Participation from Calais Residents Sought for Library Hotspot Survey

By Lura Jackson

 

The residents of Calais are being asked to participate in a survey conducted by the University of Texas [UT] regarding the usage of a wi-fi hotspot that was previously available at the Calais Free Library. The survey will be mailed to all registered voters and includes questions about their usage of the library as well as the wi-fi access provided there.

The survey is four pages long, but many of the questions are around basic access and shouldn’t require much time to consider, explained UT researcher Alexis Schrubbe. “There are questions asking if people go to the library, did they use the wi-fi hotspot while there, did they sit in the parking lot and use it, and how often, that kind of thing,” she said. Those chosen for the survey will receive an initial postcard with an online link included, with the packet following later. The packet can be returned in the provided stamped envelope or completed online.

The data will inform federal efforts to help other rural libraries establish their own hotspots and increase connectivity, Schrubbe said, meaning input from Calais could help many other communities. “Washington County is the focus of a lot of data research,” Schrubbe acknowledged, noting that the area is unique for its rural nature combined with its push toward technology. Calais in particular, which is on the brink of city-wide fiber optic internet service, is considered to be a leader in the nation for enhancing rural access.

A recent Pew Survey found that one quarter of rural Americans say that lack of access to the internet is a “major problem.” Having access to the internet enables the average user to tap into a wealth of knowledge on any imaginable subject, providing benefits to families, students, businesses and communities in general. Because of its many benefits, establishing access to the internet has become a priority for federal efforts to improve a variety of conditions in rural areas.

Last year, UT researchers conducted an in-person focus group in Calais regarding usage of the formerly available hotspot, which was created with the help of the New York Public Library. The results were very helpful. “The Calais focus group was worth the trip,” Schrubbe said. The team visited targeted libraries across Maine and Kansas during their trip. “We had the biggest turn out there by far.”

 

All registered voters in Calais will receive the survey in the mail in the next few weeks.