Over $210,000 in grants supporting new equipment in ‘maker space’
Congressman Brian Higgins, New York State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, Assemblyman Angelo Morinello and City of Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino joined Niagara Falls Public Library Director Sarah Potwin on Friday to announce more than $210,000 in grants expanding access to broadband and technology for residents in Niagara Falls.
The announcement took place during an event marking the opening the Niagara Falls Public Library’s “maker space,” which includes new devices, Wi-Fi hotspots, printers and other equipment to encourage productivity and creativity.
“Access to broadband and technology is not a luxury, it is a necessity – for work, for school and for everyday life,” Higgins said. “Libraries play an important role in building stronger communities. We applaud the initiative of the Niagara Falls Public Library in evolving to serve the needs of residents today.”
Potwin said, “Books are half of our story. We, like many libraries, are evolving our services to meet our citizen's needs. Unique services such as passport acceptance and notary services, scanning, e-book downloads, computer literacy training are some of the many services available to citizens … all for free. Our efforts to lessen the lack of accessibility to Wi-Fi services are small, but the need is great as has been illustrated during this time of COVID.”
The library was awarded a $133,260 grant from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) toward the purchase of 200 Chromebooks and 200 Wi-Fi hot spots, which will be available on loan from the Main and LaSalle library branches to library card holders.
“In today’s world, connectivity to the internet is an absolute must for individuals to further their careers, access critical community services – and most importantly help educate their children,” Ortt said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how important internet access is to our daily lives. Niagara Falls Public Library is doing its part to help address this lack of broadband access in our community and, with the help of over $210,000 in broadband and technology funding, it will now be able to deliver this critical resource to those in our community, especially our children who need it the most.”
Morinello said, “It was my pleasure to join the Niagara Falls Public Library, as well as students from the Niagara Falls Central School District, to celebrate the opening of this revolutionary workspace and reaffirm our investment and devotion to education and future generations of learners. I will always prioritize the importance of libraries as a safe learning environment and as a community hub; and during the 2021 legislative session, I fought to ensure we got our fair share of funding. I look forward to watching the children in our district continue to learn and thrive.”
The Niagara Falls Public Library's “maker space” will join the “maker movement” in promoting access to computers, 3-D printers, a coding robot, snap circuits, a mobile device charging station and other high-tech creative tools, and crafting supplies. It is funded by a $45,000 grant provided through the American Library Association COVID Tech Relief Grant ($45,000) and $4,500 from the Grace Foundation.
Restaino said, “This will be a space for Niagara Falls citizens to learn new computer tech skills, participate in the ‘maker movement,’ and be creative using both high-tech as well as soft arts to craft. The ultimate goal is to offer connectivity access to Wi-Fi technology that our citizens might not otherwise have.”
An additional grant totaling $27,505 was awarded through the National Library of Medicine for new technology included within privacy pods.
“By the spring of 2022, we will have our privacy pods in place,” Potwin said. “These spaces will be stocked with computers, printers and video conferencing capabilities to allow patrons access to telehealth resources as well as conducting Zoom calls in private. We are very grateful to Mr. Higgins and our government leaders for their focused efforts to address our citizen's Wi-Fi connectivity needs.”
Higgins’ team said, “According to the most recent U.S. Census data (2015-19), more than 20% of households in Niagara County don’t have a broadband subscription.
“The new ‘Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’ includes $65 billion to make sure every American has access to high-speed internet.”