FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jennie Stapp
May 7, 2020 (406) 444-3116
Mobile Hot Spots for Loan at Montana Public Libraries
(Helena) – At their April 27 meeting, the Montana State Library Commission allocated funds to purchase mobile wifi hot spots and cellular service to increase the availability of hot spots that can be loaned to library patrons throughout Montana. All 82 public libraries, and Montana’s seven tribal college libraries are eligible to receive at least two hot spots to place into circulation and ten libraries will be selected, based upon need, to receive additional hot spots. The hot spots will come with a one year, fully paid cellular plan as part of a pilot project to explore how these devices are used by Montanans to access critical services and support economic development activities.
This program is the result of data collected over the past year regarding the increasing role that public libraries play in their communities to provide access to the Internet, and the lack of access to broadband in so much of Montana. According to BroadbandNow (August 2018), Montana has the worst broadband coverage and the worst average Internet speed of all US States. Most job applications require at least a portion of the process be done online, and businesses, ranchers and farmers must file reports online as well, so economic prosperity depends upon access. Libraries can help to fill this gap for the most needy and least served Montanans with this program. According to the 2020 study on The State of Broadband Connectivity and Related IT Infrastructure in Montana’s Public Libraries, one quarter of public libraries in Montana are the sole source of free Internet access in their respective communities.
During the COVID-19 crisis response, the need to make Internet access mobile in communities has become even more apparent and pressing. As library buildings were shuttered across the Treasure State in March and April, there was increasing concern that those Montanans that depend on WiFi at their public library were left without access for their suddenly growing critical needs: distance learning for children at home, applying for unemployment benefits, seeking telemedicine options to avoid a trip to a healthcare facility, and ordering necessities for home delivery, to name a few.
Montana State Librarian, Jennie Stapp said, “By providing mobile hot spots to libraries, and through the pilot study, we hope to expand access now, and learn more about the impacts of offering cellular-data devices to Montana’s library patrons so that we can best support Montanans to thrive.”
The State Library plans to begin to deploy hot spots to libraries in mid-May. For more information about the activities and services provided by your local library, check out their website, call, or follow them on social media.
The Montana State Library helps all organizations, communities, and Montanans thrive through excellent library resources and services. For more information about the Montana State Library, visit http://msl.mt.gov. For more information about the Commission meeting, contact Jennie Stapp, State Librarian, at (406) 444-3116 or via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.