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Public LIbrary Offers WiFi ‘Connection to Go’

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Patrons of The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County can now access the internet to go.

The library has introduced a new program to the Mahoning Valley where users can borrow WiFi Mobile Hotspots that deliver bandwidth to households and areas that have no internet connection. Up to 10 devices can link to a single WiFi device.

“We’ve started on a small scale,” said library director Heidi Daniel. “We have 30 units spread throughout the system. Right now, there are two at each location.”

The WiFi devices were sent to the library’s 15 branches on Friday and lending started Monday, Daniel said. “Twenty-one of the 30 have already been checked out. I expect there’ll be more lent by the end of today.”

Mobile hotspots are available to all adult library cardholders who are in good standing. Each loan period is seven days with no renewal option, a borrower is limited to one device, and there is a late charge of $3 per day. Cost to replace a device is $150.

“We thought that this is one way we can assist households that do not have an internet connection or in areas of the county where we don’t have a physical branch,” Daniel said.

And, she said that the devices can supply a needed WiFi connection in case of an emergency, or help a small business gain access to internet services.

Patrons can check out a small rechargeable device – just as they would borrow a book — that emits a WiFi signal over the Verizon network. Once charged, the device is portable so a user can log on to the internet through a laptop, tablet or phone from just about any location covered by Verizon.

Similar programs have been rolled out in other major metropolitan markets throughout the country. The New York Public Library, for example, launched its mobile hotspot initiative in 2014.

Daniel said smaller communities have also adopted mobile hotspot programs through their local libraries, and Youngstown wants to gradually build its service. That gives the library some time to address any flaws in the program and assess where the greatest needs are.

“We wouldn’t take away from locations,” she noted. “But we want to assess where the greatest needs are and address this on a small scale before we take it to the next level.”

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Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.