Demand Drives Library to Double Mobile WiFi Devices

POLAND, Ohio – The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County could double the number of WiFi Mobile Hotspots it has available to borrowers as soon as early 2017.

Demand for the units, which provide bandwidth for up to 10 devices for library patrons who lack an internet connection, far exceeds expectations, Heidi Daniel, library executive director, said following Thursday’s meeting of the library’s board of directors at the Poland Branch Library.

The library put 30 units – two on average for each branch location – into service Nov. 21. When Daniel last checked, all 30 of the devices were checked out and a hold list for the units was 66 patrons long, Daniel said.

“We’re already in discussions to increase the number that we offer as of early next year,” she said. She wants to make another 30 units available to borrowers.

Patrons can borrow the devices, which offer broadband access via Verizon, for seven days with no option to renew. They are charged a late fee of $3 per day and $150 to replace the device.

Demand for the devices is being driven by the need for broadband access in Mahoning County, something the library investigated before purchasing the units, Daniel said.

That’s due in part to the changing requirements of a workforce that is expected to travel quite a bit, she continued.

“We have a lot of people traveling for their jobs. We notice in our buildings that people are coming in and using our WiFi, so undoubtedly they’re traveling to other places,” she said. “This is a convenient thing that they can take with them.”

In addition, there is the need for students to have WiFi access after library hours because they’ve been given devices by their schools or have homework and their families don’t have internet access, she said. “In general, there’s a need for wider broadband access in Mahoning County,” she remarked.

Daniel also reported that demolition is complete on the former West Library building on Mahoning Avenue. Excavation and site work will begin shortly on the $3.78 million Michael Kusalaba Branch Library that will be erected on the site. The Michael Kusalaba Fund of the Youngstown Foundation donated $1.68 million for the new branch, which also will serve as the base for the Pop-Up Library service.

The library salvaged several bricks from the former West branch and will sell them as mementoes, said Janet Loew, communications and public relations director.

The bricks, which will feature a commemorative stamp, will be sold for $10 each. Proceeds will go to the capital campaign.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.