Island libraries combating social isolation with 'digital care packages'

The Vancouver Island Regional Library is distributing “digital care packages” to care homes to help people connect with loved ones and the outside world.

The library is offering packages including a laptop, smart TV and streaming device to residential care facilities, such as long-term care homes for seniors, transition houses for women escaping abusive relationships, shelters and recovery centres.

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Packages include internet subsidies to ensure a stable connection and support from library staff to learn how to access ebooks, audio books, classes and TV shows offered through the library.

Staff members will also help residents who want to learn how to connect with loved ones through video calls and email.

“I think it’s so important right now. People are feeling very isolated and it was an opportunity we saw to reach out,” said Anne O’Shea, the library’s deputy executive director and chief operating officer.

The library, which serves the Island outside of Greater Victoria, along with Sooke and Sidney, Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast, has approached 60 facilities on the Island with care package offers. Twenty-six have expressed interest and are awaiting a delivery.

The first recipient was Qualicum Manor, a long-term care facility with 60 units in Qualicum Beach. They received a smart TV, laptop and streaming device.

The facility’s activity directors, Leanne Brown and Lonnie Smith, said they’re grateful for the donated items and they look forward to sharing the new resources with residents.

Care packages are being prepared for facilities in Nanaimo, Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Port Alberni, the Comox Valley and Haida Gwaii.

The library has started connecting with day facilities as well, including outreach organizations and youth centres.

Funding of more than $50,000 so far for the technology comes from six community foundations: Alberni Valley Community Foundation, Comox Valley Community Foundation, Gwaii Trust, Nanaimo Foundation, Parksville Qualicum Community Foundation and Victoria Foundation.

The library is contributing staff time to help residents learn how to use the new technology.

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