North Shore libraries are working to ensure those in the community who have traditionally depended on their local library to access a computer can still find a way to get online and connect with the services and people they depend on.
North Vancouver City Library, North Vancouver District Public Library and West Vancouver Memorial Library have received a donation of cell phones and tablets which will be distributed through local non-profit and social service agencies to people in need.
When North Shore libraries had to close last month due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, staff feared their clients – many of whom come into the library everyday – would no longer be able to access the technology they depend on.
“All three of the North Shore libraries have computers for people to use that are no longer available to use right now,” said Pat Cumming, head of the West Vancouver library’s customer and community experience department. “A lot of people don’t have internet at home, or might not have computers at home for various reasons.”
Library staff approached Telus with a proposal asking if they’d donate phones and tablet devices to be distributed to those in need in the community who under normal circumstances would be coming into the library to get online. Telus recently donated upwards of 400 devices, according to Cumming.
With the help of North Shore Emergency Management’s social and community impact team, the libraries are now determining which local social service providers will receive devices – and how many – to distribute to their network of clients.
The local non-profit agencies that will likely receive the devices includes ones that focus on recent immigrants, at-risk youth, families who might be experiencing financial hardships, mental health organizations, and seniors and older adults, according to Cumming.
“We surveyed something like 80 agencies on the North Shore,” she said. “A lot of them came back to us and said we need to get cell phones or tablets into the hands of our clients because they just have no way of connecting.”
With phones and tablets being essential devices in order for people to stave off social isolation, as well as connect with vital government services at this time, it was imperative to get this technology into the hands of those that need it right now, she added.
“It’s a great collaboration between the three libraries on the North Shore,” said Cumming.
The initiative was inspired by the work of the West Vancouver Seniors’ Activity Centre, who have been accepting donations of new and gently-used tablets to distribute to isolated seniors.
With the devices set to be distributed soon, North Shore libraries are working to make sure that when people in the community do receive the technology they’re there to help support them using it.
“You can’t just hand somebody a tablet and say, ‘Here you go.’ We’ll have some training courses, and we’ll also have some telephone and email support for people.”