The Need

As the pandemic highlighted, access to technology is not a luxury — it is a lifeline. It is estimated that 53,000 San Diego households lack broadband Internet. In the Promise Zone, home to San Diego’s most underserved communities, 28 percent of residents report having no broadband Internet access whatsoever and 16 percent of households lack computers. Even before the pandemic, the FCC reported that students with internet access at home achieve high school graduation rates that are 6 to 8 percent higher than those who don’t. Recent reports have noted that the effects of COVID-19-related learning loss will have a lifelong impact, corresponding to an individual’s health and wellbeing, personal finances, crime and incarceration likelihood, and participation in civic life.

Intisar and Samani received free laptop computers through the library, enabling them to participate in online Library programs and complete schoolwork at home.

Library Solutions

Digital Equity/​SD Access 4 All

The community continues to have a strong need for innovative virtual programming and digital materials. Enrollment in the library’s online courses (interactive, instructor-led courses in accounting, business, technology, and other topics) is up nearly 300 percent and e‑book circulation is up 133 percent. Because of the digital divide, not all members of the community have access to virtual programs. Through the SD Access 4 All” initiative, the library is providing free computers to in-need students, offering outdoor computer labs at 10 library locations, expanding the digital collection, and offering mobile hotspots for patron check-out, increasing digital access and reducing the digital divide. Library Foundation support ensures the library has a robust digital collection and can distribute technology to those in need. 

Tom J., a volunteer with San Diego Youth Services, praised the library’s digital equity initiatives: The library has helped us obtain laptops for some of our kids who would never be able to afford a computer. During the pandemic, our students are more isolated than ever, and having a way to stay digitally connected has helped them and their families tremendously.”

The wi-fi service was a great surprise and definitely a needed device to help my son with his online schooling. We have been looking for an affordable service and had no luck until today at my local library. Thank you for the much needed help.

Mission Hills/Hillcrest-Knox Library patron

Digital Literacy

The digital divide encompasses not only the physical tools needed to go digital (computers and internet access), but also the technical skills and knowledge necessary to navigate the digital landscape. A remote world requires digital literacy. The San Diego Public Library is partnering with the San Diego Futures Foundation to offer digital literacy education to patrons. Digital literacy programs will be piloted at four Library locations: Central, Logan Heights, San Ysidro, and Valencia Park/​Malcolm X. Class topics include smartphone basics for both Apple and Droid devices, smartphone communication, and internet safety, among others. There will also be drop-in tech help, when patrons can receive assistance with their personal devices and get answers to their technology questions.