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Akron-Summit County Public Library starts hotspots and laptops checkouts at all branches

Akron-Summit County Public Library Ellet Branch
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The Ellet branch is one of 19 Akron-Summit County Public Library branches which will now be offering hotspots and laptops for checkout.

Hotspots and laptops are now available at all nineteen branches of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. They were only previously available at two branches.

The library was able to purchase the new hotspots and laptops as part of the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which was established by the American Rescue Plan. The library’s Executive Director Pam Hickson-Stevenson said offering hotspots and laptops has been something she’s wanted to do for years, but the library struggled to come up with the funding.

“We did think about it, and we talked about it every year when we started looking at budgets, planning the budget for the next year," Hickson-Stevenson said. "But the cost definitely was an issue for us.”

Then, the pandemic hit, and lack of access to internet became a much more pressing issue.

"Frankly, it's reinforcing what we've known all along," Hickson Stevenson said, "and that is that the lack of comprehensive broadband access to the residents of Summit County is problematic."

Hickson-Stevenson said this builds on a pilot program launched last year offering hotspots at the Maple Valley and Odom Boulevard branches.

“And I think it’s a fitting role for us, because we are about providing access to information and beyond that access to things that people want to learn more about," Hickson-Stevenson said.

Hickson-Stevenson said internet is now a necessity for most people, as schoolwork, job applications, banking and healthcare are increasingly online.

The hotspots and laptops are now available for any patron to checkout. There are three laptops and ten hotspots available at each branch. The hotspots have a two-week loan period, and the laptops can be checked out for four weeks. The laptops come with Microsoft Office, library apps and other software.

To checkout the hotspots and laptops, patrons must have a library card, be 18 years old and not have sufficient internet access. Patrons then will have to complete a lending borrowers agreement form, as required by the Emergency Connectivity Fund.

Other libraries in the region have been lending hotspots for several years. Cleveland Public Library has had hotspots available since 2018 thanks to a grant from The Cleveland Foundation. Mentor Public Library and Madison Public Library in Lake County have also had hotspots since before the pandemic.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.