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Okemah Public Library one of only four libraries in the state selected for wifi hotspot program

By Josh Allen
ONL Staff Reporter

In this day and age, it seems everyone needs the internet. But the internet is not always easy to obtain. The Okemah Public Library is now offering a program to change that.

Okemah’s library was recently chosen as one of only four libraries in the state to participate in a program through the Oklahoma State University Extension Office to offer wifi hotspots to the community — giving library card-holders the chance to have internet anywhere there is coverage.

According to Teresa Labbe, Director of the Okemah Public Library, the program is “a great thing.”

“It’s really going great,” she said. “It’s helping a lot of people in Okfuskee County.”

The library already offers wifi for its members at the computers onsite, but Labbe said this gives people the opportunity to use the internet “at their own pace, at their own home or wherever they want to be.”

“A lot of times people have to fill out job applications online, and so everyone nowadays needs the internet,” Labbe said. “This program allows us to help a lot of people in our community.”

Labbe said the program, which went live in June, has been a great success, stating, “There have only been a few problems with people not bringing the hotspots back.”

The way the program works is pretty simple. If someone has a valid Okemah Public Library card with no fines, they are able to checkout a hotspot to take with them for a week at a time.

The consequences of not bringing the hotspot back is a bit more than not bringing a book or DVD back, Labbe said.

For example, if a person chooses to keep a hotspot over the week timeframe, the charge is $2 per day once it’s late, as opposed to the standard $0.05 per day for books or DVDs.

If it becomes too much of a problem, or if the person keeps the hotspot for too long expecting to have internet service, they are wrong. Labbe said the OSU Extension Office can shut the hotspot off remotely, rendering it inactive.

The hotspot service is through Sprint, so the service depends on where a person lives in Okfuskee County, the library director said.

“If there is good Sprint service, the person will have internet through the hotspot,” she said.

Anyone checking out a hotspot can connect to 10 devices.

“A lot of people that travel use the hotspots to have internet on the road,” Labbe said. “Other people just want to have internet in the comfort of their home.”

The OSU Extension and Okemah Public Library have partnered on this program, and the pilot program will go for one year, ending May 2019.

Labbe said after the pilot program the extension office and the library will work to secure corporate sponsors to ensure the program can continue.

“With my budget so tight, we will have to have sponsors to continue this great program, which I think helps so many people,” she said. “If we aren’t able to obtain sponsors, I’m not sure we will continue to be able to offer the hotspots.”

For now, if anyone has a valid library card with no fines, they can have internet wherever they can get service. Labbe said that is a crucial thing in today’s internet-driven society.

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