Libraries to offer Wi-Fi to go in Chicago and New York

A blast from the past? Using the Internet at your public library may soon become passe as libraries in New York and Chicago will begin allowing patrons to check out Wi-Fi hot spots, as they would a book.
(Jim Cole / AP)

Public libraries around the country have long been places where you can go to use the Internet. Indeed, on any given day at any given library, you might find more people using social media, filling out job applications and perusing Web pages on computer terminals than you’ll find browsing the stacks.

Now two of the country’s largest public library systems are taking that practice a step further. Both the New York and Chicago public libraries will soon begin offering Wi-Fi hot spots for checkout. Patrons will, in effect, be able to take the libraries’ Internet access home with them.

The programs are being funded by the Knight Foundation.

At the New York Public Library, where in-library Internet access is limited to one 40-minute session per day, patrons will be able to borrow the hot spots for up to a year. The initiative, the library said, is a bid to close the digital divide in the city where 27% of households don’t have access to broadband.


“Providing continuous access will expand their ability to participate fully in the modern economy and allow them to continue to learn, work, explore and create after the library’s doors have closed,” the New York library said in its pitch to the Knight Foundation.

The New York Public Library received $500,000 from the Knight Foundation for its “Check Out the Internet” program. Chicago’s library system received $400,000 from the foundation for a program it calls “Internet to Go.”

Chicago’s public libraries will offer its Wi-Fi hot spots for up to three weeks at a time. The library will also offer “one-on-one digital literacy and skills coaching and access to online tutorials.”

Tobar tweets about books at @TobarWriter