Alison J. Harris

Librarian

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WiFi Hotspots for Checkout?

NYPL and Chicago Public Library just recently started a Wi-Fi hotspot checkout service for customers. An article from Library Journal gives a lot more detail about the program and it’s impact on the community.

So many people mistakenly think that with the plethora of electronics available most people are regularly connected in some way to the online community. In actuality, Census statistics show that 25% of the American population don’t have regular home Internet access.

The Digital Divide is growing smaller with increased use of mobile devices, but cost as well as anxiety about learning new technology prevents a large percentage of adults from going online. Libraries are one of the many places that Internet access is available for all.

The next logical step is to provide Internet connectivity to library customers outside of the physical library.

NYPL will loan out Wi-Fi hotspot devices for two months each, but is considering the possibility of extending the checkout period to up to six months or maybe an entire year. Interestingly, a library patron must be enrolled in an online educational program, such as NYPL’s Library’s Out of School Time (OST), English for Speakers of Other Languages, and Technology Training programs to check out a device.

According to Tony Marx, president and CEO of NYPL, this requirement serves several purposes:

“This allows us to make sure that people can use this access for educational work or homework that they need to do, and it means that people who are getting the lend have ongoing interactions with us. We see them several times a week, generally. And it also is a way of making sure that the people who most need access are getting it”.

I believe that the additional learning component is very important, though I do wonder if this commitment is difficult for customers who, for instance, may spend significant amounts of time job searching due to unemployment.

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June 28, 2014 , Comment

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