NORTH PROVIDENCE – The North Providence Union Free Library is piloting the Any Place Office Space program, which brings technology to communities in need, allowing patrons to rent all the equipment they need to download and print items .
Any Place Office Space is part of the US Reconstruction Plan Action Funding and Library Services and Technology Act Grant.
Library director Stefanie Blankenship said she came up with the idea of making all-in-one tech kits available after learning that the grant would go to a library with a unique idea for funds. .
“I was thinking about what was really cutting edge and what hadn’t been done in our library or any other library in our state, so I did some research to see who is lending computers, laptops. or access points, ”she said.
After researching, she found that while some state libraries loan laptops and hotspots, none loan printers. She and her team looked at the number of print jobs in progress and the number of hotspots checked out over a period of time, finding that the print was particularly in demand since it reopened after the worst of the pandemic.
The ten kits available for loan include laptop and charger, printer and wireless charger, mobile hotspot and charger, USB stick, wireless mouse, and ink and paper printing. Customers were able to start viewing them in 3 month increments starting in June.
The library received an additional grant of $ 11,250 from the Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services using funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to help purchase the 10 kits.
“We realized that the real need was really for laptops, broadband, or Wi-Fi, and then people coming and going to print things, be it tax forms, COVID vaccines, or claims. of employment, ”said Blankenship. “With people working from home or having family members working or attending school from home, they may need an additional computer or access point to be able to do their jobs efficiently. “
Blankenship said having a mobile printer with the kit is an important aspect as many people cannot afford ink or paper.
The idea caught the attention of US Senator Jack Reed, who was looking to see how federal funding in response to the pandemic was being spent in libraries. Reed was reviewing all of the programs that libraries are considering, saw the one from North Providence and said he wanted to see the project, she said.
After visiting the North Providence Union Free Library, Reed said he was impressed with the program and informed library staff that he would use the program as a role model when he traveled the country talking about library services. The North Providence Union Free Library is now serving as a pilot project for the national program.
“It just seemed like a no-brainer,” Blankenship said.
“I didn’t see what the problem was, but that’s because it hadn’t been done before.”
Mayor Charles Lombardi recently visited Reed and funded the library for five more kits, which are expected to be available from January.
Kits cannot be reserved, but names will be put on a waiting list if necessary. Kits are renewable but should be taken to Michael Crispino, Technology Librarian, to make sure everything is in order.
Call the Referral Service at 401-353-5600, ext. 3, for more information on the kits.