BOSTON – April 7, 2021 – In honor of National Library Week, the Boston Public Library today announced the expansion of its digital initiatives including the launch of Connectivity Kits, and the growth of its Outdoor Wi-Fi program to include five new branches. Coupled with the library’s Public Computer Access program, and the continuous availability of digital resource and courses, the BPL is reaffirming its commitment to closing the digital divide both during the pandemic and in the years ahead.
“Our business is access to information and resources, and helping close the digital divide is part of that work, particularly as our global health crisis increases the need to connect digitally for the very people whose need is greatest,” said BPL President David Leonard. “Through our Connectivity Kits, expanded Outdoor Wi-Fi, Public Computer Access program, and ongoing tech courses, we are removing even more barriers to access.”
The Connectivity Kits are designed to help patrons bridge the digital divide by providing free, reliable internet access in any location. The kits include a 14” Chromebook, a hotspot, and a mouse, as well as the necessary chargers and a quick start guide, all in a BPL bag for easy access and transportation. While the BPL continues to offer Public Computer Access at the Central Library in Copley Square, Connectivity Kits extend this service into patrons’ homes and neighborhoods, on a schedule that works for them. The BPL hopes these kits will help Bostonians job hunt, complete school work, learn new skills, or simply connect with friends and family.
Patrons can place a hold and check out a Connectivity Kit by calling 617.536.5400 or by visiting bpl.org/chromebook. The kits can be checked out from any BPL location for up to one full week and will be cleaned using EPA-approved products between users. Patrons also have the option of checking out an individual hotspot for use with their own internet-enabled device. At the end of the loan period, the devices are disabled, and the patron is responsible for returning the kit.
Additionally, the BPL has expanded its Outdoor Wi-Fi program to include five additional branches, giving patrons free internet access in the areas surrounding their local branches. The new branches are: Brighton, Connolly, Lower Mills, Roxbury, and West Roxbury. The previously announced branches are: Codman Square, East Boston, Egleston Square, Grove Hall, Honan-Allston, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Parker Hill and South End, bringing the total number of branches offering outdoor Wi-Fi up to 14. These locations are in areas of lower at-home broadband adoption, household income, and availability of nearby outdoor seating. To access the Internet, users will need to bring their own device, such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and must maintain physical distancing.
The BPL is also offering virtual classes, workshops, and info sessions on a wide range of topics, including computer and digital skills training. For assistance in using a Connectivity Kit, patrons can contact the BPL’s Community Learning team at 617.859.2323 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Library staff are available to assist with basic usage from 10am – 1pm, Monday - Friday. For more in-depth computer training, patrons are encouraged to register for the Tech Goes Home program, which strives to ensure that all residents of the City of Boston are equipped with the tools, training, and access to support 21st-century skill development. Participants in the program receive 15 hours of digital skills training, and receive a free Chromebook laptop at the end of the course. Additionally, the library offers extensive job seeker resources, as well a range of career skills and business training courses through the Kirstein Business Library & Innovation Center.
These programs and offerings are aligned with the City of Boston’s overall drive towards digital equity. Mayor Kim Janey recently announced that the city’s Digital Equity Fund has reopened to applications for $250,000 in grants to Boston-based non-profit organizations working to increase digital equity. The Fund will award grants ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 to organizations working to implement community-based digital equity initiatives, including support for Boston residents needing assistance and training in technology devices, equipment, and internet access. To learn more visit boston.gov/digital-equity-fund.