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Tom Green County Library System staff plans to continue providing Wi-Fi services to rural communities

Tom Green County Library System staff is working to close the digital divide among rural and suburban students.
Credit: FOX West Texas staff

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Around this time last year, the Tom Green County Library System closed its doors. A few months later, students were sent home from the classroom for remote learning, but some faced the challenge of not having internet access.

Amy Dennis, Tom Green County Library System community relations coordinator, said their main goal is to narrow the digital divide between rural and suburban communities.2021 marks the third year of their staff dishing out the hotspots to the Tom Green County and surrounding areas. 

The digital divide, Dennis said, is, “The digital divide talks about the fact that not everybody has lightning-fast internet. Not everybody has a computer or smartphone and so with the way things are today, especially now with COVID, everything is virtual.”

Dennis said in addition to providing educational resources, the library system wants to make sure communities who do not have access to the internet has access to entertainment resources across the internet.

"Veribest had 20 residences. So that’s not just 20 students. It’s 20 households. So mom and dad, grandma, grandpa. All of the adults are using it. The children are using it and they’re not just using it for educational purposes. They need a little entertainment, they need a little self-care,” Dennis continued," Dennis said.

The Region 15 Education Center covers 18 counties and 43 school districts.

Dr. Casey Callahan, Region 15 executive director, said some students have a challenge with getting access to Wi-Fi resources.  

“The need for technology services has never been greater in education than the last year and in every area, there’s a wide variance in the type of services available to our students and so that’s the challenge that school districts are trying to address,” Callahan said.

Dennis said the different Tom Green County library branches are excited to keep the hotspots in circulation for both Tom Green County residents and the surrounding area communities.