Samuels Public Library continues to meet the changing needs of Warren County residents. In December, the Library unveiled a brand new Library Laptop and Hotspot Lending Program designed to address the digital equity needs of our community, now, during COVID-19, and beyond.
Digital equity is an ongoing challenge for some students and families in our county. Census records indicate that 10 percent of households in Warren County do not have computer access and nearly 20 percent of households in Warren County do not have internet access. Samuels Library has been addressing this program through a healthy computer access program at the Library. The Library’s 57 desktop computers and free Wi-Fi access are popular services at Samuels Library. In 2019, library users logged more than 23,000 computer sessions and more than 14,000 Wi-Fi sessions.
However, COVID-19 closures shined even more light on the digital equity challenges in our community. The pandemic caused normal locations that offer computer access and free Wi-Fi services to close or open only limited hours. At the same time, demand for computer services were rising with online education needs increasing and people needing more computer access to apply for jobs, unemployment benefits, or even seek virtual doctors’ appointments.
“When the Library was mandated to shut down in March, we found ways to deliver library services to our community through developing virtual programming, adding more digital resources and e-books and implementing curb-side pick-up ,” said Michelle Ross, Library Director. “The one service we could not provide at the time was essential computer access.”
“We are so pleased to be able to now offer a laptop and hotspot lending program, to not only address the increased need of computer and Wi-Fi use outside the Library walls during COVID-19, but to also address the larger issue of digital equity in our community going forward,” Ross added.
The new Library Laptop Lending Program, initiated on December 1, 2020 provides library users with access to 10 brand new laptops configured with widely used office and student programs and a T-Mobile hotspot for internet connection. The laptops come packed in a Samuels Library backpack and include a hotspot, a charger and instructions on use. The laptop packs are available to checkout for two weeks at a time. There are no renewals and patrons must be at least 18 years old to check out a pack.
“This is a pilot program for us,” Ross said. “We are one of the first libraries in the region to offer this program. If the program proves successful, we will work to add additional laptops for more access in the future.”
Warren County resident Elizabeth Schelin was one of the first Library patrons to checkout a laptop and hot spot. “I’m a teacher who is teaching 100 percent virtual, we have a student in the house who is 100 percent virtual and we have a home-based business in the house. On top of all that, our internet connection just died and a technician cannot get to our house to fix it for five more days,” she said. “This program is a lifesaver. Thank you so much.”
In addition to the Library Laptop Hotspot Lending Program, Samuels Library also added Tutor.com to its growing list of digital resources in November. A nationally recognized online tutoring service that provides one-to-one academic and career support, Tutor.com is also available free to use to library cardholders.
“Samuels Library has been working diligently throughout the pandemic to ensure that Warren County residents have access to the information and resources they need,” Ross said. “These new programs are examples of how we are meeting needs today, and into the future, to enrich lives and build a stronger community.”
About Samuels Public Library
Samuels Public Library brings people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community. A 501(c)(3) organization, the library annually serves more than 200,000 community members, checks out nearly 400,000 books, electronic and digital services, and provides essential computer access, wireless service and public meeting spaces for the community. To learn more, visit www.samuelslibrary.net or by calling (540) 635-3153.
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