The Orange County Public Library is pleased to announce it has received two grants totaling $62,343 to reduce barriers to library use. The library will use the funds to purchase a mobile app and contact-less self-checkout machines, Chromebooks for at-home use and, a customized website for computer instruction. The new services will be available for use this winter.
Lack of transportation or work and family demands make it difficult for some residents to get to the library or to use the library’s online services. Systemic racism and economic disparities also factor into the equation, issues the Orange County Public Library seeks to address head-on.
“We want to make it easier for all residents to perform the most basic of library tasks – borrow materials,” said Orange County Library Director Lucinda Munger. “Many individuals in our community work odd hours, and in some cases two jobs, on top of raising a family. That does not leave a lot of time left over to come to the library. We also know public libraries need to take intentional steps to ensure people of color feel welcomed to use our services.”
The mobile app will reduce the time needed to borrow materials and manage multiple library accounts. Once the immediate threat of the pandemic is over, having the app will make it possible to offer circulation services at community locations.
Munger noted that more than 5,000 Orange County residents still lack internet access. “Not everyone has a laptop at home or the computer knowledge to complete tasks many of us take for granted: applying for a job, doing homework, or working from home, disparities put into high relief during the pandemic.”
The County has a Broadband Taskforce to investigate ways to increase internet access, and in the meantime, the library is taking steps to address that gap.
Currently, library account holders may check out internet hotspots. Adding Chromebooks to the collection will make it possible to borrow both devices at the same time. The library will also launch a website to offer computer instruction. By combining hotpots, laptops, and instruction, the library will have a robust program to help address the digital divide.
“Adding the Public Library Association’s DigitalLearn computer instruction website to our services will boost our impact,” said Jason Richmond, technology librarian and program manager. “Not everyone has the computer skills or comfort level needed for today’s workplace, so it’s going to be great to offer tools people need alongside on-demand instruction.”
These service improvements are made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (IMLS grant numbers LS-250229-OLS-21 and LS-249980-OLS-21) and a match from the county in the amount of $12,657.
The Orange County Public Library has two locations, the Main Library at 137 W. Margaret Lane in downtown Hillsborough, and the Cybrary at 100 N. Greensboro Street in downtown Carrboro. For more information, visit www.OrangeCountyLibrary.org, call 919.245.2525 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the library on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.