With Los Angeles County still largely on lockdown amid the pandemic, the county’s public library system has launched a program to lend laptops and mobile wireless Internet service, as well as to provide free printing.

The new services are intended to address technological woes for people who don’t have printers, computers or Wi-Fi access at home.

“The digital divide has far-reaching consequences, especially during this unprecedented time,” library Director Skye Patrick said in a news release. “No connection to the internet means no way for the unemployed to find employment or participate in virtual interviews, no way for isolated older adults to receive telehealth or keep in touch with loved ones, no way for caregivers to access information for homeschooling or support their kids’ digital schooling needs. We see laptop and hot spot loans and printing pickup as two ways the library can help to bridge the digital divide for these communities.”

Patrons can print up to 10 black-and-white pages per day Monday through Friday and pick them up at one of the more than three dozen Sidewalk Service locations around Los Angeles County. Here’s how it works:

Upload the documents you want to print to the Smart Alec program via your computer, tablet or smartphone. You’ll need to download an app if you’re on a mobile device. The documents are converted to PDFs and printed out, then immediately placed in an envelope for privacy. After uploading your document, call the Sidewalk Service location to arrange a time for pickup. Any documents that aren’t picked up within three business days will be shredded. More detailed instructions and upload links can be found on the library’s website.

The library is launching a pilot program at 10 locations to lend kits that include a Chromebook, a Wi-Fi hot spot, chargers and a carrying case.
Like books, loans last three weeks, with the option to renew up to three times if there are no holds pending from other users. The wireless hot-spot device will provide access to the internet. An instruction sheet is included that explains how to use the equipment, and library staff are available by phone to help with further questions. Adults with a library card in good standing are eligible to borrow the kits. Kits can be reserved by phone or online, like other library materials. Call one of the 10 participating library locations to arrange for pickup.

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