Local libraries get grants for mobile books and better internet service

Thanks to a new state grant, the Salem Public Library plans to launch a mobile van next fall to reach areas of the city far from its services. Other libraries in the region are upgrading Wi-Fi, adding mobile charging stations, and expanding their reach to rural areas.

Rico Jesse, 6, and his father Nick check out books on the last day of the Salem Public Library on Broadway, Tuesday, August 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman / Salem Reporter)

When Marion County Law Librarian Yolanda Bombardier heard of a government grant opportunity, she immediately thought of a simple solution to a need posed by library users on a daily basis.

“I looked around what people were asking that we were having difficulty delivering, and that was to charge their devices,” Bombardier said.

The prize of $ 5,000, one of seven awarded to the Marion County and Polk Libraries, will allow the purchase of several charging stations that will be made available to users free of charge. Bombardier expects the stations, as well as the USB drives, soon after receiving the funds, to be made available to clients in the law library located in the basement, room 181, of the courthouse. from Marion County.

The grants from the Oregon State Library are funded through the US Federal Bailout Act, a Covid economic stimulus package passed in March. Both public and private institutions were eligible for funds.

Salem Public Library adds mobile outreach van with grant funds, serving neighborhoods far from libraries. Their price of $ 119,509 will also cover Spanish and American Sign Language translation and interpretation for some library programs.

Sarah Strahl, who has run the Salem Public Library for just over three years, said the van has been a goal since her first months on the job.

“We asked an outreach group to come up with a mobile outreach van – a cake in the sky idea. It was built from there, ”she said. “Many clients can come to the library, but many community members cannot make it to both places. The idea was to make it easy for staff to bring books, technology and mobile activity programs to different neighborhoods, especially those further away from the library, such as South Salem and North East. Salem.

Although the library has a mobile book, its use is limited as it requires a driver with a commercial license. Their grant will fund a chic new van with a WiFi antenna, specialized shelves for tying up gear, pop-up carts, neighborhood story time tents, STEM activities, library materials, and internet access. and mobile devices.

Strahl credits the Salem Public Library Foundation with much of the work and partnership for the grant; they will serve as the tax agent for the funds. She said the van should be up and running by next fall.

Willamette University’s Mark O. Hatfield Library was awarded $ 17,740 to expand the coverage and capacity of its WiFi services. According to

“The library was built over 30 years ago, before wireless was a thing,” Chief Librarian Craig Milberg said. “Over the years wireless networks were installed in the library, but since it was an older building there were places where the coverage was not very good. Users could not access the network, or it would become too busy and the devices would fall.

As a private institution, Willamette University has an academic library which includes collections and databases not available in typical public libraries. These will once again be open and accessible to the community, along with extended Wi-Fi, when cases of Covid recede.

Woodburn Public Library Director Mike Jansen has worked for the past five years to partner with community organizations to improve access and use of Woodburn Library services.

When the grant opportunity arose, he reached out to these partners, which included the region’s Head Start programs and school districts, for letters of support.

The library received a grant of $ 98,500 for a mobile book, a transit truck capable of towing a sixteen-foot box with stairs so patrons could enter the space and choose from the collections. Jansen hopes the service will reach rural and migrant communities and expand access to Spanish and Russian speaking families. It will also help expand internet access.

“Ideally, there will be a librarian who will staff it. It will be a hot spot when it gets there, and customers will be able to check out the hot spots as well for two weeks as you do for the books, ”Jansen said.

“When I was a children’s librarian, I would talk about all the good things we had, but children always relied on parents to bring them. Now they can use the service immediately, ”Jansen said.

He and his staff frequently make presentations to families attending Head Start or to area school students about library services.

“The difference is that now we will be able to provide our services to people,” Jansen said.

Jeanine Stice is a freelance writer based in Salem. Contact her at [email protected]

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