Newton, NC – To help bridge the digital divide, boost digital literacy skills, and increase usage of its electronic resources, the Catawba County Library secured an NC CARES grant from the State Library of North Carolina. The grant, which encourages greater digital access within the community during challenging times, has allowed the library to purchase 53 Samsung tablets equipped with internal Wi-Fi capabilities, meaning that borrowers can check out a single device and automatically connect to the Internet. No separate hotspot is needed, and multiple devices can be connected to the tablet’s Wi-Fi signal for broader household access.

This project will benefit all Catawba County citizens, including school children, people in the workforce, employers, and health care patients. As a result, more people will have critical access to the information highway, empowering them to make informed decisions about their own situations and improve their opportunities to succeed.

The Samsung tablets are pre-loaded with a set of user-friendly apps, including Google Assistant for voice search, Google Chrome for online browsing, Beanstack to log reading time for library programs, and digital resources, including Libby, Hoopla, and Tumblebooks, that allow users to download movies, music, ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines.

Tablets offer unlimited data and operate on a 4G network. They come with a neoprene case, OtterBox protective cover/stand, and power cord. They also include an instruction sheet with directions for connecting to the hotspot, visiting a website, and searching the Internet by voice.

Tablets may be checked out for two weeks at a time (no renewals) and can be reserved through the library’s online catalog, which is available from the library’s home page at www.catawbacountync.gov/library or via https://ls2pac.catawbacountync.gov/#section=home. Reservations can also be made by calling any library branch. When a tablet is returned to the library following its loan period, it will be quarantined, wiped of any previous data, and reset for the next user.

To borrow a device, a user must be a Catawba County resident, have a library account that’s in good standing, and be at least 18 years old. Photo IDs and active phone lines will be verified. A household may borrow one technology item at a time, and all borrowers will be asked to sign a lending agreement and agree to the library’s Internet usage guidelines.

In addition to the new Samsung tablets, cardholders interested in technology resources may check out laptop computers, individual hotspots, and GoPro cameras. The Main Library in Newton also offers a TechConnect space where people can design, build, and co-create using a variety of high-tech tools, including a 3-D printer, digital cutter, and sewing machine. Technology classes and one-on-one instruction are available as well.

The tablet-lending program is supported by grant funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (IMLS grant number LS-246551-OLS-20).

For more details about library services and resources, visit www.catawbacountync.gov/library, call 828.465.8664, email mylibrary@catawbacountync.gov.