Georgia Public Library Service Distributes 7,000 Chromebooks, 2,800 Launchpad Tablets

The Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) has distributed more than 7,000 Chromebooks and 2,800 Launchpad tablets to libraries throughout the state with the help of $2.3 million provided by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund via the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Patron checking out a laptop at a Georgia libraryThe Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) has distributed more than 7,000 Chromebooks and 2,800 Launchpad tablets to libraries throughout the state with the help of $2.3 million provided by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund via the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

GPLS was well positioned for the major equipment rollout after facilitating laptop lending programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was extremely proud of [Georgia’s] libraries, because they immediately started thinking, ‘How can we meet community needs in completely different ways when our doors are locked and our we’re not seeing people face to face?’” said Julie Walker, Georgia’s State Librarian and vice chancellor for libraries and archives, GPLS.

While GPLS serves public libraries throughout the state, the agency is a unit of the University System of Georgia, so staff were familiar with challenges facing both public library patrons and college students. Many Georgia colleges and universities were on spring break when their institutions began shutting down during the earliest days of the pandemic, Walker said, so many students had to head home that semester, “and we quickly learned that some of them were trying to complete college coursework on a phone, because they didn’t have a computer…. We got into contact with students who needed a device to finish their semester of work, and [matched them with] the closest device in one of our libraries and arranged parking lot handoffs.”

So when the GEER funds became available last year, GPLS aimed to expand the program and replenish supplies of laptops and tablets at libraries that needed them. Walker said that GPLS “continually advocates for state funding” and that she is “constantly in touch with the governor’s office,” which helped ensure that Georgia libraries were top of mind with state officials when funds were being distributed.

“It’s also worth noting that this was something that [the state government] really wanted to get out quickly,” added Daniel Zeiger, IT director for GPLS and a 2023 LJ Mover & Shaker. “We were in a very good spot to be able to roll this out very, very quickly [and] have a big impact after receiving the funding.”

Georgia’s Regents Public Library Advisory Committee (RPLAC), a committee of 12 public library directors representing different sizes and types of libraries—large urban to small rural—helped GPLS determine where to distribute the Chromebooks and Launchpads throughout the state’s 60 library systems. RPLAC is “an advisory committee to GPLS, but it also helps us make sure that when we are distributing items or funding…that we are properly distributing across all of those groups and all around the state…in the way that’s most appropriate,” Walker explained. Zeiger said that GPLS representatives also reached out to every library system and asked, “What is it that you need, and what is it that you don't need?” in an effort to make the maximum impact with the devices.

The devices were all drop-shipped directly to the libraries, avoiding the costs and labor that would have been involved if they were shipped to GPLS headquarters prior to distribution. Unfortunately, drop-shipping wasn’t possible with the computer bags that GPLS wanted to include with the Chromebooks to make it easier for libraries to pair them with chargers and other devices for lending, such as Wi-Fi hotspots. “Every inch of the halls of our offices were lined with bags” before they were distributed, Zeiger said.

GPLS has been working with Chromebooks since 2013, and already helped libraries throughout the state manage “about six or seven thousand” devices through the cloud, Zeiger said. “Rolling out these devices was easy and quick, because we’re actually able to have them connected into our interface before they’re even shipped out,” he added. “By the time they arrived, all the libraries had to do was turn them on.”

The Launchpad tablets, developed by Playaway, are preloaded with content including learning apps, videos, and games, and are “locked down,” Zeiger said. “They don't connect to the Internet. You don't have to worry about somebody receiving that device and getting around what it’s designed to be used for, so they are very simple to check out.”

Although many Georgia libraries loaned out laptops and other devices long-term during the earliest months of the pandemic, most of the Chromebooks and Launchpads made available through this program will be loaned out for two weeks at a time, unless a library wants to modify those terms, Zeiger said.

“The Chromebooks have been well received by adult patrons,” said Robyn Saint-Paen, director of library experiences, Live Oak Regional Library System, in a comment emailed to LJ by Walker. “They love the option of using Chromebooks in the library as well as being able to take them home. Chromebooks have been instrumental in assisting with job readiness in that patrons have been able to take them into study rooms for virtual interviews.”

In another comment emailed by Walker, Georgia library patron Gina Dorminey said that her six-year-old son “has enjoyed practicing his sight words in a new, game-like format” using the Launchpad tablets. “It has boosted his confidence enough to start picking up books to read by himself.”

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Matt Enis


Matt Enis ( is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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