DeKalb Library Foundation raises $30K to help residents get Wi-Fi access

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The DeKalb Library Foundation hosted an online fundraiser to raise money for an internet accessibility initiative in the county.

By Zachary Hansen

Despite not being able to host its annual fundraising event, the DeKalb Library Foundation did not suffer a drop-off in donations.

The foundation’s 2020 effort, named “Stay Home and Support the Library,” raised $30,000 to go toward the DeKalb County Public Library’s “Take the Internet Home with You” initiative, which makes Wi-Fi hot spot devices available for checkout. The virtual fundraiser concluded at the end of September.

It replaced the foundation’s annual in-person tapas and trivia event, which usually has about 200 attendees. The event, which was canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns, raised $30,000 last year for a preschool program.

“(The) response far exceeded our expectations, and we are thankful,” Jill Joplin, the executive director for the foundation said in a news release.

The county’s library system highlighted internet access as a critical need for its residents amid the pandemic. According to U.S. Census data, about 17% of DeKalb residents do not have home internet. A poll conducted by the library system also found that 50% of people who checked out hot spots in the past said they get their primary internet access from one of DeKalb’s 23 public libraries.

Anyone with a library card can take a hot spot home for a three-week period through the initiative. The county currently has 200 hot spots available through the program and averages 187 check-outs a month. Hot spots are able to provide access to Wi-Fi by using cellphone towers.

Currently, the libraries only offer contact-free pickup services, but residents can access free Wi-Fi at every library parking lot.

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