A few days ago, I predicted that public libraries would get into the e-game in a more substantial way—specifically: “On a related note, I am betting we’ll start seeing more devices of various kinds make their way into our public libraries.” Now, mere days later, a year-ender from the Toronto Star reports that our public library is going to start loaning out WiFi hotspot devices, to provide free web access for people who can’t afford it at home. From the article:
“City Librarian Vickery Bowles said the Toronto library has included $100,000 in its 2016 operating budget for lendable Internet at branches located in neighbourhood improvement areas, where there are larger numbers of people who might need the service.
“She feels Internet access has become an essential part of the services libraries should provide.
“’People who lack broadband Internet access at home, they’re really at a disadvantage when it comes to employment, looking for a job or access to government services and education,’” Bowles said.”
I love that our magnificently-named head librarian recognizes the educational opportunities the Internet can offer someone. When I taught an e-book unit to my Grade 3/4 class, Project Gutenberg was their favourite part. The idea that people could just open up a website and read as many books as they want—for free—blew their minds. They could have spent much more time on it, but alas, we had other curricular obligations.
I think that loanable Internet fits in perfectly with the mission of the public library system. Libraries first came about as a way to equalize the access to knowledge and information during a time when books were a luxury item. Now, knowledge and information has moved in part to this new format and is once again a luxury item for some. The library can fulfill its mission to equalize access once again.
Photo credit: “Yorkville Library” (part of the Toronto system) by Dhodges. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –