By Valerie Maginnis, Director
Teton County Library
Bridging the digital divide is a high priority for every library and as a result, over 97% of today’s libraries offer Internet access in the form of free onsite WiFi. At Teton County Library, WiFi use increased by an additional 10 percent in the past year.
The Teton County Library Strategic Plan inspires staff to develop and implement new ways to “ensure the effective use of library resources in order to meet community needs.” In February 2018, the library began circulating WiFi “MiFi” Hotspots. Free WiFi Hotspots appeal to cardholders who may not have Internet at home, are traveling, or are “power patrons,” is the library’s term for its savvy users of digital content. The portability, convenience and ease of use of the WiFi Hotspot makes them very popular.
Using TechSoup resources the library purchased the “MiFi” a low-cost yet reliable device, and a data plan through Verizon, which offers wide coverage in the northwest corner of our state. The unlimited data plan is currently less than $50.00 per month, per device. Circulation Services Supervisor, Stephanie Franco, developed the circulation protocols and trained staff on how to suspend and resume service when the devices are returned. Data is automatically disabled on devices that are overdue. The library offers ten WiFi Hotspots for checkout, for a period of seven days, with renewals. Close attention is paid to the holds queue in order to determine if additional devices should be purchased. All ten Hotspots were checked out on the first day!
Acting Adult Services Manager, Joe Gagnon, notes that the devices were immediately popular—very little marketing was needed—and he encourages staff to promote the Hotspots and the convenience they offer, especially in accessing the library’s digital content, both at home and away. Offering WiFi Hotspots provides yet another opportunity for Teton County Library to enhance its approachability and forward its mission which is connecting the community to resources, people, and learning.