With over 30,000 members, Grafton Library has become a local tech hub for members of the public to access free wifi, computers and printers. "Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a device or data at home. This can be really isolating for seniors and we want to help them out by providing a space where they can do things like checking their email or get local support with a friendly smile," says Erin Brady, Senior Library Officer of Clarence Regional Libraries.
While they have offered digital skills support for over 3 years, they saw an opportunity to introduce a device loan program through the Be Connected Digital Devices grant offered by Good Things Foundation. This grant allowed them to purchase 5 iPads with data sim cards which were loaned out to people to use in their own homes. These devices helped seniors like Lorina (pictured above) get familiar with technology and allowed them to stay connected with family and friends online.
When the device loan program was announced, Lorina jumped at the opportunity to bring a device home and try things out on her own time. Although she had never used an iPad before, the library helped guide her through the Be Connected Learning Portal and other library resources to give her the confidence to do things independently.
With regular phone assistance, as well as one-on-one sessions at the library with Hayden, Lorina has learnt to use an iPad, search on Google, use Zoom, access Clarence Regional Library eLibrary services and play games. Hayden has also helped Lorina set up her smartphone and back up her computer, all things that she can now do herself.
Lorina is a dedicated participant in the loan program, having borrowed an iPad three times, and is once again on the waiting list for another go.
Each device is loaned for 3 weeks and includes regular phone calls from their Be Connected Facilitator, Hayden. During these phone calls, Hayden helps people set up their device, and checks in with each member weekly to see how they are getting on. This has proven to be a useful way to keep in touch with socially isolated seniors in a time where face-to-face support is limited.
Erin adds, "For a library, the ability to loan devices to our community was so important, particularly because of COVID. These devices allowed us to connect people, offer them support and teach them new digital skills remotely."