With high-speed internet access hard to find in many of Illinois’ rural areas, some public libraries are trying something new: letting patrons check out free wireless hotspots that can connect to the internet just about anywhere.
Recently the public libraries in Princeville and Brimfield received hotspot grants as part of the DigitalLead: Rural Libraries Creating New Possibilities project. The Lillie M. Evans Library in Princeville received 7 mobile hotspot devices while the Brimfield Public Library District received 10 devices. Both received free wireless coverage for each device for a one-year period.
This grant was provided by the Public Library Association and Microsoft Corp. to help rural populations reap the benefits of broadband internet connectivity. Rural libraries are critical for communities to achieve digital access and skills and the resultant employment, economic, educational, and health benefits, often providing the only free access to computers, the Internet, and training in their regions.
The devices connect to the Sprint 4G LTE network and create a Wi-Fi network, allowing users to connect up to 10 Wi-Fi-enabled computers or electronic devices. Patrons must have a library card in good standing, sign a Hotspot Patron Agreement Form and reside within the library district. More information can be found on each library’s website. For LME Library, go to http://bit.ly/LMEhotspots
The United States as a whole has fallen behind other developed countries in internet download speeds. According to a recent Microsoft study, 162.8 million people do not use the internet at broadband speeds, and almost 66 million people have low levels of digital readiness, according to the American Library Association. Libraries provide essential services to populations most affected by these challenges, particularly rural and low-income communities.