The WRL’s Mobile Library Services You and Neighborhood team has earned the 2021 Public Library Innovator Award. The award recognizes public librarians and or project teams who have made an outstanding contribution to advance the mission of a public library in Virginia. The team, which includes Eletha L. Davis, Christopher Russell, and Nicholas Granville, are being recognized for their rapid roll out of a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot program.
“The team recognized that access to the internet was paramount to the education and lives of local children and families, and they made sure to focus their efforts on those who did not have ready access,” said a VLA press release. “By utilizing the library’s bookmobiles, they successfully created roaming hot spots for internet and printing needs at the locations where community members needed them, at a time when they needed them the most.”
The program addressed the fact that 10 to 15 percent of students in the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools did not have reliable internet access. With schools and libraries closed, all classes being moved to a virtual setting, WRL began sending mobile library services vehicles to act as internet hotspots in parking lots and neighborhoods where people could park nearby and access the the internet.
Since the early days of the pandemic, WRL has taken steps to setup long term hotspots that can be accessed at anytime. The program has been hugely popular throughout the pandemic and continues to be utilized even after schools and libraries begin to reopen.
“The Wi-Fi hotspot initiative is a great example of finding creative answers to how we can quickly adapt to provide a valuable service to our community during a challenging time,” said library director Betsy Fowler. “We’re proud to be pioneering new and exciting ways to keep our users connected with the resources they need.”