Soon, in addition to books and e-books and DVDs, you might be able to check out internet hotspots from the library.
With the help of grants from the Knight Foundation, libraries in New York and Chicago are planning to start lending out Wi-Fi hotspots to people who don’t have internet access at home. Chicago also plans on lending out laptops and tablets as the program gets going.
From City Lab:
The NYPL actually launched a mini version of the program last month, distributing 100 devices across four library branches. According to NYPL president Tony Marx, it’s still too early to draw any conclusions from the 100-household pilot, but they’ve already begun collecting data like how much time participants are spending online and whether they’re using the devices at home or elsewhere. This information will guide the larger roll-out aimed at 10,000 households with an anticipated cost of $1 million. The Knight Foundation grant will get the NYPL half of the way there, and the library is currently trying to fundraise for the rest.
New Yorkers can check out the devices for up to a year at a time. Chicago, on the other hand will only be lending the hotspots in three-week increments. And while New York plans to lend out the hotspots to households involved in their already established educational programs, Chicago is taking a different approach, choosing to focus on six neighborhoods with limited internet access and to distribute the hotspots through those neighborhood’s local libraries.
Internet inequality is a serious problem in the United States, even in cities like New York. Corporate programs, sponsored by Google and Facebook, are trying to expand internet access to rural areas around the world where a lack of infrastructure is a barrier to internet availability, but until now, there have been few options for city-dwellers that can’t afford the internet.