The St. Louis Public Library’s (SLPL) Chromebook and hotspot rental program has just expanded. The program lets community members rent Chromebooks and hotspots the same way they would rent library books.
The library applied for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), a federal program that provides funding for internet connectivity and technology to schools and libraries.
COVID-19 creates a new set of challenges for communities everywhere, with many individuals logging into work or school from home. The lack of widespread broadband and devices creates a need for these hotspots and Chromebooks.
“Everything was online. There was Zoom school and Zoom work, and the program is to help create access through internet connectivity devices for low-income areas,” Shelby Morgan, an acquisitions editor who works for the SLPL, said.
The ECF was received in 2021 to address the unique barriers presented by the pandemic.
“SLPL started the long-term program last year when the first wave of funding from the ECF was received and the first 8,000 devices were checked out by cardholders,” Jen Hatton, manager of public relations and digital marketing, said.
A total of 4,000 Chromebooks and 4,000 hotspots were purchased with the original funds. This expansion has allowed the SLPL to purchase an additional 1,500 Chromebooks and 8,000 hotspots.The hotspots can support up to 16 people without losing speed, accommodating families with several children.
The loan expiration date has been extended with the program’s expansion. Renters from 2021 now won’t have to return devices until 2023.
“The wonderful part of this is how truly impactful this has been on cardholders. We have heard stories about what these devices mean to our customers,” Hatton said. “How having the connectivity and technology access, that they may not otherwise have access to, has allowed them or their child or both to participate in online learning, take classes, search for jobs, and connect with others. It’s amazing to know that this program will have a lasting impact on our customers.”
To apply, candidates must visit one of the 16 public library locations. All candidates must be St. Louis City residents with library cards.