To better meet the needs of the area, the Abilene Public Library has purchased WiFi hotspots with a federal grant. The hotspots are intended for students to use when they do not have access to WiFi, but any adult can borrow the hotspots for up to two weeks.
“It’s a good opportunity to try it out, see what the demand is for this community,” said Jordyn Peyla, teen and technology director for the library. “A lot of our regular patrons here who use the computers don’t have internet access at home for a variety of reasons, so this is opening up the potential for them to take the internet home and try and see if they’d like to pursue setting it up at their house or taking it with them.”
The library saw the need during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Library Director Wendy Moulton and Peyla, when college students returned from school. With some homes without WiFi, the library decided to purchase the hotspots for those who need WiFi temporarily at home or when traveling.
In October of 2021, the library applied for the Federal Communications Commission Emergency Connectivity Fund to purchase the hotspots. Peyla said the library applied for $800 of the reimbursement fund, and it will cover the cost of the devices and one month of the data plan for each device.
“It’s a nationwide effort to make sure that schools and public libraries can provide technology to their surrounding areas,” Peyla said.
Peyla said some libraries applied for larger amounts of money from the fund and built a collection of over 100 hotspots. Since they are starting by testing if there is a need, the Abilene Library only purchased five.
Mobile Beacon is the provider for the library’s hotspots. The donation program is organized by TechSoup and is to provide nonprofit organizations across the United States with 4G LTE broadband hotspots, according to TechSoup’s website. The plan costs $10 a month for each device, equaling to $50 a month.
So far since the library started loaning the devices two weeks ago, the hotspots have been used by students and people who need to apply for jobs at home, said Moulton and Peyla.
Any patrons with good credibility over the age of 18 may borrow the hotspots for a two-week loan period. Parents can also borrow the hotspots for their children, Moulton said. To check out a hotspot, speak with Peyla on the top floor.
“We’re always trying to see what the needs of the community has,” Moulton said. “If anyone has any suggestions, we’re always happy to hear what people are looking for.”