The Chestatee Regional Library System, which includes the Dawson County Library, has recently started a laptop lending program, allowing patrons to check out ChromeBook laptop computers for two weeks at a time.
According to a release by the library system, the funding for the ChromeBooks came from the Libraries Without Walls grant, which is funded through federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act dollars. The CARES money allotted to the grant by the Georgia Public Library System, or GPLS, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services included $124,000 earmarked for 450 ChromeBooks for libraries across the state, and the Chestatee Regional Library System was able to receive several of the laptops.
According to Stacey Leonhardt, branch manager for the Dawson County Library, the county received five laptops that will be available for loan.
“We put one at our satellite library which is at Fire Station 2 and then we have four here,” Leonhardt said. “And then we have the ability to borrow from the Lumpkin library as well, so if we run out we can always transfer some from the Lumpkin library since we’re all in the same regional system.”
Leonhardt said that since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been an increased need for everyone to have a way to be connected to the internet in order to complete everyday tasks like work or school. Because of this, having the ability to check out a laptop from the library can make a huge difference.
“People work online, school is online including college, and with college courses and everything they need it might be that if they have a laptop already something isn’t loaded on there, some people don’t have access to laptops or maybe have access to an iPad but it has to be on a Google computer, so on and so forth,” Leonhardt said. “There’s just some folks that need access to a laptop at home and that allows them to do that, and this basically allows for flexibility in that regard.”
Leonhardt said that, while the library has previously offered laptops for patrons’ use while in the building, this is the first time they have been able to take the computers home. The library also offers an extended WiFi connection for those who need to use the WiFi after the library building is closed for the day.
“Something that we experienced during [COVID-19] when we were closed was that folks would sit in their cars outside the library and use the WiFi,” Leonhardt said. “So we do offer WiFi outside of the library so they can sit out in their car or on the benches ... and use it after hours.”
According to the release, the ability to loan the laptops out to patrons is exciting for everyone involved in helping make it happen.
“Federal funding for libraries in the CARES Act is a vote of confidence in libraries’ ability to deliver vital community services,” State Librarian and Associate Vice Chancellor for Libraries Julie Walker said in the release. “Through this funding, we have been able to continue meeting Georgians’ needs for internet connectivity, learning and reading resources, and devices needed to attend school virtually.”
Chestatee Regional Library staff are also excited to be able to bring the laptop program to the community, according to the release.
“I am looking forward to working with GPLS in providing technology for our patrons to use at home or in the community,” Leslie Clark, director of the Chestatee Regional Library system, said in the release. “This is exciting for our system and is new territory for us.”
Leonhardt said that the community reception to the laptop lending program has been favorable as the program has been implemented.
“It’s a new program and it took a little while to get off the ground, but we’ve gotten a lot of positive reviews about it,” Leonhardt said. “And our board was very excited about it.”
In order to check out a laptop from the library, patrons must be at least 18 years old and have a valid library card from either Lumpkin or Dawson County. For more information, go to www.chestateelibrary.org.