When the COVID-19 pandemic forced First Regional Library to shut its doors to patrons, the owners made a decision to keep the public Wi-Fi on.
They saw people sitting on benches in front of their branches and in their cars so that they could still use the internet.
Now that the library has reopened, patrons have the opportunity to borrow a Wi-Fi hotspot to stay connected. A Wi-Fi hotspot is a pocket-sized mobile router device that establishes a signal and provides wireless access to connect to the internet.
Spokesman David Brown said a lot of people in the five-county area they serve do not have access to the internet at home, and they wanted to do their part to help provide access to those who need it.
“This is something we have wanted to do for a while — even pre-COVID,” Brown said. “We literally had people coming to the parking lot at midnight to use our Wi-Fi. So we know that there are a lot of people that don’t have internet at home and need that.
Brown said the library purchased about 200 hotspot devices, and that they are now available to check out for free at all 14 of their locations in DeSoto, Tate, Lafayette, Panola and Tunica counties.
“We budgeted for it this year and are very thankful that the funding we receive from our counties and cities and the state,” Brown said. “We thought this was a very good use of public funds to be able to offer these Wi-Fi hotspots to our patrons.”
Hotspots are available to borrow at no charge. All you need is a First Regional Library card and be at least 18 years of age. The devices can be checked out for three weeks and are very easy to use.
“The way they check out is it is just a little plastic container with instructions on the top,” Brown said. “And inside is a little hotspot. You take it home, turn it on and follow the instructions and you can use it to get on to the internet with any of your devices.”
Brown said so far the response to the hotspots has been well received.
“It has been a slow roll out,” Brown said. “The biggest thing is getting the word out. But now all of the branches have them. We really want people to use these, and we know they are needed.”
For more information about hotspot availability visit www.firstregional.org/contact-us.