Library improves digital equity through laptop program 

The Library strives to connect members of our diverse community to learning, resources, culture, and each other—and it is doing just that with its laptop and hotspot lending program. In 2022, the Library received a grant of almost $140,000 from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Emergency Connectivity Fund. This fund was established to support libraries and schools in providing remote learning resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Library has used the grant to purchase 200 laptop and hotspot devices and a year of hotspot fees, which the Library will continue funding moving forward. The Library has provided local nonprofits with laptops and hotspots for use by the community since early 2022. 

Sara Maloney, manager of research and digital creation at the Library, believes “This project has been an effective way to improve digital equity in our community by expanding access even outside of the library. We’re lucky to have so many local organizations in St. Joseph County helping people in various ways. We can all make a bigger impact by working together on projects like this.” 

Since the program’s start in 2022, the laptop and hotspot program has benefitted eleven local nonprofit agencies. Each nonprofit has the ability to determine how the devices are used to serve the community. 

Learn about impact of the laptop and hotspot lending program

At Neighbor to Neighbor, Executive Director Andrea Cramer believes “The use of laptops and hotspots is such a gift for the Neighbor to Neighbor community. When newcomers arrive to the United States, it is pivotal to provide access to the internet and tech equipment that will allow them to communicate with their family back home, set up utility payments, learn how to navigate the St. Joseph County community and more. When there are so many logistics to settling into a new place, it is such a kindness to know that digital access is not one more piece to have to figure out.”

At the Motels4Now (Our Lady of the Road) housing program, individuals experiencing homelessness are able to use the equipment in the motel’s Wellness Room. The devices have been particularly helpful in accessing wireless internet in the building.

At La Casa de Amistad Youth & Community Center, laptops from the Library’s lending program are used by Spanish-speaking adults and community members who attend English classes at the center. One student notes, “Pues me ayuda a practiar más y repasar lo que veo en la cláse de computación.” “Well it helps me practice more and go over what I learn in my computer class.

At the South Bend Community School Corporation’s Adult Education program, hotspots are used to help adult learners register for classes.

Additional nonprofit organizations benefit from the Library’s program, including: 

  • Camp Millhouse
  • Shaw Center for Children and Families
  • Community Action – REAL Services
  • Broadway Christian Parish
  • La Casa de Amistad Youth & Community Center
  • The Beacon
  • Center for the Homeless
  • YWCA of North Central Indiana
  • Homes for Tracy

The Library’s laptop and hotspot program is helping to bridge the digital divide in the community.

Community members use laptops at La Casa de Amistad‘s English classes. 

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