Small-town Libraries Receive a Helping Hand

Seven Nebraska public libraries recently received project funding, thanks to the generosity of a lifelong educator, the late Shirley Kreutz Bennett of Lincoln. Each year, the Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund, an affiliated fund of Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF), accepts proposals for matching grants for public libraries in communities with populations under 3,000.  

This year grants were awarded to libraries in Axtell, Crawford, Genoa, Randolph, Paxton, Sutton and Yutan. 

Following Ms. Kreutz Bennett’s wishes, a Fund Advisory Committee composed of her nieces and nephews recommends grants in three areas: planning for accreditation grants to support steps taken toward gaining accreditation; enhancement grants to improve library services; and facilities grants for new construction or the renovation, restoration or rehabilitation of current libraries.  

All grants require a one-to-one match in local funding and evidence that the project has broad community support. Approximately $80,000 in grant funding is available each year. Grant seekers are encouraged to review the guidelines and application procedures at

The Fund Advisory Committee encourages all eligible, unaccredited libraries to view the recently updated grant guidelines. A number of additional activities and expenses are now eligible for funding through a “Planning for Accreditation Grant.” Libraries working toward accreditation may apply for grants over the course of multiple grant cycles. For instance, Walthill Public Library received two grants in two separate years to help with salary support for the director to spend additional hours working on the accreditation requirements. Once accredited, the library was eligible for larger grants from a variety of sources, including the state of Nebraska. 

Grant applications are simple to complete. A short-form proposal is due October 1, 2019, and a full proposal is due in January 2020. 

For more information, contact Kristine Gale, affiliated fund development coordinator, 402.822.0466 or

The following libraries received grants in 2019:

Axtell Public Library
This library is raising local funds to update its library which is located in the heart of downtown. Planned improvements include installation of more effective lighting and renovating the restrooms to be accessible to all library patrons. The Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund awarded a $20,000 grant, contingent on the library’s success in raising matching funds within one year.  

Crawford Public Library
This newly accredited library received a grant of $700 to continue its efforts in meeting the goals articulated in its Community Needs Response Plan. Activities include website updates, policy planning and summer programming.

Genoa Public Library
The committee has awarded grants over several years to enhance this library’s services. This summer Genoa Public Library will launch a program that teaches computer coding to elementary students. Eight sessions will be offered, and the program will continue throughout the year to serve additional groups of students and adults. The Fund provided a grant of $1,000 to help with implementation.

Lied Randolph Public Library 
An improved public meeting space is the goal of this project.  A grant of $2,900 will match local funds for the purchase of new audio/visual equipment and chairs. In addition to community meetings, the new space will be used to present movies with quality sound and picture, allowing residents to “stay local.”

Paxton Public Library
Flooding in the summer of 2018 caused extensive damage to this facility. As a result, the library was closed for several months, but continued to offer online services to patrons. A grant of $10,000 will assist with interior and exterior repairs. Additional purchase of tables and chairs for preschool children are also planned. This project receives local support from the Keith County Foundation Fund, another affiliated fund of Nebraska Community Foundation.  

Sutton Memorial Library
The computers in this library are over 14 years old, and software programs are outdated and continue to fail as demand increases. The library’s Community Needs Response Plan indicated citizens believed that updates were essential. Many library patrons do not have access to a computer in their homes. Providing free access to the Internet is a core requirement for Nebraska libraries. The Fund awarded a grant of $6,767 for the purchase of seven computers and software.

Yutan Public Library
This library has set a goal to be accredited at the gold (highest) level, which will make it eligible for increased state funding. To do this the library needs to expand its collection by seven percent to be compatible with its peer libraries.  A matching grant of $1,000 will help purchase more materials and books.

The Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund has provided over 50 grants to Nebraska libraries since it began annual grantmaking in 2012. Christa Porter, Nebraska Library Commission Director of Library Development, said this grant program is perfect for libraries that are not yet accredited. “Libraries can use grant funding to gather information for their Community Needs Response Plan. This might include providing salary or stipend support for additional staff hours,” Porter said.

Other possibilities for non-accredited libraries may include one-time, or first time, costs that will help libraries earn points on the Accreditation Application. For example, subscriptions to online library databases, joining regional or statewide consortia, and expenditures for start-up technology purchases and services.

“Gaining accreditation is critical to our libraries. It opens the door to other outside funding,” said Jeff Yost, NCF president and CEO.  “In many small towns, the library serves as a public meeting space, a place for students to conduct research and do homework, and it offers Internet access to people who may not have it at home. We are honored to help the family of Shirley Kreutz Bennett carry out her legacy and passion for learning,” said Yost. 

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