The Cedar Rapids Public Library now has laptop kits available for patrons to borrow and take home from the Downtown and Ladd Libraries.
The kits are part of an effort to expand internet and computer access for patrons, a need highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to offer options for patrons who prefer home access to computers.
The Library ordered the laptops in the spring of 2020 as the pandemic shut down schools and temporarily closed the Library to in-person use, but due to high demand, the order wasn’t fulfilled until this year. The laptop kits became available for Library patrons at the end of April. Thirty kits are available between the Downtown and Ladd Libraries.
The kits include one Chromebook laptop and a WiFi hotspot, which can be borrowed for ten days at a time.
“During the pandemic, we saw the importance of home internet and computer access, not only for children learning from home, but for people of all ages to connect with family and friends and access information and resources,” Library Director Dara Schmidt said. “This is one way to promote equity in our community.”
One kit is available per Library card holders 18 years and older, with a photo ID. They can be placed on hold through the Library catalog or picked up in the Library as they are available.
Laptop kits are valued at $350 and must be returned directly to a staff member at the Library. If they are overdue, the kit will shut off, rendering the hardware useless. Patrons agree to the replacement costs if the kit is not returned to the Library. Laptops will be cleared each time the patron shuts down the computer or ends their session. Laptops have internet capabilities only, without additional software such as Microsoft Word, and nothing can be saved to the desktop.
The Library also has a limited number of laptops available for checkout within the Library. Patrons must be 18-years-old and have a valid Library card and photo ID to check out a laptop for up to one hour at a time, up to two hours a day.
For patrons with their own devices but no home internet access, the Library has lent out portable WiFi hot spots for up to 10 days at a time since 2017, in collaboration with the Hiawatha and Marion Public Libraries through the Metro Library Network.
The Library is currently open for grab and go services, which include browsing of up to 30 minutes and computer use in the building of up to two hours per day.