Thanks to a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) administered by the South Carolina State Library (SCSL), a pilot partnership between Beaufort County's public schools and libraries seeking to bring Internet access to some families living in rural, northern Beaufort County has been so successful that the Library has been awarded a $23,194 grant to expand the program.
The Beaufort County Library has partnered with Beaufort County, the Beaufort County School District and Kajeet to expand the reach and benefits of free access to the internet to underserved youth and communities by expanding the SmartSpot Educational Broadband Program. The grant allows for 50 middle school students and their families in the areas of Lobeco, Sheldon, St. Helena Island and Yemassee to borrow the hotspot devices for the remainder of the school year.
The SmartSpot devices use cellular networks to create a personal broadband internet hotspot and provide portable, high-speed internet connectivity that can be shared between multiple users. The program comes at no cost to the school district, as Beaufort County funded the initial pilot project for Kajeet MiFi devices and Internet access through its library budget, according to Library Director Ray McBride.
This initiative will help to bridge a major gap in the availability of the internet for a critical segment of Beaufort County’s population which has the most to gain from its use. The SmartSpot Program provides quality access and allows users to continue to learn, work, explore, and create beyond library and school hours.
Parents or guardians who have students in grades 6 through 12 who have no Internet access at home may apply through their Beaufort County Branch Library (Beaufort, Lobeco, and St. Helena Branch Libraries only).
This project is made possible by a Library Services and Technology Act Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services administered by the South Carolina State Library. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. The South Carolina State Library is a national model for innovation, collaboration, leadership and effectiveness. It is the keystone in South Carolina’s intellectual landscape.