Bay County’s libraries are connecting people with books, computers, and the internet

Bay County’s libraries are connecting people with books, computers, and the internet

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When COVID-19 closed companies and colleges final spring, a chasm opened up between those that have entry to computer systems and dependable web at dwelling and people who don’t.


The Bay County Library System constructed a digital bridge over that divide.


The native library isn’t going to cease providing books for checkout, however Assistant Library Director Kevin Ayala says the pandemic made it plain that libraries should increase entry to computer systems and the web.


In Bay County, the general public availability of digital companies is very crucial. U.S. Census Bureau statistics from 2014-2018 estimate that 21.7% of Bay County residents reside in areas with out entry to broadband web. Solely 85% of Bay County households had a pc in that point interval.


In November, the library is asking for a tax renewal to proceed offering all its companies. The brand new millage price is decrease than what’s at the moment being levied.


Lengthy earlier than the pandemic struck this nation in March, the native library supplied digital books and digital publications. For years, pc labs have been obtainable contained in the library’s 4 buildings ­–  Alice and Jack Wirt Public Library, Auburn Space Department Library, Pinconning Department Library, and Historic Sage Library. For many who deliver their very own gadgets, web companies lengthen all through the buildings and into the parking tons.


The Bay County Library System has a millage proposal on the Nov. three poll to assist companies at its 4 buildings and a bookmobile. The library is asking for a decrease millage than it at the moment levies.

Earlier this yr, the library stepped up publicity about its digital companies, promoting by way of social media that free web was obtainable outdoors its buildings. Social media posts defined methods to entry digital books. The library web site offers hyperlinks to on-line assets for schoolwork and job searches.

These companies matter in Bay County. A latest ALICE report (Asset Restricted, Earnings Constrained, Employed) exhibits 14% of households in Bay County reside in poverty, and knowledge from the Nationwide Middle for Schooling Statistics exhibits that individuals dwelling in rural communities and folks dwelling in poverty usually tend to not have web entry at dwelling, or entry to computer systems.


Ayala says when the library shut down its department areas and the Bookmobile in March, it led to residents relying solely on digital assets. The library reopened on June 6, however Ayala says not everyone seems to be comfy going tino the branches. Digital assets proceed to bridge the divide.

Library system is asking for a tax renewal

To proceed assembly the necessity, the library is searching for a 1.75 mill tax to exchange a mill tax. Ayala factors out this yr’s request is uncommon in that it’s decrease than what was levied up to now.

“Twenty years in the past, the taxpayers agreed to fund building and renovation of libraries, however now that debt has been paid down,” Ayala says. “For the typical taxpayer, they are going to pay much less in 2021 than they did in 2020 for the library.”

Library Director Trish Burns Burns says lowering the millage from mills to 1.75 mills means the typical house owner can pay about $70 per yr for the library. The library’s finances consists of working 4 department areas and the BCLS Bookmobile to underserved areas.

The U.S. Census plus the library equals successful story

Burns says the Bay County system is among the few in Michigan nonetheless taking the library to the agricultural areas of the county. That proved an amazing assist in getting folks entry to the 2020 Census. The BCLS Ebook Cellular, in operation for the reason that late 1970s, was instrumental in getting a cellular hotspot and pc entry into a number of the distant areas of the county three days every week.

Burns says taking computer systems and web to underserved areas, together with offering entry on the 4 library buildings, paid off. Bay County noticed a 78.5% of its residents full the census, says Joni King, program officer for the Bay Space Neighborhood Basis.

“The library was instrumental in getting the phrase out concerning the census,” says King. “We’re actually grateful that they have been in a position to assist.”

A four-panel show close to the entry of the Alice and Jack Wirt Public Library explains the historical past of how girls gained the correct to vote and why voting rights struggles nonetheless persist. The show is introduced by the Nation Archives Basis.The county’s response price is predicted to proceed rising. Though the census is closed, not all of the numbers have been tallied. She says responses from nursing houses and folks dwelling within the county’s homeless shelters usually are not a part of the newest numbers.

Library discovering new methods to serve the general public

The U.S. Census is closed now, however the library continues to discover its digital outreach into the neighborhood. Library branches are providing digital story instances, studying packages, and tutoring. Ayala says the library offers laptops for patrons to take a look at at department areas. Though the laptops can’t be faraway from the buildings, they can be utilized on web site. The BCLS Bookmobile additionally has laptops for patrons to make use of.

“We’re at all times making an attempt to increase and develop our companies, and discover new niches,” Ayala says, and the pandemic accelerated the method. “Due to the best way the economic system is evolving, after which COVID hit, so a number of issues have moved on-line.”

Even after the mud settles from the pandemic, Ayala says the library will proceed to search for methods to develop.

“We undoubtedly will probably be providing extra companies to the general public,” Ayala says. “We do serve the underserved, that’s why we’re right here. Once we do see a chance, we do attempt to present these companies and assist these people that want it essentially the most.”

– Gabrielle Haiderer contributed to this text.

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