Digital Equity During COVID-19: How New Jersey Public Libraries are Expanding Broadband and Device Access

Blog post provides a glimpse at the ways in which New Jersey libraries are attempting to fill the gaps in access to technology and broadband services.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have had to transition part or most of their daily activities to a virtual format. These extensive changes have affected all facets of life, from school to work to familial and social events, and more. The pandemic has underscored existing challenges and inequalities in communities at large, including the digital equity gap. Participation in the virtual environment requires access to a digital device and connection to the Internet, which, at present, not all residents and communities are able to access reliably. This inequity of access to technology and connectivity has resulted in numerous practical and technical challenges in many communities.

While digital equity issues affect all populations, connectivity access stands to be a great hurdle for job seekers searching for work at this time. Much of the job search is exclusively digital, and limited access to public computers or Internet connection can greatly affect the job search process and the ultimate success of landing a new job opportunity. For job seekers, improving skills such as résumé writing and interviewing have gone virtual as well, with the adjustment to online learning further complicated by limited access to technology tools. In addition, those with children may also be limited with access to at-home devices due to remote schooling, which can put the search on pause for many job seekers.

Many of New Jersey’s public libraries have responded to the digital equity issues facing their customers and communities. Many libraries have instituted new programming or bolstered existing programming to improve accessibility to the virtual world by offering a variety of technology services and loaner programs, even as in-person access to facilities remains limited. A new blog post by Heldrich Center research intern Amanda Bombino provides a glimpse at some of the ways in which libraries in New Jersey are attempting to fill the gaps in access to technology and broadband services during this time.