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Introducing the Thomas Fountain Blue Innovation Fund

Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL) staff are well-known for spearheading innovative programs that are modeled at libraries across the globe. Even so, severe funding deficits and budget cuts mean many library initiatives – concepts that could make an immediate impact in Louisville neighborhoods – never make it farther than scribbled notes in a journal or bullet points on the whiteboard in a staff room.

That’s why the Louisville Free Public Library Foundation is proud to launch the Thomas Fountain Blue Fund (Blue Fund), a new annual discretionary fund designed to empower LFPL workers to bring their dreams to life. Through an equitable, community-driven granting process*, the Blue Fund will uplift the voices of librarians, provide critical support for branch needs that might not otherwise be met, and connect donors with innovative solutions to meet felt-needs in our neighborhoods.

Each year, LFPL staff are invited to submit proposals to receive a $10,000 grant to produce a library project within one or more of the following categories:

1.     Innovation
Piloting new, groundbreaking programs, models, etc. or implementing innovative concepts with demonstrated impact from other libraries and learning environments.

2.     Access and Equity
Initiatives designed to expand LFPL’s ability to support all residents of Louisville with the “facilities, resources, and services they need to support their lifelong learning goals, ensure their educational and professional success, and to be fully engaged citizens in our community.”

3.     Awareness and Engagement
Programs, projects, or campaigns that increase community knowledge and participation in existing library resources, services, and/or physical spaces.

4.     Capacity Building Establishing initiatives or projects that increase patron participation, program scope, staff time, etc. This may include pilot and incubator projects that establish viability for public funding.

Reverend Thomas Fountain Blue was a minister, educator, and civic leader who led the segregated Western and Eastern branches of the Louisville Free Public Library in the early 1900s. To address prevailing racism in librarianship at that time, Reverend Blue established apprenticeships to train African American librarians from around the country. As the first African American to head a public library, Thomas Fountain Blue’s innovative, pioneering efforts led to the Louisville Free Public Library being nationally recognized as a leader in library administration and education for African Americans throughout the first half of the century.

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