Thunder Bay·New

Thunder Bay Public Library seeks to expand device and rocket hub loan program

After a somewhat slow start to their project aiming to bridge the digital divide, the Thunder Bay Public Library is now looking to recruit new partner agencies and connect more people with electronic devices and internet access.

Library expects to receive 90 new Chromebook laptops in coming months

The Thunder Bay Public Library says it is looking for agencies in the community to refer more clients to their device loaning program. (Getty Images/Canopy)

After a somewhat slow start to their project aiming to bridge the digital divide, the Thunder Bay Public Library is now looking to recruit new partner agencies and connect more people with electronic devices and internet access.

The initiative, which began with just 50 tablets and rocket hubs available for loan to people with greatest need for digital connection, will be expanding its selection of devices with 90 Chromebook laptops ordered.

The way the program works is that any of the 32 community agencies that have signed onto the project are able to refer their clients who may not have regular internet access to temporarily loan out a device from the library.

It launched in November 2020 and has already made an impact in the community, according to community hub librarian Laura Prinselaar.

"Someone had borrowed the device and then their worker actually called to say, 'hey, you know what? That person got the job."

Prinselaar added, "there's so many different reasons that people need to go online these days, and we just really want to make sure that people know this is something they can use for all those purposes."

Library is looking for more referrals

The program started off slow, according to Prinselaar, as the library encouraged their community partners to refer more people to the new program.

"We were surprised at the start when we launched this that we weren't getting as much a response," she said. "But now we're rocking forward and the referrals come in regularly."

Tina Maronese, the public library's director of communities, says the two agencies that have been making the most referrals are YES Employment and the John Howard Society.

"Employment is pretty important, especially in light of all the layoffs and everything that has happened because of the pandemic … so lots of people are seeking employment and the need to have the means to do so," said Maronese.

"And John Howard serves those who have recently been incarcerated and are back out in the community, so there's a whole lot of services and supports that those people need as well."

Prinselaar added that there is currently a small waiting list for the devices, but with more devices on the way, the library is hoping to grow awareness about the program.

"It's important that the agencies know about it, but also just that people who might be well served by this program know about it," she said. "Maybe someone sees a poster and thinks that's something that could be really useful for [them]. I should ask some questions at my next appointment."

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