DAY OF GIVING: Public Library hopes to bridge the digital divide
By ANTHONY FLORES
The importance of the public library in a community like Liberty Hill extends beyond just checking out books. For many residents, it’s a necessity for their technological needs.
“We provide resources and free computers, DVDs, audiobooks, and educational databases,” said Librarian Angela Palmer. “We don’t charge anything to the public. Our goal is to provide free educational and recreational resources for everybody.”
The public library hopes to expand its services and impact on the community by providing more computers for patrons.
“What we’re asking for this year are computers and Wi-Fi hotspots,” said Palmer. “One of the things we need is computers because we only have four public computers that get tons of use because a lot of people out here can’t afford or do not have internet access.”
The library’s work isn’t strictly educational. In some cases, their work is helping people make a living.
“We would like to expand our computers because a lot of people are looking for jobs, and we help a lot of people apply for jobs,” said Palmer.
Palmer believes an issue that faces the community is technological literacy, and she is trying to address it because knowing these skills in the 21st Century is vital to everyday life.
“A lot of people don’t know how to do computer basics like setting up email,” she said. “What we’re planning to do if we can get some money from the Day of Giving is to buy computers and have classes for people to come in and learn how to do those things.”
A key aspect of improving tech literacy is beginning at a younger age. Palmer hopes that with some money raised, the library can start to offer coding courses.
“We want to set up coding classes for kids so we can advance their education,” she said. “We’re trying to bridge the digital divide in the country. With COVID and kids trying to go to school, we realize that some kids don’t have access at home.”
The need for the library’s services is showing now more than ever. Parking lots full of people trying to use the Wi-Fi hotspot during the pandemic shows Palmer how vital they are.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been shut down, and we’re the only free computers in town,” she said. “A lot of people need us to help them print out things for work or do their online classes. Right now, we aren’t doing as well as we could. Lately, these couple of months, we’ve been extending our Wi-Fi out to the parking lot so that people can use it 24/7, and we’ve had a lot of usages.”
Because of COVID-19, Palmer doesn’t feel it’s appropriate to ask for funds, but says that whatever the community can give is welcomed.
“People have been hurting, they’ve been out of work or unable to work as much, and they’re conscious about money because they don’t know what’s going to happen with the economy,” she said. “We’ll accept what we can this year. We’ve been lucky. People have been generous with us.”