Wi-Fi devices being loaned by Bronx library branches

Wi-Fi devices being loaned by Bronx library branches
Photo courtesy of Gregg Richards / Brooklyn Public Library

Libraries in the Bronx have recently been the recipient of a generous holiday gift.

On Tuesday, December 2, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that libraries will start lending out Wi-Fi devices as an expansion of The New York Public Library’s program to extend Wi-Fi access to its visitors and its community.

Thanks to Google’s $1 million donation, a $500,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge and initiatives of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Open Society Foundations and Robin Hood Foundation, 10,000 4G LTE mobile hot spots provided by Sprint and Mobile Beacon have been distributed among public libraries in the city, and has given opportunity and access to those who didn’t have it before.

This week, libraries in the Bronx, as well as other boroughs of New York City, began lending out Wi-Fi devices to the public as a part of the expanding Library Hotspot Program, which intends to help families who previously lacked broadband internet access.

The expansion of the Library Hotspot Program follows a successful piloting by the New York Public Library which took place over the summer, when families at branches in the Bronx and Staten Island were allowed to borrow these Wi-Fi devices for months at a time.

After the experiment, participants in the 100-family pilot were asked to complete a survey. After viewing the survey’s results, the library learned that nearly all of the participants spent over three hours a day online and nearly all them wanted to renew the devices.

The goal of this program, along with extending Wi-Fi to others, is to close the gap between those with access to Wi-Fi and those without access.

According to the New York Public Library, over 2 million people in New York City do not have broadband Internet or Wi-Fi at home. This causes many to sit outside NYPL branches before they open and after they close to sustain a Wi-Fi connection that usually extends beyond the library’s walls.

The library believes that this program should bring all public libraries closer towards a solution to the digital divide.

“This program is a great movement that includes a lot of helpful services, giving opportunity and access to those who didn’t have it before,” said Ebony Woodburn, Education Coordinator at the Mott Haven Library. “It especially helps low-income residents where there are barriers of access.”

It should also be no surprise that this program has also helped students who were previously without internet access. Participants from the summer’s piloting had reported that their children had jumped several grade levels in reading and math as a result of being able to get homework help and practice assignments online.

“The (New York Public) Library has always been about giving the public access to knowledge, extension and opportunity,” said Angela Montefinise, director of Media Relations at the New York Public Library.

“This program is the latest example of us doing just that – giving folks without broadband Internet at home access to the information and knowledge available via the web.”

Library branches in the Bronx currently lending WiFi devices include the Bronx Library Center, Baychester, Castle Hill, Francis Martin, Grand Concourse, High Bridge, Hunts Point, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, Mosholu, Mott Haven, Parkchester, Van Nest, Wakefield and Westchester Square.

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 742–3384. E-mail him at sgood‌stein‌@cngl‌ocal.com.