The Garfield County Libraries were recently awarded a grant from the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District to purchase charging carts and sixty new Chromebook laptop computers. This award comes at a critical time as demand for broadband access at the libraries has increased drastically over the last four years. In 2016 alone, library public access computers were used nearly 60,000 times and the library served over 82,000 wireless internet sessions. Despite the high usage, the libraries were forced to cut 32 public computers across the six locations due to the dramatic funding decline in 2017. Furthermore, the libraries expect to soon decommission the twelve existing Chromebooks because they are reaching the end of their useful lifetime due to heavy use (they are far and away the most checked-out single items the Garfield County Libraries provides) and inability to accept new updates from software providers.
“We were in a situation where we knew the demands for high speed internet connection and accessible computers were high, but we were facing more and more cuts to the level of service we could provide,” said Garfield County Libraries Executive Director Jesse Henning. “Thankfully, the grantors recognized the need and fully funded our project.”
Chromebook computers are cost-efficient, low-power-consumption laptops that are designed as Internet machines which seamlessly interface with Google technologies like Google Docs, Gmail, Google for Work, and Google for Education. These Chromebooks will aid Garfield County students by allowing them to complete homework assignments through the Google for Education platform.
“We are happy to support the GCPLD… and continue our longstanding partnership,” said Garfield School District Re-2 Superintendent Brent Curtice in a letter of support for the grant. “Having a library system using the same technology that the school district uses supports our students in their learning.”
The general public’s ability to use the library’s freely available broadband Internet connection also instantly expands with the addition of the sixty Chromebooks. The machines give job seekers a way to create resumes, study, and apply for jobs. They even support local businesses by allowing individuals to work remotely from and hold meetings in the libraries.
While the Chromebooks can be used by individuals for everyday purposes, the can also be used as a classroom set for training and events like the library’s upcoming “Tech Time: Intro to Facebook” at the Glenwood Springs Branch.
“Having ten mobile, easy-to-use Chromebooks at each library opens up so many opportunities for us,” said Henning. “The Tech Time series is just the beginning.”
All adults with a library card from the Garfield County Libraries can check out one of these new Chromebooks and use them in the library. Children 11 and up can also use them, but a parent or guardian on file must first give verbal permission one time in person. To use a Chromebook simply ask at the front desk of your local Garfield County Library.