The Seattle Public Library Loans Wi-Fi Hot Spots to Connect Communities During COVID-19 Crisis
release date: 06/08/2020
Thanks to a grant from the Seattle Public Library Foundation, The Seattle Public Library is able to loan an additional 75 Wi-Fi hot spots to communities in need of Internet access.
Since April, the Library has worked with community partners such as the Low Income Housing Institute to loan new hot spots on a long-term basis to locations including a city-run emergency shelter, the new tiny home village of Spirit Village and an expanded tiny home village at Lake Union. The Library has also distributed new hot spots through community partners such as the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, and to an organization to support their work with survivors of domestic violence.
“The COVID-19 health crisis is disproportionately affecting our community members who lack internet access,” said Andrew Harbison, Assistant Director of Collection & Access Services for The Seattle Public Library. “At a time when most Seattle residents are working from home and making their social connections online, providing free, mobile access to the internet for our under-resourced patrons and partner organizations is one way we can help those without access, which is more important now than ever.”
Andrew Constantino, site coordinator and former resident of Georgetown Village, highlighted the importance of Internet connection for insecurely-housed people. "Having the hot spots at the villages is especially important now. They allow residents to stay in contact with family members and friends, stay informed about the crisis, and not feel isolated and alone. They return a sense of normalcy and dignity during this time."
The 75 new hot spots are part of the Library’s pioneering SPL HotSpot loan program, which began in 2015. The Seattle Public Library was one of the first library systems in the nation to allow patrons to “borrow the Internet” by checking out Wi-Fi hot spots. The SPL HotSpot loan program now has an inventory of 1,000 hot spots – 675 available to any Library cardholder for 21 days, and 325 loaned on a long-term basis to communities impacted by the digital divide. When the Library closed its physical locations, the check-out period for hot spots in circulation was extended until the library reopens.
Of the 75 new hot spots, the Library has loaned more than 25; it is working to distribute the rest by the end of June, leveraging strong relationships with community partners to identify communities including insecurely-housed people, low-income workers, people with disabilities, and immigrants and refugees. Each hot spot can supply Internet connections for up to 15 devices.
The city of Seattle’s 2018 Technology Access and Adoption study shows that 25% of households that live in poverty lack home internet access.
The Library is offering other services to individuals in need of support. People who need help connecting to social services, for example, can contact a community resource specialist by phone as well as by email (firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-386-9852). Additional community resources for city residents, including information on low-cost internet service, can be found at seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19. Residents in crisis can call Crisis Connections at 206-461-3222.