“We’re seeing a digital divide that we have to close,” he said, citing statistics that show only 41 percent of residents in nearby Astoria houses have broadband Internet. “We have to make sure our students have the tools to compete.”
The pilot program, which Constantinides helped in part to fund, provides access to 10 iPads in the branch, which library-goers are able to access free of charge, although they cannot check them out. The program extends to the Woodhaven branch of the Queens Library Program as well, which also received 10 iPads.
Queens Library Interim President Bridget Quinn-Carey said that three months in, the program had proven to be very successful with local students.
“The iPads enable the students to learn so many technologies,” she said. “Here they can engage with the staff, who can leverage the technology to help them do school work. These [iPads] help ensure a level playing field for Queens families. Everyone should have access to this technology, not just people who can afford it.”
Quinn-Carey said the iPads could also be used by the large contingent of local immigrant adults and families who are learning English.
“A lot of people here are English language learners, and this is a great way to expand that gateway,” she said.
Micah Zevin, a librarian at the Astoria branch, said he has witnessed how helpful the iPads are to English-language learners.
“The iPads have been really successful here,” he said. “They’re a good combination of play and learning programs. A lot of families here don’t speak English at home, so kids can come here and do English language reading programs on the iPads.”
He said the technology was also being utilized for entertainment’s sake, with librarians orchestrating gaming competitions for the students utilizing the technology.
He said the program should expand to other libraries, as did Quinn-Carey, although she conceded securing funding might be difficult.