The American Library Association (ALA) this week announced that it is partnering with Communities for Immunity, a collaborative effort among libraries and museums to boost Covid-19 information and vaccine confidence in communities across the United States.
“Access to information about vaccines and trusted messengers to effectively convey it locally is a matter of life and death,” said Patty Wong, president of ALA. “America’s 117,000 libraries provide both, serving communities at greatest risk of contracting the coronavirus and those most hesitant to receive the vaccine. ALA is proud to join the Communities for Immunity initiative to offer resources and funding to supercharge the capacity of our nation’s second responders.”
The project comes as the delta variant is fueling a surge in Covid-19 cases mostly among the unvaccinated, made possible in part by the spread of misinformation that is suppressing vaccination rates. According to the New York Times, the country is averaging more than seven times as many cases per day as it was at the start of July, with the 7-day average of new cases topping 100,000 this week, the highest level since February. The outbreak is especially alarming in states where vaccination rates are lagging, including Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.
Supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services), Communities for Immunity provides funding to libraries, museums, science centers and other cultural institutions to enhance vaccine confidence at the local level. Officials say the partnership will “activate libraries and museums to create and deliver evidence-driven materials and develop resources and programs.” In addition, partners in the program are creating “a community of practice” to develop and refine vaccine education resources that will be shared with the broader library and museum community.
Among those resources, libraries and museums will leverage the research available on vaccines and variants disseminated through the REALM project (Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums), a groundbreaking research partnership between IMLS, OCLC, and Battelle dating back to the early days of the pandemic. Communities for Immunity will also build on existing resources and efforts, including from the Smithsonian, the CDC, Department of Health and Human Services, and more.
In addition to ALA, library organizations joining in the effort include the Association for Rural and Small Libraries; the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums; and the Urban Libraries Council.
“Throughout the pandemic, our nation’s museums and libraries have supported their communities with critical educational and social services,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums. “As community pillars and trusted messengers, they are well-positioned to help build trust in and overcome hesitation to the Covid-19 vaccines.”