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Rochester Public Library now offering portable WiFi hotspots for checkout

Rochester Public Library now offering portable WiFi hotspots for checkout

In an effort to expand Internet access, portable WiFi hotspots are now available for checkout at the Rochester Public Library.

With a $30,000 donation from the Rochester Public Library Foundation and support from Olmsted County Community Services, the library purchased 97 hotspots, along with WiFi service through T-Mobile. It also bought 20 Chromebooks for public use.

“It’s a connection issue," library director Audrey Betcher said in a news release. "People need access to complete basic tasks like apply for jobs or do their homework.”

The WiFi hotspot initiative, which rolled out this past week, is designed to help the 42 percent of Olmsted County households that lack access to broadband Internet service.

“Having Internet connectivity is so crucial in today’s economy," said Vicki Allen, executive director of the library's foundation. "While the library has offered Internet access and wireless access for years, this will be the first time they’ve offered it outside the building.”

To assess what the greatest needs are for the community, the library is starting off by testing several pilot programs:

  • Wi-Fi hotspots on a first-come, first-served basis. Patrons can place holds on these, similar to placing holds on traditional library items.  The hotspots can be checked out for 14 days, and patrons can renew the hotspots up to 2 times, with availability.
  • Rental program for Wi-Fi hotspots, with a daily fee. Patrons must reserve these in advance and can use them up to 90 days for a daily fee of $5.

A third pilot program, a partnership with the county, started operating in January to provide connectivity to those living in poverty. A fourth program, which provides both hotspots and Chromebooks, will be introduced later in the spring.
 
Cover photo courtesy Rochester Public Library

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