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Ector County, Texas, Library System to Hand Out Tech

In an effort to bridge the digital divide, library officials will be handing out hot spots, tablets and laptops. The devices were paid for by a $548,100 grant from the Federal Communications Commission.

(TNS) — Ector County Library officials found out around Christmas it was in line for a more than $540k present.

However, the library needed to wait nearly two months later before sharing that present with its patrons.

The Ector County Library is hoping to start unveiling those presents, which includes 200 iPads, 200 Samsung tablets, 200 Chromebooks and 400 hotspots with one year of service from T-Mobile, during its Valentine's Day event next week.

The event is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Ector County Library located at 321 West Fifth Street. Ector County Library Director Howard Marks said there will be a press conference scheduled for 2 p.m. during that event. He also said these devices are much needed for the community.

"Our goal is to bridge the digital divide and help people bridge the digital gap that's in our county," Marks said. "... Our goal is to fill that gap for our residents and people of all ages, especially those who might be economically disadvantaged."

The 1,000 devices were paid for by a third round of Emergency Connectivity Funding. The grant from the FCC totals $548,100.

James Denney, the IT Administrator for the Ector County Library, said he hopes to start checking out devices during the Valentine's Day event. He said the devices will be on a first come, first served basis. He said patrons will check out the devices from the front desk clerk. Denney also explained devices can be checked out for in-house or out-of-house usage.

According to the device checkout agreement, the devices can only be checked out by an adult with a library card in good standing, which means no fines and overdue books.

Denney also explained all iPads, tablets and Chromebooks will be filtered in accordance with Children's Internet Protection Act that will safeguard against adult websites.

"Outside of that when a patron checks out one of the devices, they are free to do whatever they want with it," Denney said. "Once it is returned, we wipe the device back to a clean slate."

Whether it's in-house or out-of-house usage, patrons will need to fill out a device checkout agreement.

The library will ask for credit card or debit card information in the out-of-house waiver. The out-of-house waiver will allow a patron to check out one hotspot and two other devices. The devices can be checked out for two weeks with one renewal, so the devices could be checked out for a total of a month.

"It's our assurance and we think that it's fair," Marks said about credit or debit card information required for out-of-house checkouts.

Marks said with the addition of the 1,000 devices it can help grow the library's portfolio. Marks also wanted to thank Alex Montanez, Vanessa Krunich and their respective teams from T-Mobile.

"This makes us proud to be able to offer this," he said. "We call this 'the library of things.' To have different things in our arsenal besides books, movies, magazines and newspapers."

©2023 the Odessa American, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.