The Huron-Clinton Metroparks have teamed up with The Library Network and the Suburban Library Cooperative to form an exciting new pilot partnership that aims to provide equitable access to wi-fi hotspot service for students in southeast Michigan.
In the best of times, inequitable access to the internet is a major problem in the region. The COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on this problem, as schools shut down and moved to remote learning. It was difficult for many to provide the necessary data service and the bandwidth needed for virtual learning. Libraries serve as a community staple for people to have access to computers and the internet, however they were required to close during the pandemic, meaning residents could no longer come into the library and utilize their internet access. Some libraries still are not open, but are continuing to provide curbside (contact free) or grab-and-go pick-up service and have also shifted to more online programming.
“The Metroparks are excited about the possibilities of this new partnership. Working collectively, we can provide more internet access to families in our region and improve connection to virtual education and resources. Some families have not been able to experience the benefits of virtual field trips and virtual content because of a lack of data service, and we hope this program helps bridge some of those gaps,” says Metroparks Director, Amy McMillan.
This partnership is expanding access to library locations that had limited or no hot spot availability previously. With this one-year pilot partnership, the Metroparks have provided 100 hot spots, in the five-county service region, to be checked out through the library partners for use in underserved areas. The libraries where these devices are available for check-out were selected to focus on underserved areas where hotspot usage would make the greatest impact on the surrounding community. These hotspots will provide unlimited highspeed internet to users by using broadband connectivity with T-Mobile data services.
Steven K. Bowers, the Executive Director of The Library Network, explains “The Library Network is extremely excited about this new partnership and the opportunity to work together to support our region. Our two library systems [The Library Network and Suburban Library Cooperative] represent over 100 libraries. Although these new hot spots have been delivered to specific library locations, any in-network library user in the five-county region can request access to the hotspots at their local library. That’s a large footprint we are able to reach.”
According to Wayne Library Director Jody Wolak, “We have been lending hotspots for about a month and a half now and they are very popular! They are especially handy if you don’t currently have home internet, if you’re traveling, or if you’d like to be able to get online somewhere that doesn’t have Wi-Fi.”
The list of specific libraries where these hot spots are available includes:
• Wayne Public Library
• Fowlerville District Library
• Hamtramck Public Library
• Leanna Hicks Public Library (Inkster)
• Melvindale Public Library
• Oak Park Public Library
• Pontiac Public Library
• Waterford Township Public Library
• Ypsilanti District Library
• Lenox Township Library
• Mount Clemens Public Library