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story.lead_photo.caption The Callaway County Public Library offers digital resources while closed. Photo by Olivia Garrett / Fulton Sun.

Daniel Boone Regional Library has been awarded $50,000 by the Missouri State Library.

"We are going to use the funds from this grant to replace and add to the number of Wi-Fi hotspots," Public Relations Manager Mitzi St. John said.

The library system, which includes the Callaway County and Holts Summit public libraries, currently has 38 hotspots available for library patrons to check out. The mobile hotspots allow users to connect devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets to the internet.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to internet has become an important issue, with many working and studying from home.

"There are some folks that have limited internet access," St. John said. "They can check out a hotspot to help with a job search and educational opportunities — it's also very useful for people to do virtual health care meetings with a doctor or health care provider."

With the grant, the library is buying 20 additional hotspots.

The devices are in high demand. As of Tuesday afternoon, 87 people were on the waiting list. The devices are shared among the library locations.

The grant will also help the system buy new self-check out machines for the Columbia location. The machines already in use will be moved to locations in Fulton, Holts Summit and Ashland.

Self-check out options help limit contact between library staff and visitors, something important when trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The library system was one of 60 in Missouri to receive funds to respond to COVID-19 health and safety concerns.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced $960,338 in grants statewide Monday with the aim of helping libraries address digital inclusion and respond to COVID-19.

Funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act contributed $554,569 to the grants and the state library received an additional $432,800 in Library Services and Technology Act funds.

In Cole County, the Missouri River Regional Library received $27,031 to install a locker system to contribute to contactless delivery options.

"Missouri's libraries are integral to the communities they serve and the resources they offer are vital," Ashcroft said in a news release. "These funds help our libraries face the unique obstacles presented by the coronavirus so they can continue offering key services and expanding programs for their patrons."

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