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Martindale Library evolving to meet technology needs

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By Kristen Meriwether, Editor, LPR

As technology has advanced, it has made the books, encyclopedias, and (sadly) newspapers, found in libraries seem obsolete. The information can more easily—and cheaply—be found in digital form. So if the paper products found in libraries are obsolete, the institutions themselves must be obsolete as well, right?

Not so fast.

Over the past decade libraries around the country are reinventing themselves. They have become community centers, career hubs, and a place for residents who do not have access to the internet to get online.

Over the last twelve months the Martindale Library has been acquiring equipment to help meet the evolved need.

When they opened their doors in 2015 they filled their shelves with donated books from the community, and started with a few refurbished Dell computers. 2020 was going to be the year for tech upgrades, equipment that would have to be paid for with grants.

In Jan. 2020 the San Marcos Lions Club awarded the Martindale Library $1,700 for pre-kindergarten story time art carts, and computer charging carts to store eight laptops the library had received from a separate grant.

In March 2020 the carts and computers arrived, but so did COVID. With all of the library volunteers in the vulnerable 65+ age group, the library was forced to shut its doors to the public. The use of the new equipment was put on hold until the library could reopen to normal capacity.

They moved to curbside pickup to continue giving out books, but the push to get more technology upgrades continued.

“During that time, I was going after grants,” Martindale Library’s Librarian Carol Deviney, told LPR in a Jan. 25 interview. 

The closure of schools and businesses forced many to work from home, exposing the lack of reliable internet service for many in rural Caldwell County. Deviney knew that the library already had wifi, but a signal booster could extend the reach beyond the walls of the library building.

In May she applied for and received a Public Library Association grant. It was only $740, but it purchased a signal booster that covered all of downtown Martindale. Because the library is accredited, she was also able to get a grant to help pay for 90-percent of the internet rate. She used the saving to bump the speeds to 1 gigabyte, and posted the password on the door of the library.

“The library has provided fiber optic internet to Martindale, and it’s at 1 Gig,” Deviney said. “So if they are downtown, it’s going pretty fast.”

Shortly after the installation, she was able to see the results. She was in the library and saw a woman sitting outside with her laptop.

Deviney said she went outside and found it was a teacher who was frantically trying to get on a Zoom call with her students. She invited the teacher in and allowed her to have her class inside for the day, something the former public school librarian loved.

“We were able to help someone who was really in distress at that time,” Deviney said.

When the library is able to open up for full service again, there will be even more computer options to help attract the youth. Deviney applied for and received a $6,619 grant that brought three gaming computers, which include the gaming headsets, and six iPads, for pre-k story time.

“We are not just book,” Deviney said. “We are evolving.”

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