The San Diego Public Library Foundation announced a series of initiatives Monday aimed at expanding technological access for the county’s most vulnerable residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation has funded three initiatives to provide computer access for those who lack broadband internet during a time when the pandemic has made it a necessity for school and work.

According to the foundation, about 100,000 children lack internet access, primarily among those living in the southern and northeastern parts of the county.

One initiative expands on a program to provide technology that students need for remote learning, which began by giving out 240 Chromebooks.

Computers have also been donated to participants in the San Diego Public Library’s Career Online High School program and its READ/San Diego adult literacy program. The library foundation said both programs lost access to computer labs when the pandemic led to library closures.

The foundation says it has also provided Chromebooks for library patrons to use in outdoor spaces, which will help with college/job applications, among other needs. The program, Computers in the Courtyard, is expanding to more locations, with more laptops to be made available for checkout.

“Long before COVID-19, libraries were already acting as vibrant community centers that provide services beyond just books. But with the pivot to remote work and online learning, it became blindingly apparent just how valuable libraries are when it comes to providing equitable access to technology and information,” said Patrick Stewart, CEO of the San Diego Public Library Foundation. “These programs we’re spearheading and connecting help to bridge the digital divide that was dramatically widened by this global pandemic.”

— City News Service