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Coralville library makes it easier to access internet from home

Using a federal grant, the city buys 40 more Wi-Fi hotspots

With a federal grant, the Coralville Public Library bought 40 Wi-Fi hotspots that allow people who lack internet access
With a federal grant, the Coralville Public Library bought 40 Wi-Fi hotspots that allow people who lack internet access at home to connect. (Supplied photo)

CORALVILLE — In a typical year, computers at the Coralville Public Library are accessed by patrons up to 35,000 times.

Library Director Alison Ames Galstad said Coralville residents need the internet to fill out government paperwork, apply for jobs, create an email address or stay in touch with loved ones — but not everyone has internet access at home.

“There is definitely a segment of the population that does not have reliable internet at home,” she said.

To better serve those without internet access, the library in the last year purchased 20 Wi-Fi hot spots that patrons can take home, allowing them to access the internet in their residences. Still, Assistant Library Director Ellen Hampe Alexander said, the library was struggling to keep up with the demand.

“They were checked out all the time,” Hampe Alexander said. “People couldn’t come in and check one out because there was always a hold. We were also having trouble getting them back.”

Recognizing that demand, Hampe Alexander said, plans were in place to purchase more hot spots for the library. Then when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the library to close, Hampe Alexander said, the need to provide patrons with internet access in their homes was even greater.

“Everything went online and people can’t come in and use the internet,” she said.

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The city applied for and received federal funding from the Community Development Block Grants. With $8,280 in CDGB funds, the city purchased 40 hot spots. The devices cost it a penny each and service for each hot spot costs $40 a month.

Hampe Alexander said when the city received the hot spots a month ago, staff reached out to family resource specialists at nearby schools, as well as the Coralville Food Pantry in order to identify families who would benefit from the new resources.

“We hooked up quite a few people that way, right away,” she said.

Usage of the hot spots is “across the board,” Hampe Alexander said. Families have taken them on vacations. Students are using them for online school work. Ames Galstad said workers in other city departments are even taking them out into the field for work there.

Most importantly, Ames Galstad said, the library has enough hot spots to meet the demand of its patrons.

“I feel like we finally have enough that we’re able to keep them on our shelves,” she said. “It’s really great. It feels good to tell someone who calls that, ‘Yes, you can get one today.’”

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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