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Everyone knows that coffee shops, fast food places, and the public library are some of the top places to go when you’re looking for free wi-fi.

Even with dwindling budgets and lower usage numbers for other collection items, computer and online usage at libraries has rocketed up in the past few years. Between the unemployed looking for jobs, students completing online class assignments, and genealogy researchers, there seems to be an unending demand for library computer access. 

In New York City, outside of re-wiring the entire city or finding lower cost options via cable or satellite, it seemed this arrangement would need to continue for some time.

Until recently.

The New York City Public Library, according to a Wall Street Journal article from early December, is in partnership with Google and several other tech companies to provide free wi-fi access at patrons’ homes … via wireless Internet hubs that can be checked out from the library. “The 10,000 Wi-Fi units [will be available] through branches of the New York Public Library, the Queens Library and the Brooklyn Public Library.”

This project is part of a larger effort to digitize the city, “following an announcement [in November] that the city plans to turn [more than] 6,000 city pay phones into stationary wireless hot spots.” The pay phones will be replaced by what are being called LinkNYC devices, 9.5-foot structures with antennas, 24-hour, 150-foot-radius Wi-Fi, and charging stations. Free phone calls can also be made to the fifty states, and all of it will be paid for by streaming digital advertisements. 

Of course, there’s room for both projects, considering our constant dependence on various mobile technologies. William Floyd, Google’s head of external affairs for New York, says “[What] we like about the public library program are the simplicity and the reach.”

That’s what we have always liked about libraries.

07 Jan 2015

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