The American Library Association (ALA) will showcase the Muskingum County Library System on Tues., July 28 at 1:00 p.m. during a virtual tour of innovative libraries across the country. The visit will be broadcast live via Zoom. During the “stop” in Zanesville, ALA President Julius Jefferson will meet with elected officials to discuss how the Muskingum County Library System is providing high-speed internet access to keep the community connected – especially during the pandemic. In addition to Jefferson, participants include:
- Stacey Russell, Fiscal Officer and Interim Director, Muskingum County Library System
- Congressman Troy Balderson
- State Senator Tim Schaffer
- Zanesville Mayor Donald Mason
- Jamie Barker, Southeast Ohio District Director, Office of U.S. Senator Rob Portman
- Peter Voderberg, Chief, BroadbandOhio
“Libraries know first-hand that demand for internet access has skyrocketed now that learning, working, and much of our daily life has moved online due to the pandemic,” said Michelle Francis, Executive Director of the Ohio Library Council. “Our libraries have seen their parking lots lined with people sitting in their cars using the library’s WiFi to do homework, apply for unemployment, access work emails, take online courses and communicate with family members. For many people, the library is their only option for internet connectivity.”
More than 300,000 households representing close to one million Ohioans lack high-speed internet access (Innovate Ohio). They frequently turn to their local libraries to connect. According to State Library of Ohio statistics, Ohioans used the WiFi in public libraries nearly 24 million times in 2019 alone.
In Muskingum County, 30 percent of the residents do not have internet access. While some cannot afford the internet, the rolling hills and remote areas are also an issue for connectivity. These residents often depend upon the library for a reliable signal. Last year, the Muskingum County Library had more than 95,000 WiFi sessions and is on target to exceed those numbers this year.
“We continue to leave our WiFi on around the clock and have boosted the signal to reach farther into our parking lots and green spaces,” said Stacey Russell, Fiscal Officer and Interim Director of the Muskingum County Library System. “We know people are using it to take online classes, search for jobs, and even have telehealth visits with their doctors. We used a grant to purchase 65 mobile WiFi hotspots for people to borrow and use at home. The wait time for these hotspots right now is 6-8 weeks.”
To view the live session, register on the ALA website.
The 10-day tour will begin today at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and end at the Hawaii State Library on August 7.
“Libraries are improving lives every day, providing internet access to underserved communities, helping people find jobs and build careers, and empowering students as they develop literacy skills that will lead to lifelong learning,” said Julius Jefferson, ALA President. “Many of these successes take place in the shadows. Their stories need to be told, their professional organization and local community need to listen, and their elected leaders need to support them.”