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Sandusky Library offering patrons portable Internet access

Tom Jackson • Jul 5, 2014 at 5:33 PM


The Sandusky Library has rolled out one service after another that patrons can access 24-7 on the Internet, including electronic books, audiobooks and movies.

Don't have Internet access? The library is trying to take care of that, too.

The library has become one of the first in the U.S. to offer portable Internet hotspot devices. The service, which began last week, allows any library patron to check out a portable hotspot device for two weeks that will provide wireless Internet access.

The service aims to provide a connection to the Net for folks who are on the wrong side of the "digital divide," said Samantha Chada, director, communications & technology, at Sandusky Library.

She said she has talked to patrons who can't afford to obtain Internet at home.

The library may be the first in Ohio to offer the service. The service is made possible by a $50,000, two-year grant from Sandusky's Dorn Foundation, which has paid for many of the library's digital efforts. 

Jill Holton Arrasmith, director of communications for the Ohio Library Council, said she doesn't know of any other library in Ohio offering the service.

Sari Feldman, executive director of Cuyahoga County Public Library, is the president-elect of the American Library Association.

Feldman said Tuesday that Sandusky Library is on the cutting edge in offering the service.

"I believe New York Public is also doing it. Very few places are doing it," Feldman said.

Chada said the library has 24 hotspot devices available to be checked out and an additional one for the library staff to use during events. The library had established a waiting list for people to use the hotspots and is working through that, she said.

The devices pick up 4G cellular signals and convert them into wireless Internet. So far, people seem to be able to use the devices without much trouble, Chada said.

While the devices are useful for families who don't have Internet at home, they also can be used when library patrons travel to a place that has no Internet access. Patrons are welcome to check them out and take them along when they travel.

"It's just like any other material that we offer. It's just like a library book you take to the beach with you," Chada said.

The library has offered Internet service for years for patrons who come out to the building.

There are 18 desktop computers for adults that offer Internet access, and 15 for children in the homework lab, plus six iPads that can be checked out to patrons who remain inside the library. 

In addition, the library has wireless Internet for people who bring their own devices, and that's also a popular service, Chada said.

Feldman said that while the Cuyahoga County system has no plans to offer portable hotspots, it's been willing to work with communities to make Internet access more widely available.

In Berea, the branch library's Internet signal is available in much of the adjoining park and downtown business district, Feldman said. In Beachwood, repeaters were put up that carry the library's Internet signal over to the municipal swimming pool, she said.

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