BENNETTSVILLE, S.C. (WBTW) — The Marlboro County Public Library System is trying to help people without internet access by providing Wi-Fi hot spots that can be checked out just like a book.
Bobbie Grooms, the library’s director, said internet access is one of the most important services the system provides. She said she knew she had to do something when the library closed its doors because of the pandemic.
“You could ride by the public library and people were sitting out on benches in the heat because they needed access to the internet,” Grooms said.
The Marian Wright Edelman Public Library in Bennettsville bought 10 Wi-Fi hot spots last year with federal CARES Act funding. Grooms said they have been especially helpful for people who attend school or work from home.
“Being able to offer internet access in a place where there is spotty connectivity is a big part of our service and is much needed in our county,” Grooms said.
She knew one student who felt that need firsthand. Emily Branton was a nursing student whose internet connection at home wasn’t strong enough to support virtual school for both her and her sister.
“It was completely lagging for me,” Branton said. “I would come to do my schoolwork and I was here so often that they were like, ‘Why don’t you try one of our hotspots?’ I was like, ‘Y’all have hot spots?’ “
She said the hot spots were a game changer.
“I used it for zoom class, homework assignments,” Branton said. “I used it to get on zoom to do group chats with my friends.”
She liked it so much that she recommended her classmates try them out as well.
“A bunch of the girls in my class came and got hot spots and checked them out, and they loved it,” Branton said.
Branton was able to graduate and become a registered nurse.
“We were able to bridge that gap for her,” Grooms said. “We were able to give her something she could take home and finish her nursing degree.”
The library also offers internet via the “Bookmobile,” a Wi-Fi-enabled bus that travels into the community. Grooms said she is glad to be able to provide services like these at no extra charge to taxpayers.