Library now offering free Wi-Fi hot spots for card holders

By: Joshua Gordon | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 9, 2018

 The Shelby Township Library is offering 10 Wi-Fi hot spots that can be checked out for free by library card holders for two weeks.

The Shelby Township Library is offering 10 Wi-Fi hot spots that can be checked out for free by library card holders for two weeks.

Photo provided by Katie Ester

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — With vacation season kicking into high gear, the Shelby Township Library is looking to keep residents productive even when they are away from home.

At the end of March, the library began offering free Wi-Fi hot spots for patrons with a library card. Library patrons can check out one of 10 hot spots for free for two weeks and use them wherever and whenever.

Library Director Katie Ester said she had heard from other libraries in the state that had piloted hot spot programs and had success, so Shelby Township wanted to begin the service for residents.

“We have had requests from residents for this service and thought this could be an easy way to provide something outside of our buildings for our patrons,” Ester said. “We always talk about how the library is not just these four walls and (how) we provide other services outside of the library. This allows the library to fill a technological need in our community.”

Ester said the hot spots became available March 26, and within a few hours, half of the available hot spots had been checked out.

The hot spots are set up through T-Mobile and can be used anywhere a T-Mobile cellular signal is available, which includes most of the continental United States and some places along the Canadian border.

Ester said the program is costing the library about $3,200 a year, which is the cost of the Wi-Fi service. The hot spots came free when the library paid for a year of service.

The library opted to go with unlimited high-speed Wi-Fi, as Ester said other libraries had said they went with a service that scaled back after so much usage and it didn’t work well for the patrons.

“This is perfect for if you rented a cabin up north for two weeks with your kids and can’t bare to have no internet, so you check one out and take it with you,” Ester said. “Or if you are moving and you haven’t gotten Comcast out to set up the internet. We’ve had people tell us about taking it to conferences or family reunions.

“You hear all the ways the community intends to use it and you realize it can be used in so many different capacities.”

Circulation Clerk Erin Luetz, who helped set up and train staff on the hot spots, said the library is popular for its computers, and the hot spots offer another way to serve people without internet access.

“One gentlemen came in and took one home because he had to do some job searching and wanted to do it in the comfort of his home instead of on our computers,” Luetz said. “For residents who don’t have internet at home, this is a great opportunity to have it for a couple weeks at home.”

The hot spot comes in a case that has directions on how to set it up, but Ester said it is as easy as turning it on, selecting it from your device and entering the provided password.

Patrons are responsible if a hot spot is lost, stolen or broken. The cost to replace a device is $125. Library patrons must be 18 years old with a valid photo ID to check out a hot spot.

Ester said there is also no renewal on hot spots in order to make them available for everyone. If a device is not returned within 24 hours of it being due, the library can deactivate it remotely on top of a $1.25 per day late fee.

Ester said she hopes the hot spots not only provide a new service to existing library card holders, but maybe attract some new residents.

“I think this will be a really popular service, especially for people who travel for the summer,” she said. “I am excited residents of Shelby Township will have this option and that the library can be the community service that provides it.”