The Seattle Public Library now lends Wi-Fi hotspot devices to library-card holders.
As of Monday, anyone with a Seattle Public Library card could check out a Wi-Fi hotspot device to use on the go or at home.
The initial 150 devices were funded with a $225,000 grant from Google and Google.org to the Seattle Public Library, according to a library news release.
“We want the library to be anywhere, everywhere, any place and on any device,” said Andra Addison, a spokeswoman for the library.
The mobile hotspot devices, which are a little smaller than most smartphones, can be checked out just like any other library items, whether they’re reserved onlineor at one of the library’s 27 branches. One hotspot can provide Web access for up to 15 Wi-Fi-enabled devices, including smartphones, tablets and computers, the library says.
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A hotspot device can be borrowed for three weeks. Borrowers who want the device for longer can renew online if nobody else has put a hold on it. If the device is overdue, Wi-Fi access will be deactivated, the library says.
Borrowing a hotspot device is free, the library release says, but if one is lost or irreparably damaged, $199 will be charged to the borrower’s library card.
The library decided to offer mobile hotspot devices as a way to facilitate broadband access for residents who can’t afford, or choose not to purchase, Internet service, Addison said.
“Clearly this is a need, even for a high-tech city like Seattle,” she said.
This is the library’s second collaboration with Google. Last summer, the company donated science kits used for the library’s “Summer of Learning” program.
The Google grant “is intended to be a simple and effective way to get broadband to those who need it most,” said Darcy Nothnagle, the Western region public-affairs manager for Google.
Seattle Public Library isn’t the first library system to offer these devices. Google previously partnered with three New York City libraries and Chicago Public Library to make mobile hotspot devices available for schools and the general public.
Lending mobile hotspot devices is just one way the $225,000 grant is being used. It will also fund 75 laptops bundled with mobile hotspot devices — those could be available by late July — and pay for digital-literacy programs still under development, Addison said.
People looking to check out one of the Wi-Fi hotspot devices will have to wait. As of Monday at 4 p.m., there were more than 230 holds on those currently available online.