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North Shore libraries launch lendable laptop program

Initiative seeks to fill digital gap highlighted by pandemic
Loanable laptops at library
North Vancouver City Library, West Vancouver Memorial Library and the North Vancouver District Public Library system have launched a new lendable laptop program.
In an effort to bridge the digital divide, North Shore libraries are set to launch a new lendable laptop program.

Library card holders at North Vancouver City Library and West Vancouver Memorial Library can now borrow from a collection of 50 new laptops that use Google Chrome’s operating system.

The North Vancouver District Public Library system is set to introduce 25 rental laptops for loan by April, according to a joint news release from all three library systems.

The initiative comes about after the pandemic highlighted the existing and growing digital divide on the North Shore, with research conducted with input from community organizations like Silver Harbour Seniors’ Activity Centre, North Shore Multicultural Society, and the general public.

Using 2016 census data, the libraries estimated that 10,000 individuals on the North Shore do not have any at-home access to technology such as a computer, tablet or e-reader, according to Abigail Saxton, spokeswoman for North Vancouver City Library.

“Looking at our statistics among the three North Shore libraries, we estimated that about 500 people visit the library every day to use a public computer pre-pandemic. When the libraries had to shut down and limit services last year, a lot of people were immediately cut off from access,” said Saxton. “The pandemic has of course greatly exacerbated the need for staying connected.”

Previously the libraries have had a small number of devices available for loan such as iPads and e-readers, but this is the first time a collection of laptops has been added to their catalogues.

In March last year, the province provided $3 million in funding for public libraries across B.C. to invest in technological upgrades, online programs and digital initiatives.

The lendable laptop program is also supported by the federal government’s Emergency Community Support Fund and the West Vancouver Foundation.