Since 1916, Forest Park Public Library (FPPL) has been serving the 15,000 residents of this solidly blue collar community. Since the library is located within walking distance of convenient mass transit, they also serve people from several neighboring communities as well as from Chicago. With a median household income of $51,055, being able to afford Internet service at home is a luxury for many and is by no means a given. This library has taken a leadership role in ensuring that their community has access to information beyond the library’s walls.
Working with Mobile Beacon and TechSoup’s device donation program, in May of 2014 FPPL first established their hotspot loan policies and began circulating 20 hotspots to cardholders. The devices can be checked out for two weeks with no renewal. There is no limit to the number of times individual cardholders may check out a hotspot.
Magan Szwarek, Adult Services Manager, tells us the Internet Loan program helps them fulfill their mission of connecting patrons with the information they want, regardless of format, and enables FPPL to bridge the knowledge gap of residents who have no other Internet access. Before borrowing hotspots, patrons must complete a free, library-led Internet Safety and Privacy class. This prerequisite fosters digital literacy and helps ensure that those community members new to the Internet will explore and learn safely.
The 20 hotspots have been checked out 1,975 times since the program began and feedback has been uniformly positive. Working with Mobile Beacon allowed the library to extend their service philosophy in a way that would not otherwise been possible.
“This is a great program that will help to increase digital literacy in the community,” said Community Engagement Librarian Alicia Hammond. “While many see the Internet as simply a form of entertainment, it has become an essential tool for students, job seekers, business owners and more,” said Hammond.