the amount of $53,542 to provide the Public Library with a new “bookmobile” van and a few modest technology upgrades.

Funds from this grant help Hawkins and Thayer present programs to patrons living in group settings, and track Outreach Services’ lending information with greater ease. Hawkins states, “Because we can–and do–travel throughout most of Knox County, we needed a vehicle that is safe and able to accommodate our needs. Some days, we have dozens of bags containing books for our patrons and the library branches, so having a vehicle that can haul all of these items is imperative.”

Hawkins and Thayer use the van five days a week, and the upgraded bookmobile replaces a well-worn 2011 model that was no longer up to the demanding task of travel. “Without the grant, we weren’t sure we would have the funding to replace the old bookmobile in the foreseeable future,” says Library Director John K. Chidester. “This is not only an improvement, but it enhances Outreach Services’ ability to meet the needs of home bound patrons.” In addition to offering physical materials, Outreach Services’ Hawkins and Thayer have built relationships with patrons they see on a regular basis, and provide critical social contacts to home bound persons that bring a great deal of cheer, especially during the long winter months. Outreach Services has already begun using the technology purchased with the ARPA grant to deliver programs from the popular “Travel” series, as well as a program on “The 1950’s” that incorporates music and popular culture. Outreach Services will continue to expand programs to individual and group settings across Knox County in the coming months.

The State Library of Ohio Board selected The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County as one of only 45 Ohio institutions selected for an ARPA grant. The purpose of the ARPA Outreach Grant initiative is to assist libraries and their communities as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as address economic and community needs resulting from the pandemic through equitable approaches. Applications were accepted in three categories: Outreach and Education, Community Connections, and Outreach Initiatives. This grant initiative is just one of the many ways the State Library of Ohio is supporting libraries of all types with ARPA stimulus funds and assisting Ohioans as they continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Information about ARPA and the State Library of Ohio is available at

Outreach Services is always looking for new patrons and program sites in Knox County. Administrators and patrons alike are encouraged to contact Amber Hawkins to inquire about services and programs. For more information about Outreach Services, to schedule and info session, or register for a program please visit, email or call (740) 392-BOOK ext 240.


Information courtesy of the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County