LUBBOCK, Texas — Libraries all over the country made changes in recent years to continue providing free access to information. With technology constantly evolving, librarians had to keep up.

When Stacy McKenzie became the director of library services back in 2019, the city was set on having her take libraries into the future. Thanks to recent funding, McKenzie can reduce the digital divide.

“The library has had a bunch of new grants that have come in this year that are technology-related grants, about $700,000 worth, that provided about 800 devices that we check out in our libraries,” McKenzie said.

With grants from programs like the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, the community can now check out Google Chromebook laptops and Samsung Galaxy tablets with built-in Wi-Fi, as well as T-Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. You can check them out for two weeks, and then those devices will deactivate.

“We would like for you to have your library card for three months, you must be 17 years or older, and you have to be in good standing,” McKenzie said. “You can’t have any fines or fees, and then you can check out one of these items.”

The library’s website said in part:

  • All library branches now have Hotspots, Chromebooks, and tablets to check out!
  • These devices check out for 2 weeks
  • You must be 17 years or older to check out these devices.
  • To check out any devices, you must have no fines or fees on your account.
  • You must have owned your library card for at least 3 months before you can check out a device.
  • Please return the items inside the library. DO NOT drop them in the book drop. (Devices may be returned at any library branch)
  • Device services will be deactivated once they become overdue.
  • Files and settings on these devices won’t be saved upon reboot.
  • You may put a hold on devices and have them transferred to another library for pickup.
  • You may check out more than one device, but no more than one of each type. For example, you can check out a tablet and hotspot, but won’t be able to check out two hotspots.
  • You must show your ID or other verification of current address before you check out a device (address should match that on your library account)

According to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, just over 40% of adults with incomes below $30,000 don’t have internet or a computer at home.

The city’s American Rescue Plan funds can’t go toward public libraries, so McKenzie applied for grants on her own.

“Helping with technology and really getting those devices in people’s hands, getting them the knowledge behind it,” McKenzie said. “That’s what I think is really the future of libraries and educational institutions.”

With September being library card sign-up month, McKenzie hopes people sign up so they have access to all of the library’s resources.

“We’re just trying to give back to the community and try to bridge that digital divide,” McKenzie said. “We would love for Lubbock to be the most digitally progressive city in the state.”

To obtain a library card, you can go to any of the four public libraries by presenting a valid driver’s license or other photo identification card. There is also an online form that you can submit, and they will directly mail the card to you.