With an estimated 37,000 households without broadband internet access in Kent County, libraries provide free options for those without home internet. All the libraries in Kent County – 20 Kent District Library branches, eight Grand Rapids Public Library locations, Cedar Springs Public Library and Sparta Carnegie Township Library – provide free Wi-Fi and public computers.
Every library in Kent County has multiple public computers with internet, word processing and other software. Computers can be used during open hours as available. Some time limits apply. Wi-Fi can be accessed inside the libraries during open hours and from the parking lots.
"Access to technology is necessary in today's world,” said Kristen Krueger-Corrado, Marketing and Communications Manager at Grand Rapids Public Library. “Remote work, virtual school, job searching, applying for assistance and housing and so much more of our daily lives depend on reliable internet access. The library systems in Kent County are dedicated to bridging the technology gap many people face."
To reach deep into the communities who are most in need of mobile hotspots, GRPL identified and partnered with neighborhood organizations who actively engage and serve a large population of tech-disadvantaged households and residents. Partners include HQ - Runaway & Homeless youth Drop-in Center, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, The Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities - Cook Arts Center, Baxter Community Center and The Urban League. These partners provide free mobile hot spots across Grand Rapids to households that lack high-speed internet connection.
Additionally, hotspots are available for check out at all GRPL locations and circulate for 21 days. Patrons can place holds on hotspots and can renew the check out if there are not any holds on it. When picking up a hotspot, patrons must be 18 or older, have a valid GRPL library card, and show a current photo ID with proof of address.
Kent District Library has over 1,000 Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots available for a four-month checkout. The hotspots are part of the Beyond Books Collection and are available to KDL cardholders age 18 and older. Holds can be placed at kdl.org and hotspots can be picked up at any KDL branch. KDL also offers overnight checkout of Chromebooks Combos, which include a Chromebook and a Wi-Fi hotspot, at 11 branches. KDL patrons also have access to free curbside printing.
“There are several important broadband projects being explored around the county, but most won’t be available for years,” said Randy Goble, Director of Engagement at KDL. “Now, more than ever, people need internet access for remote learning, working from home and staying connected with people who have been separated due to the pandemic. Public libraries offer immediate solutions that are free.”
Kent District Library surveyed people who have checked out mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and found that 40 percent lack reliable or affordable internet service at home. Fortunately, the FCC has launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which will provide a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible families and households who are struggling to stay connected during the COVID19 pandemic. Eligible households can also receive a discount of up to $100 for the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. For more information, please visit getemergencybroadband.org/.
To learn more, visit any library in Kent County or online at cedarspringslibrary.org, grpl.org, kdl.org or sparta.llcoop.org.