New Castle County libraries lend out WiFi hotspots, laptops in attempt to bridge 'digital divide'
New Castle County is ramping up efforts to help residents access laptops and WiFi hotspots from their local library.
New Castle County libraries now offer a limited number of Chromebook laptops and WiFi hotspots for checkout by patrons age 18 and older.
“Libraries play an important role in providing computer and internet access to the community,” said County Executive Matthew Meyer in a statement. “By offering Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots for checkout, we are helping to meet an essential need and are providing important tools to help our community recover from the pandemic.”
The program is a partnership between the County and the state Division of Libraries. County officials say it’s an effort to bridge the “digital divide,” or disparity in access to internet and digital devices among County residents.
Hockessin Library Manager Beth Borene says she sees that gap at her branch.
“We serve a lot of different people— people who can afford computers and people who cannot afford computers,” she said. “We know that smartphones are ubiquitous at this point, but not everyone has a data plan, so that’s one of the reasons we really wanted to get hotspots out there.”
Borene says the desktop computers in the libraries are a good option — but they have time limits. She adds the Chromebooks are secure and private, because the libraries erase all data between users.
“These are really great for people who are job hunting,” Borene said. “These are great for people who are connecting with family members that they might not have been able to see for a really long time, so they’re using social media, … checking email— we have a gentleman who hadn’t checked his email in two years. ”
Each County branch has nine Chromebooks and five WiFi hotspots to lend out. Library patrons can check them out for a week at a time, with up to three renewals, if no one else has reserved them. They can be reserved online or by phone.