Evanston Public Library board agrees to expand WiFi hotspot program


Sherry Li/The Daily Northwestern

The Evanston Public Library Board of Trustees meet to discuss the details of a plan to expand its WiFi router pilot program. The group focused on keeping the program free while lengthening the lending period and adding to the number of routers available to be checked out.

Jonah Dylan, Reporter

The Evanston Public Library Board of Trustees asked Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons on Wednesday to “drastically” expand the WiFi hotspot pilot program from 45 routers to up to 100.

“This is an important initiative,” Board President Michael Tannen said. “We believe it is one of the most important services we can provide.”

Tannen asked Danczak Lyons if she could get the extra hotspots with minimal spending, and she agreed to try. Every member on the board agreed on the proposal, he said.

The program started May 1 and allows Evanston residents with a valid library card to check out a WiFi hotspot for up to two weeks, Danczak Lyons said. The library pays for the data to make the program free of charge. The director said she hopes to expand the program to a four-week period.

“This really is designed to help the 14 percent of households in Evanston that do not have internet,” Danczak Lyons said.

She also wants to expand the program to local schools in Evanston so students can have access to free WiFi outside of school, Danczak Lyons said.

Earlier in the meeting, Young Adult Services Supervisor Renee Neumeier gave a presentation to the board on the 3D-printing program at the library. The program was started about four years ago, Neumeier said, and is one of the only places in the city where residents can use a 3D printer for free. Many teens are currently involved in the program, she told the board members.

Neumeier presented the board with a proposal to allow teens two free uses of the 3D printer per month. After they have exhausted two prints, additional uses will cost $1 each. The board unanimously voted in favor of the proposal.

Neumeier also said the 3D printers aren’t used exclusively by teens.

“We’ve done adult tutorials, and they’ve been packed,” Neumeier said. “It’s something that we’re hoping to continue.”

The meeting concluded with a discussion of the budget for the coming fiscal year. Tannen proposed a budget of about $7.3 million, which the board voted in favor of unanimously.

Tannen added the budget might need to be increased in the case the WiFi hotspots need additional funds. Danczak Lyons said she had a meeting set up with a representative from Sprint to try to get a discount on a bulk order of hotspots.

In addition to changes in the library’s internal budget, the library proposed hiring a full-time social worker to help some of the homeless and disadvantaged library patrons at both the main library and the Chicago Avenue/Main Street branch at City Council on Monday. This proposal will be discussed at meetings for the city budget as a whole.

The next library board meeting is set for Nov. 16. The board will then vote on the budget and submit a proposal to City Council for approval.

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