Missouri libraries work to expand internet access to communities during pandemic with help from grant money

Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 5:18 PM CDT
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CAMDENTON, Mo. (KY3) - “Don’t concentrate on ‘new normal,'" said Robin Westphal, Missouri’s State Librarian. “'Concentrate on ‘better.’”

That’s the advice Westphal said she gave local county library directors all across the state.

“It’s not really going back to what that traditional library service was, but it’s providing better library service," Westphal added.

The State Library has given nearly $1 million in CARES Act grant money to 62 libraries across the state.Some of those libraries used the money for masks and other personal protective equipment.

Many are using it to expand their internet and technology services.

“It’s so much more than just e-books," Westphal said. 'It’s the e-audio books, it’s the streaming services, if you can’t afford Netflix at home, many libraries have streaming services, that with your library card, you’re able to stream movies or TV shows.”

The focus for the Camden County Library District is expanding broadband access.

“There are still tons of places in Camden County that can’t even get a cell signal, so people have to hop in their car and drive someplace to be able to connect even through their cell phone," said Michael Davis, Camden County Library director.

A hot spot was installed at the Camdenton Park, and the WiFi at each library is able to be accessed 24/7 in their parking lots, even when the library building is closed.

Camden County Libraries didn’t apply for the grant through the State Library, but applied for a grant through the Office of Economic Development.

f they get that grant money, the plan is to buy 12 laptops for the community to be able to check out -- with a focus on health.

“We are kind of planning on putting those so they can be checked out, so if someone has to take a laptop home and do a telehealth visit, they can do that," Davis said.

If Davis receives that grant money from the Department of Economic Development, CARES Act money from Camden County could mean the $12,000 project for those laptops would be fully funded without the district spending its own money.

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