Impact Stories


Take the Internet Home with You

We have always known there are many cit­i­zens in DeKalb with no access to the inter­net in their homes. Dur­ing pre-pan­dem­ic times, DeKalb Coun­ty Pub­lic Library patrons typ­i­cal­ly logged 1,500,000+ ses­sions on the sys­tem’s inter­net access and WiFi com­bined with­in the libraries each year. Most of our library’s com­put­er labs were filled to capac­i­ty all day every day. Dur­ing week­ends when most of the build­ings were closed, patrons would sit in the park­ing lots to access the WiFi. The Take the Inter­net Home with You ini­tia­tive was launched in 2017 as an effort to bridge the dig­i­tal divide for cit­i­zens who may not have home inter­net access. Hotspots are portable, recharge­able devices that allow patrons to con­nect to the inter­net at no charge to them for 21 days.

The COVID-19 glob­al pan­dem­ic exposed just how wide the dig­i­tal divide is in our coun­ty. Accord­ing to the US Cen­sus Bureau’s COVID-19 Impact Plan­ning Report, 16.9% of DeKalb Coun­ty cit­i­zens do not have home inter­net. And, data from cen​sushard​to​countmap​s2020​.us indi­cates there are many areas in DeKalb Coun­ty where this fig­ure is as high as 30%.

When DCPL had to close its build­ings in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, patrons who had checked out hotspots were told to keep the devices through the dura­tion of the clo­sure. We reached out to many patrons with devices, and they shared their appre­ci­a­tion for being able to con­nect to the news, fam­i­ly and friends, and file unem­ploy­ment paper­work.

Joan is a retiree with­out home inter­net. She was very grate­ful to be able to keep the device she checked out dur­ing the library’s clo­sure. She stayed in touch with her fam­i­ly and kept up to date with news and updates relat­ed to COVID-19.

William says what he once con­sid­ered a plea­sure — the abil­i­ty to get online at home — is now a bless­ing. He was able to file his unem­ploy­ment paper­work online. He also kept in touch with friends and enjoyed stream­ing movies he would not have been able to see with­out cable or an inter­net con­nec­tion in his home.

Julie, a teacher, told us hav­ing the device allowed her to keep up with her stu­dents dur­ing the spring. For the five months she had the device, she saved mon­ey to pur­chase her own in August when she was called to bring the device back to the library.

Tama­ra used a hotspot to help her son con­nect with his teacher and school resources dur­ing quar­an­tine. She added she did not know what she would have done with­out it.

Adri­an said her apart­ment com­plex offers no inter­net con­nec­tiv­i­ty or hook ups, so there is no way to get inter­net. Her part­ner was able to do his work at home with the device. She explained they typ­i­cal­ly rely on the library’s devices because they would turn a device in and then quick­ly find anoth­er in the sys­tem to check out.

Fund­ing in 2020 allowed DCPL to add 11 hotspots to the col­lec­tion. This will increase the num­ber of patrons who will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to check out a hotspot in 2021.


Virtual Programs

The year 2020 is one of great change and adjust­ment. Our gen­er­ous donors have allowed DeKalb Coun­ty Pub­lic Library to con­tin­ue sup­port­ing the com­mu­ni­ty in cre­ative ways. One of our beloved librar­i­ans, Mia, a Youth Ser­vices Librar­i­an at the Decatur Library, shares her sto­ry.

I am so grate­ful for all the Foun­da­tion fund­ing has allowed me to do over the years from Book Bunch­es to Minigolf to the Sum­mer Read­ing Pro­gram to spon­sor­ing the Helen Ruf­fin Read­ing Bowl team. Dur­ing this pan­dem­ic year which is marked by uncer­tain­ty and change, the Foundation’s sup­port has become one of the few con­stants I can depend on to cre­ate engag­ing pro­grams. I have also learned the library acts as a sta­ble pres­ence for many in our com­mu­ni­ty.

Alex, one of my teen patrons, recent­ly told me, With every­thing that’s hap­pened in my life, the library has not only been a con­stant, but also a place where I felt wel­come. And I’m so grate­ful for that. The book club, the Helen Ruf­fin Read­ing bowl, and all of the books I read in the children’s sec­tion are among the hap­pi­est mem­o­ries of my life.”

In this year in which so many things are being can­celled, dona­tions to the Foun­da­tion have allowed me to cre­ate new pro­grams and activ­i­ties which keep us con­nect­ed to the community.


Vir­ginia Mil­ner, a for­mer banker who dis­cov­ered a love for jew­el­ry mak­ing, has taught jew­el­ry mak­ing and sewing class­es at DCPL for years. Vir­ginia enjoys help­ing peo­ple devel­op a tal­ent that they did not know they had. So many peo­ple are unaware that they pos­sess the abil­i­ty to be artis­ti­cal­ly cre­ative,” said Vir­ginia. Pri­or to the pan­dem­ic Vir­ginia would trav­el to dif­fer­ent libraries to teach class­es three to five times a week. In-per­son class­es filled up quick­ly, some­times with­in min­utes because they were so pop­u­lar, and class size was lim­it­ed. Now that the class­es are able to be held vir­tu­al­ly, more patrons can ben­e­fit from the class­es and they are record­ed so par­tic­i­pants can replay parts of the video as many times as nec­es­sary. It’s almost like doing a pri­vate tuto­r­i­al,” she notes. Patrons com­ment that her videos are every­thing from sooth­ing, calm­ing, and enjoy­able to enter­tain­ing, hilar­i­ous, and lots of fun. And, they enjoy her fre­quent­ly repeat­ed catch phrase, Tada!” Vir­ginia often teach­es class­es using mate­ri­als peo­ple can find around the house or reuses mate­ri­als already pur­chased for a pre­vi­ous class, such as wire. The Foun­da­tion is now fund­ing make and take kits patrons can pick­up at their local library. This makes it eas­i­er for more peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate and have their own tada” moment.

African Jewelry