Your Name and Title: Mary Beth Adams, Outreach Coordinator
Library, School, or Organization Name: Alamance County Public Libraries
Area of the World from Which You Will Present: Burlington, North Carolina, USA
Language in Which You Will Present: English
Target Audience(s): public libraries
Short Session Description (one line): Learn how we provide Internet access to rural and low-income residents using our mobile vehicles.
Full Session Description (as long as you would like): Even before the pandemic, our library knew Internet access was spotty in several areas of our county. It is not cost-efficient to run lines in rural areas, and some of our county doesn't even get reliable cellular or satellite network coverage. While people can always "come into town" and use the library, we wanted to bring Internet access to these rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a library branch. We began service in 2018, serving 8 different stops - 4 in the northern part of our county and 4 in the southern part of our county. We parked at public and private spaces, including churches, a health clinic, and county parks/community centers, for four hours a day. Every stop got service one day a week, every other week. We also gave away books to people of all ages at every stop, and brought tablets with us in case someone needed to use our technology as well.
When COVID-19 struck, we suspended our service when the library closed. However, I received an email about a month later from a community partner, asking if we would be able to take our vehicle, named the Mobile Cafe, to low-income neighborhoods during the school closure. Students were expected to attend school from home, and the school system could provide Chromebooks, but had a limited supply of hot spots. Many residents in these neighborhoods didn't have home Internet access because they couldn't afford it. Even when companies said they'd give anyone who needed it free access, they excluded anyone who owed them money, which was why these families didn't have access in the first place! We decided to take this on, and serviced 10 stops during the pandemic, including one in our northern rural area and one in the southern rural area (because we didn't to forget about them, either!).
This session will walk through how we chose our initial sites, as well as the sites we served for the last year and a half, how to outfit a van with what you need to provide reliable Internet access, and what we learned from this experience.
Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session: https://www.alamance-nc.com/library/services/mobile-cafe/