Library offers Laptop/Hotspot Lending Program

A new program announced by the Lincoln County Public Library is offering laptops and hotspots to help local residents with workforce and educational activities.

The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives awarded 20 grants for the Laptop/Hotspot Lending Program and Lincoln County was one of the recipients.

The KDLA kits include a computer laptop and Wi-Fi hotspot.

“Originally we applied to get five kits and they came back and said they think Lincoln County could benefit from more so they offered us 10. So we have 10 laptops with hotspots that can be checked out to the community,” said LCPL Director Amanda Gearhart.

The individual kits can be checked out for three weeks at a time, she said.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Gearhart said.

The lending program officially started Feb. 1 and the laptops and hotspots are now available to the public.

“Whoever wants to borrow them has to have a library card and they need to be 18 (years old),” Gearhart said.

“If you are new to getting a library card, you have to establish a positive borrowing history. We define that as: for three months you’ve checked out an item maybe every two weeks or so for three months and returned it on time and in good condition,” she said.

If three months seems like longer than you’d like to wait, Gearhart said patrons can also submit a deposit.

“To help allow people to be able to borrow this sooner, we’ve set up a system where they can leave a deposit or put a credit card on file and then we can check those out sooner,” she said.

That’s just to protect the assets and make sure they come back so more people can use them, Gearhart said.

“As much as possible, we’re trying to make it available,” she said.

Each mobile hotspot can connect to up to 10 devices, Gearhart added.

The KDLA Workforce Grant aims to provide Kentuckians with access to computers and Wi-FI, especially in rural areas, according to a press release.

“Unfortunately, many Kentuckians cannot afford or don’t have access to computers or Wi-Fi, especially in rural areas. That means they can’t look for jobs online or write and send their resume or take a class online, so they are at a disadvantage in so many ways.

KDLA’s Workforce Grants help close that digital divide and give Kentuckians who lack computers and home internet access the opportunity to participate,” said Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet (EWDC).

Lincoln County was one of 20 counties to receive the KDLA grant.

“KDLA is pleased to assist these communities, many of which were struggling economically before the additional burdens levied by COVID-19, through this hotspot/laptop lending project. Residents of these communities will now, with the assistance of their local libraries, have the opportunity to search for employment, apply for jobs, participate in online education, and participate in community activities,” said Terry Manuel, commissioner of KDLA, state librarian, and archives and records administrator.

Gearhart said Lincoln County received funding for one year and at the end of the grant cycle, will be eligible to apply for renewal.

“Part of that is that we demonstrate that our community does want to take advantage of this type of program,” she said. “It’s beneficial and we know it’s beneficial because there are so many folks in Lincoln County who can’t get internet access for one reason or another; either location or it’s just not in their monthly budget.”

Gearhart said the program could be especially helpful now during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has caused job losses as well as forced many people to adapt to working from home.

“Especially now when people may not be working full time jobs or they’ve been laid off for a period of time,” she said. “The grant is under the workforce development, so that is to help people be able to learn new skills, search for jobs and development resumes.”

LCPL also offers a free booklet on resume writing.

“We’ve also made sure that software includes Zoom and WebEx and Skype – those kinds of things that people are using to connect,” Gearhart said.

The laptop and hotspot can also be checked out separately, she added, if only one of the two is needed by the patron.

Funding for these grants came from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ (ILMS) Grants to States Program, the largest source of federal funding support for library services in the United States. ILMS’s first year of funding for the program is $239,288 and includes the cost of the laptop and the first year of hotspot service.

Gearhart said anyone who is interested in the lending program should call LCPL to start the process.

“Then we will call them back when one is available to make arrangements to come pick it up,” she said.

Patrons have 48 hours to pick up the laptop from the time they are notified of it’s availability, Gearhart said.

Gearhart said the library plans to re-open to in-person traffic Wednesday this week, depending on the weather.

“We will be open for in-person Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” she said.

“The intention is we will be building back up to more normal hours, but we’re still be cautious.”

SO YOU KNOW
The Lincoln County Public Library can be reached at 606-365-7513. For more information visit www.lcplinfo.org.