NYPL expands Wi-Fi lending program

NYPL expands Wi-Fi lending program
Photo courtesy of the NYPL

The New York Public Library is getting hotter – for Internet users.

The second round of the NYPL’s Wi-Fi hotspot lending program was announced by NYPL officials and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on April 23 at the Mott Haven Library.

The program, first introduced in December, allows library patrons who cannot afford Internet at home to borrow the devices for up to a year.

“The goal simply is to provide more Internet access to those that don’t have it,” said Mark-Viverito of the initiative, calling the Internet a necessity in this day and age.

NYPL president Tony Marx said there are an estimated 2 million New Yorkers who cannot afford the Internet, despite the fact that connectivity is required more and more often for ordinary tasks such as doing homework or applying for jobs.

People rely on the libraries for Internet, said Marx, and branches regularly see patrons sitting outside before or after the library opens, trying to use the signal during the off-hours.

“We can’t be having our fellow citizens picking up crumbs of Internet that bleed through closed doors,” said Marx.

The Library HotSpot program aims to help close the ‘digital divide’ between those who can afford Internet and those who can’t.

The first round of lending was reserved for patrons who either themselves or their children were enrolled in one of the library’s educational program, but now eligibility to borrow a device has been expanded to anyone over 18 with a fine-free library card.

The hotspots will be available during lending events at 11 NYPL branches in high-need neighborhoods throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island from now through May 5. Bronx locations include Hunts Point, Melrose, Edenwald and the Bronx Library Center. The library plans to increase the number of sites offering the program over the summer.

The initiative was funded by a partnership between the city, the NYPL, Google, the Knight Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation.

“The library and Google, we share a mission,” said William Floyd, head of external affairs for Google New York. “We’re both dedicated to making the world’s information universally accessible to everyone.”

At the announcement, program participant Olivia Tecualt, translated by Mark-Viverito, said that having Internet at home has helped her to be a more engaged parent. Her kids are now able to complete their assignments at home, where she can help, and when she has trouble understanding instructions in English, the Internet can help provide her with translations.

Mott Haven resident, Maria Garcia, was excited to pick up her Wi-Fi hot spot at the lending event after the announcement.

She’s involved in a college prep program with a lot of homework that requires the Internet, and said she’d been using the Internet at her boyfriend’s home to complete her work. She’s looking forward to being able to do her assignments at home now.

“It’ll benefit me so much,” said Garcia.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.