(PUEBLO, Colo.) — The Pueblo City-County Library District (PCCLD) has received nearly $500,000 to expand internet access in Pueblo County, and said it is launching a wireless device library.

According to PCCLD, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), the library district purchased more than 885 Wi-Fi connected devices, expanding the district’s digital resource collection by nearly 700 percent. Library patrons can check out an internet connected device from the newly created Device Library for up to four months.

The recently purchased items include:

  • 500 Chromebooks with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
  • 200 Verizon Wi-Fi hotspots
  • 85 T-Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots
  • 100 iPads

PCCLD said prior to the ECF, there were 95 Wi-Fi hotspots, 12 Chromebooks and eight tablets in circulation between the district’s eight locations. In addition wireless devices, each library location offers free Wi-Fi as well as desktop computers.

“We are extremely proud to bring this size of a broadband connectivity grant to the Pueblo community,” said Sherri Baca, PCCLD executive director. “This Emergency Connectivity Fund award strengthens the library’s commitment to providing internet access and electronic devices — an effort which reached its height during the COVID-19 health pandemic and has continued since. It is our goal to serve students and anyone who wouldn’t have connectivity otherwise.”

PCCLD said patrons can check out an internet-connected device from any library location with a valid library card or school issued K-12 ConnectED library card.

PCCLD said the ECF is a $7.171 billion program that provides schools and libraries the funds to purchase digital devices needed for remote learning. The fund provides relief to millions of students, school staff and library patrons and helps to close the homework gap for students who lack Internet access or devices needed to connect to virtual learning classrooms.

Congress authorized the ECF as part of the American Rescue Plan of 2021. The district said it plans to continue growing its digital collection once the ECF monies are spent by joining with community partners to aid in the purchase of new devices.

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the district purchased more than 250 Chromebooks thanks to a grand from the Sperry S. and Ella Graber Packard Fund for Colorado. Eligible students in Pueblo County received the devices in order to help them shift to an online learning environment. More than 100 Wi-Fi hotspots were also purchased and given to families of students without home internet.