More laptops and access points available for KC library users

Before the pandemic, public libraries were the regular source of digital access for many people, with computers and the internet available to help some citizens with a myriad of important tasks.

The branch closures for a while when the pandemic hit amplified how much some people, students and adults alike, depended on public libraries for internet and digital access. Through hotspot programs and even lending laptops to patrons, libraries have tried to help fill the digital gaps that exist in their communities.

The Kansas City Public Library, which has branches in Sugar Creek and on 23rd Street in Independence West, recently received more than $ 850,000 in federal emergency connectivity funds to bolster its lending program. laptops and access points. Last year, the Mid-Continent Public Library received $ 82,000 in federal funds from the CARES Act to purchase mobile hotspots for its patrons, and it also received other community grants and fundraisers. for the loan of more laptops and access points.

In a statement released last week, the Kansas City Public Library said it plans to purchase 1,200 Chromebooks with built-in 4G digital speed and 300 access points with unlimited data to complement its current program with the 853. $ 212 she received from the Emergency Connectivity Fund. The ECF is an initiative included in the American Rescue Plan Act (APRA) that Congress approved in the spring.

“The pandemic has really shown that when everyone was asked to return home, a huge injustice came to the fore,” said Melissa Carle, director of information services at the Kansas City Public Library. “There is a huge amount of population that has no access to the outside world. And Kansas City, we weren’t alone with that.

“That’s what a lot of broadband dollars (nationwide) are for.”

The computer has the same cellular capacity as a smartphone, Carle explained, and access points can be connected to a computer and are like having a wireless network that can be carried anywhere.

The exact amount that the various branches of KCPL will receive has to be determined, but Carle said, “Our intention is to put them in each branch, and we also have the bookmobile.

“This is why there were so many of us with our request,” she said. “The goal would be to always have something on the shelves at every branch.”

The library system has around 750 active machines (desktops and laptops) for patrons, Carle said, so the ECF grant will allow them to almost triple that availability. The library also has a few hundred wireless hotspots already available for card customers and community partners to borrow, including from the library bookmobile.

“These are programs that we launched in the midst of the pandemic, in response to a need in the community,” said Talia Evans, spokesperson for the library.

The Mid-Continent Public Library launched its hotspot lending program in mid-February. Since then, said library staff, library members have performed more than 2,400 access point checks at various branches.

Also in the ECF award list, the Independence School District received $ 126,000 for broadband services. Funding for libraries and schools nationwide, Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said in a statement, “will make a major dent in the closure of one of the cruelest parties of the digital divide “.

“Public libraries are inclusive in who we serve; we are for the public good, ”said Carle. “If you have a library card, you qualify. And if you don’t have a card, we can help you get one.

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