Parks system partners with libraries to provide 100 free hotspots throughout the region

While a lack of adequate internet access has long been both a result and a source of socio-economic inequities, the COVID-19 pandemic has only further exacerbated the issue. As the pandemic shut down school systems across the state and classes shifted online, the issue was exposed: How can students attend school when they don’t have reliable access to the internet?

Now, a unique partnership has been forged to provide improved internet access throughout the region. Huron-Clinton Metroparks, The Library Network, and the Suburban Library Cooperative have launched a program to provide 100 internet hotspots to distribute across southeast Michigan, free to borrow through the library system.

The pilot launched in December 2020 with hotspots becoming available at participating libraries this February.

“The Library Network is extremely excited about this new partnership and the opportunity to work together to support our region. Our two library systems [The Library Network and Suburban Library Cooperative] represent over 100 libraries,” says Steven K. Bowers, executive director of The Library Network.

“Although these new hot spots have been delivered to specific library locations, any in-network library user in the five-county region can request access to the hotspots at their local library. That’s a large footprint we are able to reach.”

The 100 hotspots are available to borrow from any of the libraries within the two library systems’ networks. While they may not be permanently housed at a specific library, any one of the more than 100 libraries within the two networks can provide access to a hotspot.

Libraries where hotspots are permanently housed include Fowlerville District Library, Hamtramck Public Library, Leanna Hicks Public Library (Inkster), Lenox Township Library, Melvindale Public Library, Mount Clemens Public Library, Oak Park Public Library, Pontiac Public Library, Wayne Public Library, and Ypsilanti District Library.

The hotspots are available and valuable to more than just students. Inequities in internet access cast a wide swath, and the hotspots should prove useful to those seeking employment, have virtual doctor appointments, and others.

In fact, it’s the Huron-Clinton Metroparks system that is providing the internet hotspots to the libraries.

“The Metroparks are excited about the possibilities of this new partnership. Working collectively, we can provide more internet access to families in our region and improve connection to virtual education and resources,” says Metroparks director, Amy McMillan.

“Some families have not been able to experience the benefits of virtual field trips and virtual content because of a lack of data service, and we hope this program helps bridge some of those gaps.”

Visit The Library Network and Suburban Library Collective online for a complete list of libraries within their networks.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.