Providence Community Library (PCL) is a non-profit network of nine neighborhood libraries that provide free, accessible library services to improve and enrich the lives of people in Providence, Rhode Island.
Digital library resources continue to grow exponentially, but the value of these resources is inherently tied to how accessible they are. There are many barriers to access, such as a limited number of public computers available on-premise at a library, and an estimated 100 million Americans without access to the Internet at home. With shrinking municipal budgets and nonstop technological advancement, PCL needed affordable technology to keep pace with patrons’ evolving needs.
PCL staff experimented with using their cell phones for mobile Internet access, but the signal proved insufficient for their needs. In addition, they wanted to be able to provide Internet access to their underserved patrons. PCL recognized an opportunity to reduce those barriers to access by creating a way to loan out the Internet via Mobile Beacon’s 4G mobile hotspots.
PCL secured two donated 4G mobile hotspots from Mobile Beacon through TechSoup’s product donation program. They began circulating these hotspots to patrons from their Mount Pleasant location to enable Internet access in neighborhoods with low rates of home broadband service. The program allows patrons to borrow the hotspots for up to a week, enabling them to search for jobs, access information on healthcare and benefits, conduct research, complete homework, view entertainment, and stay connected with family and friends. The hotspots can accommodate up to eight users or Wi-Fi devices at a time, with no bandwidth usage limits.
The program proved so popular PCL has added eight more hotspots; some for circulation and some for staff use at events and with their bookmobile. PCL reports the hotspots are “constantly checked out.”
Plans are underway to acquire more Mobile Beacon hotspots for circulation at their other locations. PCL has also been using the hotspots to meet other library needs:
Future plans include outreach to elderly and disabled to teach them how to get online and explore the Healthcare Exchange options.