Grant enables NP Library to loan home office kits


Grant enables NP Library to loan home office kits

8/6/2021

Stefanie Blankenship, Director of the North Providence Union Free Library, stands beside an example of the library’s new “Any Place Office Space” kits for patrons to check out. Kits include laptop and charger, wireless printer and charger, mobile hotspot and charger, USB stick, wireless mouse, and printer paper. (Photo Brise by Mélanie Thibeault)

The objective of the project to improve residents’ access to technology

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Wishing to provide more residents with access to technology and bridge the digital divide in the city, staff at the North Providence Union Free Library have created what they call “Any Place Office Space” kits that customers can use. view and use from the comfort of their home or anywhere they choose.

The 10 kits, funded in part by a $ 11,250 grant from the Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services with funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, include a laptop and charger, printer and wireless charger. wire, a mobile hotspot and a charger. , a USB key, a wireless mouse and printer paper. The kits will be on loan from June 3 to August 18, with the last return day no later than September 15, according to staff. People can purchase a kit for any length of time, with a maximum of three months, and will be able to keep the USB drive.

“I am very honored and grateful to have the opportunity to serve our city (and provide) the services it needs,” library director Stefanie Blankenship told The Breeze, adding that she was grateful for the Rhode Island Library Grant. “The staff are happy, the customers are happy, the city is happy. Everyone seems really excited (about the program). OLIS awarded 16 Rhode Island Library Grants this year for a total of $ 431,000 to RI libraries and consortia. When the call for applications went out, Blankenship said she wanted to apply for funding for a project focused on equity related to technology and broadband access. “It was really obvious,” she said.

People might not realize it, but there is a digital divide in North Providence, she said. Broadband access is expensive, as are equipment such as computers, printers, and printer ink.

When the library reopened last July after being closed for several months due to the pandemic, the need for office equipment was evident, Blankenship said. From July to April, the library’s eight public computers were reserved, and during this period, the library recorded 3,303 computer sessions, 5,300 print jobs and 115 mobile hotspot rentals with 61 renewals, a she said, noting that the library’s 21 access points were never on the shelf. These hot spots will continue to be loaned, but demand remains high.

With people stuck at home, many residents found themselves without broadband access, computers and printers. The aim of the project, according to the grant application, “is to provide essential access to information resources. Without personal computers and broadband service, many people find themselves without resources for school, employment, entertainment, personal development and well-being.

Many people need these tools to work or learn from home, file for unemployment, apply for jobs, do their taxes and sign up for COVID-19 tests or vaccinations, Blankenship said.

In addition to Blankenship, Michael Crispino, Technology Librarian, and Liz D’Amore, Deputy Director, worked on the implementation of this project. The program will help library staff know the specific needs of clients, Blankenship said, noting that some may only need a mobile hotspot or printer while others may need. of the complete kit. After the three-month period has elapsed, staff will assess whether to continue with the kits, which may require additional funding.

As the state has opened up and patrons can once again use the library’s computers and printers, having these kits to go is a good option for people who still don’t feel safe, Blankenship said. . Before the pandemic, the library offered 30 public computers, but now uses around 14 to maintain some distance and make patrons more comfortable.

Restrictions on time spent in the library have also been lifted, in accordance with state guidelines.

Blankenship said she believes North Providence has the only library in the state that offers wireless printer lending. Two of the 10 kits were loaned out last Wednesday, Blankenship said, adding that people who viewed them were very excited to borrow them, including a customer who continued to come to the library to print materials.

The kits are perfect for households that only have one computer but now multiple people need more access, she said.

A survey will be included with each kit for borrowers to share their use of the equipment and “how the quality of their work has improved by having access to these services,” the request says.

Library staff will assess whether there is a need for more home office kits in the future or if 10 were sufficient and whether to scale up or down the program.

To make an appointment to pick up a kit, call the administration office at 401-353-5600, ext. 801, 802 or 804. Borrowers must be 18 years of age or older, sign a contract and have a valid library card. If a resident does not have a library card, they can register that day, Blankenship noted. They should allow for a brief training session with the technology librarian before borrowing a kit.

As part of the contract, patrons agree to call the library if they have any problems with the equipment and will not use the equipment for illegal or illicit purposes. Visit nprovlib.org.

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