The San Benito County Free Library was awarded a grant for $500,000 to purchase more laptops, software and Wi-Fi hotspots, which they hope will help bridge the digital divide in the community. (file photo)

The San Benito County Free Library is getting some state-of-the-art upgrades including new computers, Wi-Fi hotspots and some more staff that’ll help serve the community.

County officials announced Oct. 13 that the library was awarded $500,000 from an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant through the CARES Act. It’s the largest award in the country, according to a press release issued by the county.

The library will utilize some of the funds to purchase laptops, software and Wi-Fi hotspots with the goal of helping bridge the digital divide. The grant also allows them to hire a full-time librarian and two part-time assistants. 

This funding will aid in the purchase of a library kiosk to be placed out in the community, alleviating the travel necessary for many library customers to access library materials, as well as a remote locker which will facilitate community STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) projects.  

The IMLS stated in the award letter, “The justification for this project is compelling and well-documented as evidenced by the statistics provided and the clear identification of Covid-19 related needs to be addressed. Furthermore, proposed activities are clearly identified as were the project’s partners and stakeholders. Your timeline is realistic and achievable with an experienced staff being tasked with specific steps throughout. The potential impact of this project is far reaching, sustainable and provides a practical solution to help narrow the digital divide in San Benito County.”

The library can begin implementing the grant immediately with approval by the San Benito County Board of Supervisors. The grant was awarded to four museums and libraries in California, including the San Benito County Free Library. 

IMLS noted in the award documentation that the county will be required to submit financial and performance reports to them for the life of the grant. “This should help with the goal of revitalizing library technology, providing virtual resources/services, programming and outreach.”

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