See how you can help the community during these unsettling times
During these unprecedented times of public health crisis and sheltering in place, people’s lives have changed in countless ways, from children learning at home, to the closure of small businesses, to the strain on our healthcare system. As routines have been disrupted, people have realized what is important to them. On Sunday, March 15, the last day Redwood City libraries were open before the shelter-at-home order, it was simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking to see lines of people waiting their turn to enter the Downtown and Redwood Shores Libraries. At the mid-afternoon peak, people were waiting 45 minutes to get books and other library materials for their families “one last time” before the libraries would be closed for an unknown period. This community loves its libraries, and we are incredibly grateful for that love.
As we made the difficult decision to reduce library services, one of the huge worries we heard from the education community, the business community, and our most vulnerable residents was the loss of wifi access. One million people per year log into our wireless networks at the four libraries, and in the fall of 2017, with support from the Redwood City Library Foundation (RCLF), the
Library launched a program called Bridging the Digital Divide to allow home checkout of hotspots (personal wifi devices) to support residents with limited or no connectivity at home. We have over 100 devices available for three-week loans, and for the last couple of years each device was consistently checked out again almost as soon as it was returned.
The temporary loss of wifi in our public spaces brought into sharp relief how great this need is, so we have ordered an additional 100 hotspots to help meet community demand. The devices themselves are not terribly expensive, but each one carries a monthly data plan, so the cost to purchase a hotspot and support it for a year is about $600 per device. While we are still raising
funds for exciting new initiatives like the future Makerspace in the Library and enhancements to the Redwood Shores Library Interpretive Center, the need to improve access to the internet for students, including those with special needs and low-income residents, is profound and immediate. Your support for our Bridging the Digital Divide initiative truly changes people’s lives. Thank you very much, and take good care.