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Check Out the Internet

January 29, 2015

I heard about Chicago Public Library’s plan to circulate wireless hot-spots out of 3 branches on the radio this morning during my commute.

I’m so excited for this program, especially since those branches will have 10 tablets available alongside their 100 hot-spots. The hot-spots go out for 3 weeks, and presumably the tablets do as well.  My first thought when I heard the story on NPR was, “Well, that’s awesome – assuming that the people in this lower-income neighborhoods without internet that you’re attempting to serve with this have devices to connect to the hot-spot.” So huzzah on circulating the devices too! Whee!

The best part about this plan for me is that it gives people the opportunity to use the technology in their own home, which is a crucial piece to the digital divide.  Using a computer in the library isn’t the same. You have a time limit, or the pressure of knowing that there are other people waiting for their opportunity to use the station. You have little privacy – and even in a “quiet zone”, other people sitting near you, or even HVAC systems can be distracting. At home, the technology has a chance to become part of your daily life, if only for three weeks.

I hope that CPL includes appropriate instructional materials with their hot-spots and tablets, so that people aren’t intimidated by the prospect of checking them out and are able to get connected quickly and easily.

Rock on, CPL. Rock on.

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