WIU launches Chromebook lending program in partnership with libraries – Western Illinois University

WIU launches Chromebook lending program in partnership with libraries

July 22, 2022

MACOMB/MOLINE, IL – Access to broadband remains a challenge for many rural Illinois residents, with the digital divide becoming even more apparent during the pandemic, when many people have been forced to learn and work remotely. residence. Western Illinois University is working to address the problem of inequitable internet access by working with community libraries in four rural Illinois communities to establish Chromebook lending programs.

According to Chris Merrett, WIU Dean of Innovation and Economic Development and Director of the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs, with funding from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Broadband Office (DCEO) and Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), Illinois public libraries in Salem, Quincy, Rushville and Macomb will each receive four LTE-enabled Chromebook computers. These computers will allow borrowers to access the Internet without requiring a subscription to an Internet service provider.

“WIU works with community libraries because our institution has a long tradition of working with rural communities to ensure access to knowledge and technology,” added Merrett. “We selected libraries in partnership with the Illinois Heartland Library System (IHLS) and Reaching Across Illinois Library Systems (RAILS), which are part of the Illinois system that operates community libraries. Community libraries were invited to apply to host the Chromebook Lending Program. , and WIU, IHLS, and RAILS selected libraries based on quality of applications combined with their community broadband needs, as identified by a digital divide index community.

The DCEO Office of Broadband funding is part of a larger state initiative to expand access to broadband and digital literacy in Illinois, Merrett explained. WIU coordinators include Shankar Ghimire Associate Professor of Economics Chris Merrett, who is also the project leader, School of Computing Director Dennis DeVolder and Dean of Libraries Hector Maymi-Sugranes.

“We had way more apps than we had Chromebooks to share. Clearly a lending program like this is needed because there is a digital divide,” noted Dan Bostrom of RAILS and Anna Yackle from IHLS.
Macomb Public Library director Dennis Danowski said the unmet need for increased internet access really hit home at the height of the pandemic.

“Even after library hours, students were sitting in their cars in our parking lot, using the library’s free Wi-Fi to complete their homework,” he added.

Loan programs will be ready before the start of the new school year in August 2022. For more information, email [email protected] or [email protected]

Posted by: University Communications ([email protected])
University Communications and Marketing Office

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