King County Office of Equity and Social Justice awarded the King County Library System Foundation (KCLSF) two grants totaling $66,000—a Digital Equity for Adults with Barriers to Access and Services grant for $46,000, and a COVID-19 Community Response Fund grant for $20,000. The King County Library System (KCLS) will use the funds to help bridge the digital divide for at-risk populations most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.The
Since closing library buildings in March, following orders by Governor Jay Inslee to help slow the spread of COVID-19, KCLS staff expanded access to digital collections and resources, and transitioned programming and services to online platforms. Hardest hit by the closures are those who rely on KCLS’ in-person services, and may have limited access to technology, including seniors, people experiencing homelessness, and residents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).
To address digital inequities, and help reduce barriers to learning, telehealth, job training and other vital services, KCLS will use the King County grant funds to purchase 270 Wi-Fi hotspots with data plans and 220 Remote Patron Laptops (RPLs). The hotspots and RPLs will be delivered to designated assisted living and retirement centers, homeless communities and service provider locations, and refugee organizations. The long-term loan hotspots and RPLs may be checked out for up to one year.
The grants will also fund teleconferencing technology to outfit study rooms at select library locations. Once it is safe to reopen KCLS’ buildings to the public, residents may use the teleconferencing rooms as a secure space to access telehealth, career services, learning opportunities and more. KCLS staff will be available to help residents, especially those who may have limited digital literacy, schedule services vital to their health and well-being.
“Ensuring that all communities have equitable access to information and resources is not only an essential library service, it helps level the playing field and gives everyone an opportunity to realize their full potential,” stated KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum. “These grants provide funding to expand digital access across King County at a crucial time, and help KCLS create communities of inclusion and belonging.”
“Computers and broadband internet services are unaffordable to many people in our community,” added KCLSF Executive Director Ken Ryals. “Yet, especially today, they are absolutely essential to access education, health information, job services and much more. That’s why we’re excited to fund these vital assets to help get computers and technology directly into the hands of those who need it most.”