Library set to offer mobile hotspots to its check-out list

By Daria Laycock

Outlook writer

As libraries struggle to find a place in the post-digital world, a move is underway to help the place known for housing books find a new niche with the introduction of mobile hotspot devices.

The Leon County Public Library System will soon be offering mobile hotspot devices. The decision was announced earlier this week in the library’s monthly newsletter.

The device, which is about the size of a book, will provide access to the internet to users within range of cell phone signals. The checkout will come complete with a charger and instructions.

This is the library’s attempt to fit technological needs.

Scott Joyner, representative for the library, said 30 hotspots will be acquired and kept at the system’s main branch on West Park Avenue.

The devices, which will be available for check out for a two-week period, will provide unfiltered internet access. If the return date is missed library employees will remotely shut down the device.

Library personnel aren’t too concerned about that.

“We check out telescopes, media, we have a seed library and there haven’t been any real problems so far,” said Joyner, addressing concerns that the equipment might not be returned.

While the library will get the devices at no cost, it will be responsible for covering data usage costs. The nation-wide initiative is a partnership with Sprint and Verizon to service libraries. Each area has to choose one of the internet providers and Leon County is leaning towards Verizon.

Libraries are already a popular spot to develop digital literacy, as they are being called upon for tech support – sometimes more than book selection.

“I come to get help logging into my email and applying for jobs,” said Woody Clemons, a library computer user. “I’m an old man (and) we never had computers growing up. Now everything is on computers. I get a lot of help here.”

Patrons, who don’t have internet access, can see how the hardware bridges the digital divide.

This isn’t the Library’s first attempt at embracing technology. The library system currently houses over 150 desktop computers and about 50 laptops that can be checked out from eight locations.

In addition to the brick and mortar book collections the library also offers E and E Audio books. Each branch offers one-on-one tech tutorials and computer literacy lessons.

Larry Morris, an entrepreneur, is eagerly waiting for the debut of the hotspot service to help his business grow.

“I have internet at home and a desktop but a hotspot would let me work on the fly,” said Morris, a graphic designer. “I can show clients designs from my tablet and access the adobe cloud.”