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Alabama Hotspot Lending Program: FAQ

Why hotspots?

Alabama lags behind the national average for household internet connectivity. This is particularly true in rural counties, where factors like poverty and sparser population negatively affect access and contribute to the Digital Divide. Since libraries are often the only place in a community with free internet access, COVID-related library closures and reductions in hours and services exacerbated the Digital Divide. Having hotspots on hand before the next crisis, whether a natural disaster or pandemic illness, will empower local libraries to act for the benefit of their communities.

What is a hotspot and how does it work?

Hotspots are small devices that allow users to connect to a cellular network using a computer, smartphone, tablet, or other wireless-capable device. Their size allows them to be taken anywhere, which means they are a good option for libraries that want to provide additional services to patrons. They are easy to store, catalog, and check in and out, and will enable library patrons to access the internet wherever they are. Multiple devices can connect to the hotspot if in range, which means that family members can share access through a single hotspot.

Is there a data limit?

The devices come with unlimited data plans.

What does a patron need to use a hotspot?

Because hotspots use cellular data, a patron needs to be within range of a cellular tower. They must also have a WiFi-capable device, such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Who may borrow hotspots?

Only registered patrons aged 19 or older and in good standing of project libraries may borrow hotspots. Because of the limited number of hotspots available at any location, only one hotspot may be checked out per household. Parents or legal guardians may check out hotspots for their dependents.

How do I catalog a hotspot?

Hotspots are cataloged like other library items. All a library has to do is upload the APLS-provided MARC record to their ILS, adjust a few item settings (such as shortening the loan period to one week), and scan the barcode. The item will then be ready to check out. See here for detailed instructions.

How do I circulate a hotspot?

Hotspots are circulated like other library items except they are limited to one week loan periods, can’t be renewed or reserved, and have no fines.

Am I liable if a patron does something illegal using a hotspot? What if they lose data or damage their device while connected to the hotspot?

No. Every patron who checks out a hotspot must sign a lending agreement, which prohibits viewing illegal material or participating in illegal activities using the hotspot. It also disclaims library responsibility for any damage or loss of data that occurs while using a library hotspot.

Are the hotspots filtered?

Yes. Each hotspot provides filtered Internet access and is CIPA-compliant.

What do I do if a patron does not return a hotspot or if a device is damaged?

Report the last four digits of the IMEI number and hotspot unit number to APLS if a device is lost, damaged, or overdue. This information can be found in the APLS-provided MARC record for each unit. APLS staff will turn off service to that device. You may not receive a replacement device given limited supply.