CALS Announces Organizational Changes at Roberts Library

This spring, the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) unveiled a new strategic plan effective through 2022. The CALS strategic plan describes the library system’s mission, core values, and vision while also identifying goal areas where CALS will direct its energy and resources over the next several years.

The Roberts Library is CALS special collections branch composed of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Genealogy Department, and the Galleries at Library Square.

Beginning October 1, two key changes took place at Roberts Library in alignment with the strategic plan: Director of the Roberts Library David Stricklin will become Director of Strategic Partnerships & Community Engagement for the CALS system as a whole, where he will help guide the implementation of the Strategic Plan and strengthen relationships with governments, elected officials, community leaders and centers of influence; and Glenn Whaley will serve as Manager of the Roberts Library, expanding her role as operational leader for the past five years.

“The staffing changes will allow the library to benefit more from the unique gifts of two talented leaders,” said CALS Executive Director Nate Coulter. “David will be invaluable in driving the strategic evolution of our organization, and Glenn has already demonstrated her organizational and management skills as second-in-command of the Roberts Library. She’ll be an excellent leader to continue the vital and important work being done by the Roberts Library team.”

The CALS strategic plan is the result of broad-based community input, executive team engagement, consultation from national library planning experts, and board review and approval. The plan outlines seven organizational goals in the areas of (1) Extending Community Connections, (2) Services and Collections, (3) Facilities and Spaces, (4) Resource Allocation and Integration, (5) Public Awareness and Marketing, (6) Resource Development, and (7) Organizational Culture.

CALS announces new name, new focus for Literary Festival

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) is announcing a new name for the Arkansas Literary Festival: Six Bridges Book Festival. Named for the iconic six bridges that cross the Arkansas River, the festival will have a new focus, bridging communities and bringing people together. The library will actively solicit input from a variety of demographic groups with the goal of offering a more widely appealing festival.

“We want to involve many people from our community in the selection of presenters and activities, so they know their reading interests and the stories that fascinate them are central to the festival and they are an integral part of shaping the content of the Six Bridges Book Festival each year,” said Nate Coulter, CALS executive director.

“The Six Bridges Book Festival is a diverse, energetic celebration of all kinds of stories and topics, both literary and mainstream, and we feel the new name reflects the festival’s nature more accurately. Our goal is to draw a wider audience by removing any barriers of perception that this event is only for highbrow tastes.”

Previously known for 16 years as the Arkansas Literary Festival, the four-day event in April celebrates reading, literacy, stories, and wordsmithing. Scores of nationally known authors converge on the city to offer panels on a wide variety of topics, from cooking demonstrations to award-winning comedy.

A slate of programming for children and teens includes hands-on crafts and music, animal visits, poetry contests, and more. Authors also venture out into the community for efforts such as Writers in the Schools (WITS), bringing the joy of writing to hundreds of students in the Little Rock area. Concerts, films, readings, and author parties enhance the festive atmosphere across venues in downtown Little Rock, where events are held in museums, restaurants, the Clinton Presidential Library, and the CALS Ron Robinson Theater as well as in many library buildings.

Brad Mooy, the coordinator of the festival, looks forward to making the variety of the festival’s offerings and presenters more widely known to the community. “The diversity of presenters has greatly expanded over the years,” said Mooy. “We want to let people know that everyone is represented here, with topics and interactive activities that appeal to all age levels, cultural backgrounds, and reading tastes.”

Since the festival’s inception, the event has always been an important showcase for writers known nationally and internationally as well as locally based talent. Presenters from past festivals include 5-time James Beard Award winner Dorie Greenspan, Sebastian Junger, Catherine Coulter, Congressman John Lewis, Issa Rae, and critically acclaimed Arkansas authors such as Kevin Brockmeier and Trenton Lee Stewart.

The 17th annual festival now known as the Six Bridges Book Festival will take place April 23-26, 2020. The festival will feature author Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried) as part of the NEA Big Read: CALS.

For more information about the Six Bridges Book Festival, please contact Brad Mooy at or (501) 918-3098, or see the website at

CALS Receives $30,000 Grant to Increase Access to Little Rock Summer Healthy Foods Feeding Program Through Transit

No photo description available.Central Arkansas Library System (CALS), in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), has received a $30,000 grant to increase access to healthy foods and parks and recreation sites. The gift is part of a $1.5 million grant NRPA received from the Walmart Foundation to increase access to healthy foods in park and recreation agencies across the country.

The grant supports the City of Little Rock’s Be Mighty Little Rock afterschool and summer meal program by funding a new venture with CALS, Be Mighty Little Rock and Rock Region METRO to increase access to meal sites and activity centers by providing free bus passes to children and youths 18 and younger. The program, called Be Mighty METRO, allows participants access to free meals and activities provided in coordination with the Be Mighty Little Rock campaign. The passes provide unlimited rides on any Rock Region METRO route June 1 through July 31. CALS will receive additional support for meals provided through USDA after-school and summer meal programs, as well as nutritional literacy materials to help ensure life-long healthy habits for Little Rock’s youths.

“The Access to Healthy Foods grant is a perfect way for CALS to expand its existing afterschool and summer programming for youths in our area,” said Nate Coulter, CALS executive director. “We are a natural partner to the local school districts and Rock Region METRO, and in administering this grant, we are bringing these groups together to meet an existing community need. We hope to reach as many as 1,000 children and teens visiting our local libraries this summer.”

The Be Mighty METRO pass, which is good for June 1-July 31, is only available to participants age 18 and younger. Riders 11 and younger will be provided a pass for themselves and a guardian. Passes may be reserved starting May 13 at and picked up at any CALS branch. The pass reservation form and list of available meal sites can be found at

“Lack of transportation is often an insurmountable barrier for many children and youths who need healthy food,” said Charles D. Frazier, METRO executive director. “Most Be Mighty Little Rock meal sites are located along a METRO fixed route, and we are happy to participate in this program that enables our community’s youths to access healthy meals and safe places to spend time during the day.”

In Little Rock, libraries have been one of the largest providers of healthy meals to children in low-income communities through the USDA child nutrition programs, working to address hunger, provide nutrition education, and keep youths safe and engaged during out-of-school times. Building upon this strong foundation and the existing strengths of local agencies, NRPA seeks to expand the role and capacity of local parks and recreation to improve food access across diverse communities and generations by piloting and evaluating transportation and infrastructure barriers in communities. Little Rock’s Be Mighty METRO pilot leverages existing resources and assets, builds partnerships, and utilizes innovative systems to transport youths. Partners involved include CALS, Rock Region METRO, the City of Little Rock, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and the Little Rock School District.

According to Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign, 1 in 6 youths across the country struggle with hunger every day. During the school year, more than 21 million low-income children receive free or reduced meals to help them meet their daily nutrition needs, but only 3 million of these youths receive these meals during the summer. During summer months, these youths may not have access to quality and healthy food to help them grow — making the Be Mighty Little Rock program partners’ work during out-of-school times that much more critical.

“NRPA is thankful for our partnership with the Walmart Foundation to support local park and recreation agencies who make health and wellness a priority in the communities they serve — especially during out-of-school time,” said Kellie May, NRPA vice president of programs. “Parks and recreation are proving their critical role in the health of their communities and we can’t wait to see the impact this year’s grants will have on fostering life-long healthy habits in children across the country.”

To learn more about Be Mighty Little Rock, visit To learn more about NRPA’s Commit to Health campaign, which supports the implementation and evaluation of Healthy Eating Physical Activity standards in park and recreation sites across the country, visit

About Be Mighty Little Rock
Be Mighty Little Rock is a citywide campaign to connect children and teens 18 and younger to free meals. Summer meals will be offered at schools, libraries, parks, splash pads, community centers and other sites. Some sites offer breakfast and lunch; others offer dinner or a snack. The campaign is made possible through the CHAMPS grant from the National League of Cities (NLC) and Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Little Rock is one of only six cities to receive the grant. NRPA, NLC, and FRAC work in partnership with the Walmart Foundation.

About the National Recreation and Park Association 
The National Recreation and Park Association is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all Americans have access to parks and recreation for health, conservation and social equity. Through its network of 60,000 recreation and park professionals and advocates, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles, conservation initiatives and equitable access to parks and public space. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit

CALS joins with Gov. Hutchinson to announce new effort

Nate Coulter, executive director of Central Arkansas Library System (CALS); Amy Webb, Chief of Communications and Community Engagement, Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS); and Governor Asa Hutchinson will announce a new effort to keep Arkansans insured.

It will take place today (March 26) at 1:30 p.m. at the Capitol Rotunda, 500 Woodlane Street

Governor Hutchinson will join Coulter and Webb to announce a new partnership between CALS and DHS to help Arkansans get the proper information about Arkansas Works. CALS staff members have received training from DHS to assist people in signing up for Arkansas Works reporting. Staff can help patrons create an account, navigate the portal website, and scan and upload supporting documents.

On some occasions, depending on branch staffing needs, and on the level of assistance that is required, staff may ask patrons to schedule a future appointment rather than providing immediate help. Patrons may also call ahead to schedule an appointment.

18 Cultural Events from 2018 – CALS renames Ark. Studies Institute for Bobby Roberts

As the chronological countdown of 18 cultural events from 2018 starts —

In January it was announced that the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) had renamed the Arkansas Studies Institute (ASI) the Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History and Art in honor of the former CALS executive director who served in the position for more than twenty years before retiring in 2016.

“Bobby established a new normal at CALS by creating new concepts of what the public library could offer the community and by constructing unique spaces to make the library more appealing and accessible to all sorts of groups with varied interests in learning, enrichment, and entertainment,” said Nate Coulter, CALS executive director. “The library’s primary purpose has always been to provide access to information, but Bobby transformed and expanded what it means to be a library by placing a particular emphasis on Arkansas history and culture.”

Since the early 1990s, CALS has undergone several changes and expansions, now consisting of fourteen library locations in Little Rock, Perryville, and throughout Pulaski County. The Main Library moved from its original location at 7th and Louisiana to its current home in the River Market District, which helped trigger the revitalization of downtown Little Rock. That Main Library is now the centerpiece of a campus that includes the Ron Robinson Theater, the Cox Creative Center, and the Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History and Art (formerly ASI).

Roberts’s efforts in building striking library structures, in ecologically sustainable construction, and in adaptive reuse have been recognized by local, state, national, and international organizations. That includes the newly named Roberts Library. Opened in 2009, as the Arkansas Studies Institute, the structure houses the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, CALS’s Arkansas history department, and five galleries that feature art depicting the state or created by artists living in or from Arkansas.

“This complex of buildings certainly wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for Bobby Roberts. It is truly fitting for this edifice to be named in his honor,” said David Stricklin, director of the Butler Center.

Roberts’s special interests in Arkansas history and art and CALS’s long-held practice of collecting materials for the benefit of patrons interested in those topics helped inspire the conception of the ASI, which also houses the UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture. The university’s Arkansas-related documents and photographs were moved to the facility and are available for public use under an arrangement Roberts developed with former UA Little Rock Chancellor Joel Anderson. The building is also home to the Arkansas Humanities Council’s headquarters and classrooms and offices for the Clinton School of Public Service.

Later in the year, CALS rebranded its downtown campus of buildings as Library Square, unveiled a new website, and started a strategic planning process.