New connectivity option in the air
The need for digital access became more critical than ever over the past pandemic year, and libraries have adapted to serve digital demands.
In recent years many resources have become available electronically, such as e-books, which can be downloaded to Kindles or other devices with apps like OverDrive, which accomodates digital reading. Many library movies now are available on a limited checkout basis through Kanopy, described as the public library's version of Netflix.
Recently, Woodburn Public Library announced another web-related, electronic-enabling item has become available: wifi hotspots.
While the library has offered an ongoing, on-premises hotspot, access has been crimped by the pandemic. Woodburn Library currently operates limited hours on a grab-and-go basis; masked patrons can stop in to pick up a hold or even browse to find an item to check out, but they can't sit and read inside, and there are no computer terminals available.
What is now available for those who are digitally unequipped are the Wi-Fi hotspots.
"We are part of the Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service (CCRLS) network of libraries, which recently received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to purchase and circulate mobile hotspots," said Woodburn teen and adult librarian Kara Wheeler. "Anyone 18 and older with a valid library card in good standing can check one out for free. Right now, they currently loan out for three weeks each."
Wheeler added that the hotspots can be renewed, provided all the units are not checked out when the due date arrives.
Wheeler said Woodburn has eight hotspots available, but the CCRLS system has as many as 150 of them.
"Some larger libraries, like Salem or Newberg, have more since they have more users," she said.
CCRLS is among a number of public library systems nationwide that have made Wi-Fi hotspot loans available. A program was developed by the Public Library Association and supported by Microsoft Philanthropies, dubbed "Digital Lead: Rural Libraries Creating New Possibilities." It's a campaign to provide hotspots to help the digitally challenged, according to the PLA website.
PLA further notes that: "Implementing a Mobile Hotspot Lending Program at your library offers up a world of possibilities for your patrons."
Objectives therein itemized by PLA include: helping individuals with employment opportunities; bridging the digital divide; providing access to health information; internet connectivity to the financially disadvantaged.
"Due to the pandemic, many people in our communities need access to the internet more than ever," said county librarian Alison McKee of Contra Costa, California. "Reliable internet service will help with work, school and with staying connected to friends and family members they can't see right now."
Woodburn and other CCRLS libraries mirror those objectives.
"We're excited about the opportunity to hopefully improve internet access to our patrons," Wheeler said.
The hotspots are not listed in the library catalog because users need to check them out directly and sign a user agreement when they do. Wheeler also stresses that upon due date they need to be returned in the same manner.
She stressed: "Please, do not return them in the book drop."
More information is available at CCRLS — https://ccrls.org/hotspots — and on the Woodburn Public Library Facebook page.
Since March 1, Woodburn Public Library has reopened with limited hours and stipulations. Patrons can visit the library on a grab-and-go basis; holds can be picked up or patrons can browse for an item and check it out, but computers and areas to sit and read are not available. Masks are required.
Woodburn Public Library currently is open from noon-7 p.m. Mondays-Tuesdays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; no weekend service is available at this time.
Wi-Fi hotspot: https://ccrls.org/hotspots.
Visit Woodburn Public Library Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WoodburnLibrary
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