Recover Forward Bloomington

The City of Bloomington Information & Technology Services Department (ITS) awarded $50,000 in digital equity grants to support nine Bloomington-based nonprofit organizations in their efforts to bridge the digital divide for residents.

The Library received a $1,000 grant to purchase a Meeting Owl Pro 360-degree camera for public meeting room use. This easy-to-use device combines a camera, mic, and speaker, creating the experience of in-person participation for hybrid meetings. The new technology will provide patrons with a simple and accessible tool to bridge the gap between those who can attend meetings onsite and those who can't.

“The Library's public meeting rooms are one of our most popular and diverse resources,” said Associate Director Grier Carson. “Meeting rooms are used for public speakers, literary programming, performances, cultural events, and local organization and club meetings, among other things, but seating capacity can be limited. Since the onset of the pandemic, we've seen a sharp increase in requests for hybrid capabilities.”

The camera will be available for use in Library meeting rooms in February 2022. Patrons who do not have broadband internet access and/or computing devices at home can also check out Library iPads and wireless hotspots, which were funded through last year's grant.

“We see this as a continuation of our efforts to help more Monroe County residents develop necessary digital citizenry skills and confidence,” said Carson. “Patrons can currently seek help with basic computer skills through our VITAL adult learner program.”

Meeting room space is available free of charge during open library hours to all Monroe County organizations and local units of government. Some rooms at the Downtown Library are also available to local businesses for a fee. To reserve space, you must have a library card and be at least 18 years old.

Now in its second year, the grant program is funded through Mayor John Hamilton’s Recover Forward initiative to help Bloomington recover from the pandemic and economic collapse, and advance racial, economic, and climate justice. “We are glad to partner with these nonprofits to decrease the digital disparities their clients experience,” said Hamilton.