The 24 public libraries in the Bridges Library System were awarded grants through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in 2020 for support in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Provided by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the funding has been used to expand digital access and address technical needs related to the pandemic.
“Our libraries strive to provide barrier-free digital resources essential for learning, working, and daily life,” said Karol Kennedy, director of the Bridges Library System.
Monies were spent on a variety of digital projects, including upgrades and expansion of WiFi access and technical equipment for patron and staff use. “These CARES Act funds put us closer to that goal and provide tremendous benefit to the communities we serve.” Abby Armour, director of the Johnson Creek Public Library, said the teleconferencing equipment they purchased with the grant money is available for anyone to use. “The idea is to provide a virtual “room” for meetings just like we provide real rooms to meet in!” she said.
Jackie Rammer, director of the Menomonee Falls Public Library, said, “Reliable Internet access is fundamentally important and plays an integral role in the lives of our patrons. The CARES Act grant facilitated via Bridges Library System allowed Menomonee Falls Public Library to extend Wi-Fi into the parking lot and grassy areas so that our patrons can access a strong Internet connection 24/7/365.”
In addition, all public libraries in the Bridges Library System put part of their grant funding toward the purchase of an online homework help and learning tool for students and job seekers called HelpNow. HelpNow is available for free to anyone with a library card at www.bridgeslibrarysystem.org/helpnow.