Pilot Project: Three Chicago Public Library Branches Will Begin Lending Internet Routers and Tablets Next Month
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Chicagoans using three branch libraries — Brighton Park, Greater Grand Crossing and Douglass — will be able to check out Wi-Fi “hotspot” devices and tablets along with their books, periodicals and movies, thanks to $575,000 in grants tailor-made to bridge the digital divide.
Each of the three branch libraries will circulate roughly 100 hotspot devices that allow residents to check them out for up to three weeks at a time.
The Brighton Park, Greater Grand Crossing and Douglass branches also will each lend library patrons up to 10 tablets and have an influx of so-called CyberNavigators to provide digital skills training.
The pilot program follows a 2011 study that found in-home broadband use barely reaches 50 percent in homes in Chicago’s lowest-income neighborhoods. The numbers were significantly lower in the lowest income areas, the city said.
The pilot will test the idea that three-week loans of hotspots, when combined with enhanced digital skills coaching, will improve online engagement and fluency in these communities.
Once tested, the pilot will expand to at least three additional communities.
CPL is already the largest provider of free internet access through its 80 locations in Chicago communities, and the City of Chicago and CPL are committed to increasing the number of digitally connected and engaged Chicagoans through this pilot.
“The importance of Internet access and digital literacy skills in today’s economy is clear,” said CPL Commissioner Bannon. “We are committed to working with public and private entities to bridge the digital divide throughout the city.”
In 2014, CPL was one of 19 winners out of 700 cities that applied to the Knight News Challenge, which sought breakthrough ideas that strengthen the Internet for freedom of expression and innovation. This $400,000 in grant funding has jumpstarted the “Internet to Go” pilot program.
Google will also provide $175,000 to support the initiative, which is the second major CPL tech lending initiative supported by Google. In April 2014, Google donated 500 Finch Robots for circulation to help kids as young as 8 years old learn computer coding.
Question: Who are the CyberNavigators teaching digital literacy skills? What are the qualifications to teach digital literacy? Will librarians be involved in the training program? Will digital literacy training be required to borrow a hotspot?
See Also: Projects from New York Public Library, Chicago Public Library, and DPLA Awarded Knight Foundation “News Challenge” Grants (June 23, 2014)
See Also: New York Public Library Expands Free Wi-Fi Hotspot Loan Program (December 2, 2014)
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.