Library offers WiFi to go

Published 10:04 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Suffolk library patrons now can check out free Internet on the go.

The library started its WiFi2Go program this week. It has 10 devices available for patrons to check out that will allow them to get Internet anywhere there is a Verizon signal.

The program is part of the library’s answer to the issue of Internet connectivity, Assistant Director of Libraries Sarah Townsend said.

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“We have heard loud and clear from Suffolk connectivity is a need and an issue here,” Townsend said. There are lots of reasons, she said, including income and the city’s vast rural area.

“Internet access is not a luxury anymore,” Townsend said. “It is really a necessity to be successful in work and school and be connected to the world.”

Although there is free Internet access at library locations, that didn’t do enough to address the problem, Townsend said.

“Suffolk is large and expansive, so we aren’t meeting that need just in our libraries,” she said. “We see it as a natural expansion of our philosophy that we go where the people are.”

Elizabeth Steyer, technology and content strategy manager for Suffolk Public Libraries, said the library system talked to other library systems throughout the country that are already using programs similar to this one to learn from what they are doing.

“This is something a lot of people are talking about,” Steyer said. Suffolk is the first library system in Hampton Roads to implement such a program.

The Verizon MiFi mobile hotspot device can be used anywhere there is a Verizon signal. It provides WiFi connection for up to 10 devices at once with unlimited data.

The device comes with a wall and USB charger and is packaged in a hard case that allows it to be dropped into the return box after hours.

Like most library materials, the devices can be checked out for 21 days and renewed up to three times if no one else is waiting. They are free to borrow, but there is a replacement charge if they are overdue too long. The device shuts off after it is three days overdue, Steyer said.

There are no filters on the device, Steyer said. Library patrons are trusted to decide what’s right for them, but they are using it at their own risk, Steyer said.

Steyer said people who want access to the library’s digital resources but don’t currently have a strong enough Internet connection should be able to get access using the new devices.

The library expects the devices to be popular, and that’s proving to be correct so far. The devices were first available Monday, and as of Monday evening, three of the devices had been checked out, and holds had been placed on the rest of them.

To find the device in the library’s online catalog, search “WiFi2Go.”