City libraries offer WiFi service from parking lots

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By Shirley Hawkins

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — The coronavirus pandemic has forced many Southern Californians to obey stay at home orders, but library lovers may not be aware that the Los Angeles Public Library is still offering a variety of services, including free WiFi at some of its locations.

“There are 26 Library to Go locations throughout Los Angeles that are adhering to a contactless policy, and patrons with a library card can often receive free internet access,” said Justin Sugiyama, senior librarian at the Hyde Park Branch Library.

“Patrons can usually access WiFi service at our Library to Go locations, Monday through Saturday during business hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. In many cases, local residents can access our WiFi from their cars in the library parking lot via their own device,” Sugiyama said. “Residents access the WiFi by clicking on the library’s homepage and registering at lapl.org.”

Sugiyama added that access to WiFi is especially crucial now when so many Southern Californians have lost their jobs due to the economic downturn and COVID-19 and are busy searching for employment.

“They are using our WiFi to search for work and to conduct other essential business,” Sugiyama said.

Eugene Owens, adult librarian at the Exposition Park Regional Branch Library, said that WiFi access is a needed service, particularly in underserved communities.

“I think it’s very important for people to be connected to their family, their school, their employment and their education because internet service is not considered a utility and some people don’t have access to WiFi.”

Owens said that WiFi access and internet access is vitally important to everyone. “Access should not be limited by where you live or your economic status,” he added.

The library recently launched a limited pilot program called the Tech2Go Loan Program that allows  patrons to check out mobile hotspots, which provide internet access to families and households that lack these services. The mobile hotspots allow users to connect their laptop, tablet, and other WiFi-enabled devices to the internet. Patrons must have a library card in good standing to participate.

The library will expand the Tech2Go program in the future to allow more Southern Californians to take advantage of this library service.

“It’s a needed service, especially for school children,” said Owens. “If they don’t have internet service at home, they can utilize Tech2Go.”

Jasmine Slaughter, senior librarian at the Alma Reaves Woods Watts Branch Library, said, “Right now, WiFi means a great deal to our patrons more than ever. Even though we cannot provide library users with direct computer access, at the very least they can have indirect access through their personal devices during normal business hours at many of our Library to Go locations.

“It has almost been a year now, and the Los Angeles Public Library continues to work to provide internet access, an easy way to surf our online catalog, and virtual programming during these uncertain times,” Slaughter said.

Sugiyama added that patrons can still check out books, CDs and DVDs during the pandemic.

“The library is offering free contactless pick-up services for physical library materials,” Sugiyama said, adding that each library follows strict county guidelines and that despite the lockdown, librarians are still filling requests for library patrons.

“People can request physical library materials through the library’s home page at lapl.org through the Library to Go service.”

Patrons must wait for an email notification from the library to let them know that their hold is ready. Once they get the notice, they can schedule a pick-up appointment online or by phone.

“Librarians then place materials patrons have requested on a table outside each library,” Sugiyama added.

“After patrons return the library materials, we quarantine the materials for three days and then make them available to the public again.”

Sugiyama said that other library services are available as well.

“Anybody can apply for a library e-card by filling out an online application at home digital and online services,” he added.

“The e-card will provide patrons with immediate and free access to Library at Home materials so that they will be able to download or stream e-books, audiobooks, movies, documentary films, music, podcasts, newspapers and magazines,” Sugiyama said.

Also available with the use of an e-card are newspaper archives, genealogy tools, professional magazines and scholarly journals. Patrons can also enroll in an online course, learn a new language, take practice SAT/ACT tests, or access Lynda.com.

“We want our patrons to have some sense of normalcy right now,” Slaughter said. “We know that our libraries are missed, and we want our communities to know that we miss them too.”

“Until we return in full capacity, LAPL will continue to strive to figure out creative ways to provide access to those we serve,” Sugiyama added.

Library to Go locations in South Los Angeles include: Exposition Park, Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Library, 3900 S. Western Ave.; Junipero Serra Branch Library 4607 S. Main St.; Mark Twain Branch Library, 9621 S. Figueroa St.; and Washington Irving Branch Library, 4117 W. Washington Blvd.

Library to Go locations in the Hollywood area include: Hollywood Regional Library, 1623 Ivar Ave.; Fairfax Branch Library, 161 S. Gardner St.; Edendale Branch Library, 2011 W. Sunset Blvd.; Will and Ariel Durant Branch Library, 7140 W. Sunset Blvd.; and the Cahuenga Branch Library, 4591 Santa Monica Blvd.

Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at metropressnews@gmail.com.