WENATCHEE — Washable keyboard covers and another 130 Wi-Fi hotspots will be available to library patrons once libraries are allowed to reopen in Phase 3 of the state’s “Safe Start” plan.

The North Central Regional Library District recently received three grants totaling more than $25,000 from the Washington State Library using funds provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

One of the grants will provide an additional 30 Wi-Fi hotspots, which cost about $80 each, plus about $12,000 to help pay for internet connectivity. The internet service for each costs about $120 a year. A second grant will fund 100 Wi-Fi hot spot devices. The library district will have to cover the internet connection costs. A third grant, for $3,000, will pay for washable keyboard covers that will be installed at libraries when they reopen to the public.

Last week, NCRL received a grant from Microsoft and the Public Library Association to expand Wi-Fi up to 600 feet around its 30 libraries in Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan and Ferry counties.

“NCRL is excited to reopen our libraries and ensure that we protect the health of our staff and patrons in the process,” NCRL’s Executive Director Barbara Walters said. “We have partnered with local vendors and sought out grant opportunities in order to effectively respond to health concerns and the needs of our communities. From expanding our Wi-Fi to regularly sanitizing high use surfaces, we’ll be doing everything we can to make our libraries safe and enjoyable places to visit.”

NCRL is actively working to prepare its spaces for the eventual reopening once all five counties in the library district are cleared to do so. The library’s mail order service is expected to start once Chelan County, where the district’s administration and distribution center is located, reaches Phase 2.

The library district last year purchased 40 hotspots for a pilot program. Those currently are on loan to the Wenatchee School District for students to use, said NCRL spokeswoman Michelle McNiel. The library partnered with GWATA to provide another 50 hotspots that also are being used by students.

“We have not yet determined how all the hotspots will be used,” McNiel said, including whether they will be available for checkout to patrons or loaned to the school district or some other program “to help address digital needs in our communities.”

For the latest on the library’s offerings, go to ncrl.org.

Nevonne McDaniels: 664-7151

mcdaniels@wenatcheeworld.com