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The Larsen-Sant Library is one of 51 public libraries in Idaho that have been granted increased Wi-Fi hotspots for patron use. The service will be funded by The Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) which received $2 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding that was received by the State of Idaho and was administered by the Idaho Department of Commerce. The funds will purchase equipment and related internet and broadband services in order to boost the broadband capability of public libraries in communities of fewer than 10,000 people. The grantees will make the library’s public Wi-Fi available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The initiative will provide reliable, open, wireless internet access in Idaho’s smallest, most rural communities, states the press release. The grant not only provides the equipment for the access but installs it. ”It is supposed to be installed by Nov. 30, said Teresa Rasmussen, co-director of the Larsen-Sant. She applied for the grant as a help to the many people who utilize the library for internet service. Not only does the library have computers that are utilized by patrons every day, they have people who come in with their own devices to access the internet. This grant will offer more wi-fi hot spots to be checked out from the library, even from the library’s parking lot at times when the building is closed. “As the pandemic has illuminated, reliable, high-speed internet is a critical component of business, education, entertainment, and interaction. The $2 million CARES grant will help Idaho’s small, rural libraries provide essential digital access, 24/7, in communities where the public library may be the only source of internet connectivity,” said Idaho State Librarian Stephanie Bailey-White. ”Idaho is one of the lowest-ranking states for broadband availability, with 40 percent of the population lacking access and 20 percent reporting no home access.The Idaho Department of Commerce was awarded $48.9 million in federal coronavirus relief funds for 102 projects across Idaho that support improved broadband infrastructure, equipment, and services.

Before the pandemic, the library saw about 20 people come in per day to use the computers. Those numbers dropped with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but making the hotspots available outside the building will be helpful, said Rasmussen.

Also because of the pandemic, quite a few families are homeschooling that come and use the library now, she said. “We are all about helping the community do the things they need to do,” she said.

Earlier in the year, the library announced that it has received a $500 grant to be used “to let people know they are welcome and are the reason we are here,” said Rasmussen. The library used the funds for signage and to expand the number if Spanish language books from about 20 to 230 titles.

Another CARES-related grant, which the library received in June, will expand the library’s number of e-books as well as provide disinfectants and personal protection from the pandemic, she said. Library administrators are determining now which titles and supplies will be purchased with that $1,000 grant.

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