During the past 10 years, book publishing and reading have moved into digital formats and become online activities. Libraries, long understood as institutions that centered on the printed book and its reading, were imagined to be on their way out. Yet in the digital age, in which books and information exist mostly in digital format, libraries have become more important to communities than ever before. Not only do they remain key local resources for information and data, now provided through a variety of platforms including digital; in many communities, they have also come to act as key, and sometimes sole, providers of access to the internet. In small towns, rural areas, and low-income regions, in which broadband connections may be unavailable or too costly to afford, the free connection that libraries offer gives residents their only opportunity for using email, completing homework assignments, searching on Google, or filling out online job applications.

Libraries are now expanding the access to broadband that that provide by checking out mobile hotspots, devices that allow patrons to connect to the internet from their homes. The hotspots, which utilize cell phone internet signals to connect to the internet, provide adequate broadband to allow individuals to run a small number of computing devices using the hotspot as a kind of “router.” This makes it possible for individuals in areas with cell coverage to complete online tasks outside of the library. Like the books they loan, libraries check out hotspots at no cost and lend them from one month to one year.

Learn more about the use of mobile hotspots by libraries:


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