South suburban public libraries to receive thousands in grants to upgrade technology

Thursday, June 6, 2024
Public libraries to receive thousands in grants to upgrade technology
The purpose of public libraries has evolved from a quiet environment to a safe-haven with access to technology.

MAYWOOD, Ill. (WLS) -- The state awarded $2 million worth of technology grants to 133 municipal libraries across the state, 18 in the Cook County suburbs.

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Over the years, the role of public libraries, especially in lower income communities, has changed.

"The transformation of libraries is very intriguing to look at. We've gone from the 'shh don't make noise' to 'please come in we have stuff available for you," Maywood Public Library Interim Director Daniela Martinez said.

Libraries have become community centers, providing a variety of free services and a safe place.

"We have a lot of programs for kids they can come here and there don't have to be hanging out in the street," Cicero Library Director Sandra Tomschin said.

However, not all libraries look the same, especially when it comes to updated technology.

Depending on your physical address, your local library might look like a high end Apple Store or sadly it might look the exact same as it did in the 1960's," Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias said.

Libraries are primarily funded through property tax revenue.

The Cicero Public Library receives an estimated $1.76 million compared to neighboring Oak Park which gets over $11 million for a population smaller than Cicero.

To help bridge the digital divide, Giannoulias awarded the grants across the state.

"These grants will help our libraries bolster their technology infrastructure, expand online services and need resources, increase Wi-Fi capacity and internet accessibility," Giannoulias said.

The criteria for the grants included communities with low tax bases and high poverty rates. Cicero and Maywood public libraries both received a one-time $27,500 grant.

"A lot of kids don't have computers, laptops or tablets at home for resources. The library is something needed and will be used," Maywood Resident Wanda Alford said.

While its $2 million this year, Giannoulias said as along as he is in officer he will push for more money for libraries in low income areas.