CDPL expands digital literacy, access with local grant


A lifelong learning goal from the Crawfordsville District Public Library’s strategic plan is the objective to provide computer access and training for adults. To help the library reach this goal, the Montgomery County Community Foundation awarded a grant to fund Crawfordsville District Public Library’s Digital Literacy and Access Project.

This project allows us to offer the community in-person technology classes and equipment through a pilot lending program of laptops, hotspots and Chromebooks. CDPL staff are excited to announce that the library has begun offering the services supported by this grant.

Library staff interact daily with people who need technology access or assistance. Typical interactions in public libraries include helping folks gain access to a public computer, read e-books on their tablet, complete forms online, use their smartphone, and set up an email account. The library averages more than 400 unique patrons who use the public computers monthly. Some patrons have even borrowed staff laptops to participate in virtual job interviews on-site or to take online tests in our meeting rooms.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau survey, 92.8% of Montgomery County households own/use a computer and 87.6% have a broadband Internet subscription (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates, 2017-2021). However, these numbers do not fully capture the community’s needs. The survey includes smartphones as definitions for computer and smartphone data plans as examples of broadband Internet. Additionally, the survey doesn’t specify that the computer be in good working order, up to date, fast, or be connected to a working printer.

Due to this information gap, CDPL recently surveyed library computer users and non-users to gauge interest in technology classes and the ability to borrow laptops and hotspots. The survey results indicated that training on Microsoft and Google software, cyber security and library resources, such as e-book software and genealogy databases would be preferred. Survey responses about computer hardware indicated an interest in borrowing technology — laptops or hotspots — whether or not they had a computer at home.

Our library staff and vetted volunteers now have access to a mobile laptop lab, consisting of ten laptops, to provide basic and intermediate classes on technology-related topics and skills. Using laptops instead of desktops will provide flexibility in the location of classes, which can be set up in any space within either of the library’s buildings. Classes are already in session with beginning Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint offered once a week. View the library’s calendar (cdpl.lib.in.us/events-calendar/) for class dates and times. Additional sessions are coming soon. The classes are free and open to the public, though participants are asked to register to reserve a seat. Adults and teens are welcome to attend.

In addition to technology classes, CDPL now offers mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and Chromebooks for seven-day loans. Wi-Fi hotspots can connect a computer, smartphone or other devices to the internet. Many of our community members live in rural areas with limited internet and computer access. These new items added to the collection may help bridge this technology gap.

Last but not least, CDPL will offer laptops that library patrons may borrow for in-house use, another service made available through our grant funds. The laptops will provide full access to the Internet, Microsoft Office and wireless printing. The staff expects them to be available in the Adult Services Department before the end of June.

CDPL staff hope this project will positively influence each participant’s relationship with technology, either by increasing their skill, knowledge, or confidence in the use of technology or by giving them access to the equipment necessary to practice or to use it in real-life situations at home, work, or school.

The library is grateful to the Montgomery County Community Foundation for awarding a grant to support the Digital Literacy and Access Project. The grant was made possible by the Richard F. and Elaine S. Chase Fund, the John and Betty Culley Fund, the M. Gaildene and Stan Hamilton Fund, the Nucor Fund and the Irwin Lee Detchon Fund.

The library’s operating hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturda; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information about the program or other library services, call 765-362-2242.