Laramie County Library System Awarded Grant to Extend WiFi Access in Rural Branches

Laramie County Library System was awarded the Public Library Association and Microsoft Corporation’s “Public WiFi Access Micro Grant.” The grant was created to provide libraries in rural localities with the needed hardware to expand WiFi access on or near library grounds. Our IT team recently installed the new hotspots in both the Burns and Pine Bluffs branches, and we wanted to provide our library users with some information about the improvements!

Thanks to this grant, the WiFi access at the Burns Branch Library now extends into the park across the street, while WiFi access at the Pine Bluffs Branch Library now extends across the street and down the block from the building.

This expansion allows our library users to access the internet in a more flexible, reliable, and inclusive manner that is not reliant on our facilities’ open hours. If a college student has a last minute assignment due at 12:00 a.m., they can submit it from their laptop in a car. If someone wants to apply for a job from their phone, early in the morning, they can access the WiFi before the building opens. If someone wants to stream a podcast while enjoying lunch in the park at Burns, they can do so via the library’s internet. The options are as diverse and varied as our library visitors themselves.

The WiFi is available 24/7, is free to use, and does not require a library card or account to access. We encourage anyone who needs WiFi to utilize the service, whether they access it from within the building during open hours, from their vehicles, or from the surrounding access area.

We here at the library recognize the importance of internet access, especially during a global pandemic where many work and school-related activities have moved online. Our Executive Director and County Librarian Carey Hartmann understands how critical connectivity is in these unprecedented times and realizes that  some people in the community were put at a huge disadvantage when COVID-19 hit.

She reflected, “The COVID-19-related problem for our citizens who do not have internet, or who have only a smartphone, is that many of our parents, students, employees, and job seekers were at a huge disadvantage when schools, colleges, job applications, and work went online and libraries closed. We are constantly working to find ways in which to help alleviate this problem, and expanding WiFi access in our rural branches was a big step.”

The new WiFi enables us to provide internet access whether or not the organization’s facilities are open, better preparing the library for future closures such as the one brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The expansion and improvement of the Burns and Pine Bluffs Branches’ WiFi are all part of the our continual mission to “serve the people of Laramie County by encouraging and supporting lifelong learning and adventure.”