Two local libraries will soon have the ability for individuals to check out hotspots for internet access thanks to funding from the federal coronavirus relief act.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced in a press release the Missouri State Library has awarded $960,338 in grant funds to 60 libraries, including Boonslick Regional Library and Sedalia Public Library, to respond to coronavirus health and safety concerns.
The funds were awarded through the federal coronavirus relief funding act (CARES).
“Library Services and Technology Act funds are used to address digital inclusion and related technical support or to address other efforts that prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19,” according to the release. The projects were supported by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under CARES and LSTA provisions as administered by the Missouri State Library.
“Missouri’s libraries are integral to the communities they serve and the resources they offer are vital,” Ashcroft said in the release. “These funds help our libraries face the unique obstacles presented by the coronavirus so they can continue offering key services and expanding programs for their patrons.”
Boonslick Regional Library received $22,617 and the Sedalia Public Library received $6,564. The Sedalia Public Library has used the funds “to purchase eight CIPA-compliant hotspots for checkout to patrons so they can have a reliable online connection outside the library to search for jobs and unemployment benefits,” according to the release.
Sedalia Public Library Director Pam Hunter said the hotspots should be available next week and should supplement some services the library cannot offer at the moment.
“It seems like there’s a lot of libraries that aren’t open…and we’re limiting our services, so this will be a service since people can’t use our computers,” Hunter said. “This will be a service that they can take home with them and use…
“Basically people come here because it’s kind of expensive to have internet service,” she continued. “So a lot of people have iPhones or whatever but they don’t have the internet connection and this would give them that internet connection. That’s our goal anyway. We’re not really a rural area, but I know some of the rural areas have like the dial-up still and so this would sort of take that place in some of the more remote areas.”
Hunter said she expects the hotspots to be very popular.
“When I was researching to do the grant I know Henry has had this service for probably a year and they are checked out all the time,” she said. “We wouldn’t be opposed, if it is a popular service, to adding more at some time but right now we’re going to start out with eight and see how that goes over. Then if it’s very popular then we would funnel some of our money and funding into more hotspots.”
Hunter said to check out the hotspots an individual must be 18 and they can only be checked out for a week. They are limited to one per household and the library has the ability to deactivate the device if it’s overdue.
“There are no renewals, after that you have to leave it here for a while and then come back and check it out again…” Hunter explained.
“In our current situation, once they come back in it would be like all of our materials where they have to quarantine them for a week before we check them out again,” she added.
When checking out the hotspots, individuals will be given a tote bag with the entire system and instructions on how to use the device. Hunter recommends calling ahead.
“Once we do get the word out I think they’re going to be very popular,” Hunter said. “We would have reservations just like we do on books and then we would call them.”
Boonslick Regional Library also established a Wi-Fi hotspot lending program through the grant to provide patrons with high-speed internet access. With the program, “students can use the internet for help with homework and projects, job seekers can search and apply for jobs, and patrons can have home access to the library’s digital resources such as databases, eBooks, eMagazines and eAudiobooks, as well as general access to the internet,” according to a press release.
Patrons can use the program with a Boonslick Regional Library card that is in good standing. In addition to the hotspot lending program, the Boonslick library branches offer free Wi-Fi in the parking lots and have tablets available for a one-hour check-out for use in the parking lot.