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Google and Friends of the Caldwell Co. Public Library Launch Wi-Fi Lending Program to Help Bridge the Digital Divide

LENOIR, NC (August 26, 2019) — Google has partnered with the Friends of the Caldwell County Public Library to launch a Wi-Fi lending program designed to connect people, at no cost, with the educational, career and other empowering resources to be found on the Internet.

“Loaning out the Internet” Will Allow 24/7 Access Well Beyond Library Walls

“Thanks to our partnership with Google, our library has been able to provide our citizens with more digital access and become one of the few public libraries in the state to offer such an innovative program,” said Caldwell County Board of Commissioners Chair Randy Church.

As part of the one-year pilot program, the library will lend hotspot devices and various kinds of screens (e.g. Chromebooks) for two weeks at a time to residents of Caldwell County with a library card in good standing. The program’s logistics are spelled out at www.ccpl.libguides.com/adults.

“By loaning out the Internet, and a device, we can provide our patrons with 24/7 access,” says Lesley Mason, director, Caldwell County Public Library. “We will no longer be tying patrons to the confines of the library’s operating hours. Offering mobile hotspots and devices to our patrons will help meet their information needs in new and exciting ways.”

Google, which operates a data center in Lenoir, made the program possible through a grant to the Friends of the Caldwell County Public Library. The partners will monitor and assess the results of the pilot, and consider tweaks and an extension in the summer of 2020.

Caldwell County Public Library Information Technology Technician Joseph Anderson shows Jorge Gutierrez, Google Site Operations Manager, one of the Chromebooks the library now has available for patrons to check out.

“Google is proud to be in Caldwell County, and committed to helping address the needs of the community that supports our data center,” says Lilyn Hester, the company’s head of Southeast of external affairs. “This includes supporting efforts to bridge the digital divide through Caldwell County’s public libraries. By making Wi-Fi access possible 24/7, more of our neighbors will be able to explore the educational and economic opportunities afforded through digital tools.”

The hotspots and devices are available at the Library’s main branch in Lenoir.

As the American Library Association noted in a recent report, the modern library has evolved from its traditional role as a research-centric establishment to a central location for digital access, learning and literacy. Caldwell County Library patrons, for example, log almost 4,000 computer sessions per month across three locations.

Some of the benefits of the lending program include: accessing health information, allowing individuals living with disabilities the option to access the Internet from the comfort of home, bridging the Digital Divide in our community, lessening the homework gap for children, offering connectivity to financially disadvantaged patrons, helping individuals access employment opportunities, and the ability of secondary students, or non-traditional students to study at home.

For more information, please contact Lesley Mason, MLS at (828) 757-1288 or lmason@caldwellcountync.org.

Background on local digital access

In Caldwell County, approximately 2,000 people do not have access to 25mbps wired broadband. Approximately 2,000 people in Caldwell County don’t have access to any wired internet. Residential fiber service is available to only 10% of people living in Hudson.

While Caldwell County is listed at having access to broadband connectivity, 17% of residents are living in poverty, and can’t afford the monthly service or the device in which to access the internet. Among the 10 most populous states, North Carolina has the largest proportion of individuals living in rural areas. Its rural population is larger than in any other state except for Texas. Almost 20% of Caldwell County residents don’t have a computer in their home. Only 14% of residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Photo Caption: Caldwell County Public Library Information Technology Technician Joseph Anderson shows Jorge Gutierrez, Google Site Operations Manager, one of the Chromebooks the library now has available for patrons to check out.