The Allen County Public Library recently added 50 mobile hotspot devices to its collection. The devices are available for ACPL patrons to checkout and use in their homes/workplaces to access Wi-Fi service at no cost.
The program initially began in 2020 with 30 hotspots. Word spread quickly leading to long hold lists with patrons unfortunately needing to wait for weeks or months to access the technology. The 50 additional hotspots more than doubles the ACPL’s availability and brings the total to 80. The additional devices alleviated months of hold time for patrons waiting to access the limited quantity available.
“As a leadership team, we consistently review our collection of books and other materials to see where we have a high demand that needs more resources,” said ACPL Executive Director Susan Baier. “That data, coupled with staff and patron feedback, made it clear that our community would certainly make use of broader access to free, reliable mobile Wi-Fi technology.”
Initial data shows that patrons use the Wi-Fi access for a variety of purposes with the majority using it to work, search for jobs, stream movies/television, and manage personal finances or other important business. During the initial rollout, patrons were invited to comment anonymously on the impact of the hotspots on their lives. Some highlights include:
“It has been a great benefit. I can check my LinkedIn and my applications for various jobs…I don’t usually get off work in time to get to my local library for Wi-Fi so the hotspot really helps.”
“It has helped our family with homework, streaming tv, and movies. It is a huge help because we DO NOT have internet service in our area. We LOVE being able to use it.”
“Having a hotspot has enabled me to be able to access the internet to do a number of things. I can’t afford internet service otherwise.”
“It helps out tremendously – with schoolwork and entertainment.”
This program comes at a time when communities across the country are struggling with a “digital divide” made even more evident by the increase in remote work and virtual programs/services arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Purdue University’s Digital Divide Index, 11.1% of Allen County does not have access to the internet at all and 34% of the population does not have reliable, high-speed access.
“The reality is that internet access is no longer a luxury. For decades now, the ACPL has provided reliable computer and internet access at our branch locations,” said Baier. “Mobile hotspots are the next logical bridge for that digital divide, and we’re pleased to have the community support and resources to help our patrons stay connected.”
The hotspots are roughly the size of a cell phone and allow cardholders (age 12 and older) to access the internet via 4G wireless connections. Patrons can then connect their own computer, tablet, or other devices to access the internet. They are available for checkout, at no cost, for up to one week and patrons can place a “hold” on them like all ACPL materials via the website, mobile app, or in person. There are no limits to streaming time or data usage. When the checkout period ends, patrons can renew (if no one else is waiting) or return the device to any branch. If they are not returned, the device will become inactive.
Patrons interested in accessing the mobile hotspots can learn more at www.acpl.lib.in.us/using-the-library/hotspots or by contacting any ACPL branch.
The Allen County Public Library (ACPL) has fostered lifelong learning and discovery in northeast Indiana for more than 125 years. The ACPL consists of fourteen branches throughout Allen County, serving more than one million visitors per year. The ACPL’s collection includes more than 2.7 million items, with a circulation total of 3.6 million items borrowed annually. It also houses The Genealogy Center, the nation’s largest public genealogy research center, and The Rolland Center for Lincoln Research, consisting of more than 20,000 artifacts related to President Abraham Lincoln.