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How to borrow Internet access at some central NY libraries

Ellen Abbott
Patrons at the White Branch Library in Syracuse will be able to check out "Internet kits."

You can literally check out internet access at a few select libraries in central New York starting this month. The Central New York Library Resources Council is behind a laptop lending program.

Gabreiella Jackson spends a lot of time using computers at the White Branch Library on Syracuse’s Northside, because she doesn’t have access to the Internet at her home. So she expects to be one of the library patrons who will be able to check out a laptop and 4G wireless device as part of the CNYFi program. And Jackson things she could put it to good use.

"Mostly for school probably, because I’m going to eighth grade soon, and I’ll be doing a lot of testing, too, because I’m going to go to high school, too,” said Jackson.

The pilot program, will circulate 30 “internet kits,” according to Matthew Kopel, library services manager at the Central New York Library Resources Council.

“Each kit comes with a Chromebook computer and a 4G wireless hotspot that has unlimited data,” said Kopel.

Borrowers will be able to keep the laptop and hotspot for three weeks, and they will have to take a course to learn how to use the equipment, as well as instruction on Internet safety, before checking it out. 

Kopel says the idea behind this program is to bridge the growing digital divide, which leaves some people out of the loop at a time when access to the Internet has become more important than ever. 

"That’s how people submit [for] jobs. That’s how people educate themselves and remain apace in school. It’s part of modern life at this point. So to not have access to the Internet, more than that, not be fluid with the Internet, excludes those people from a big part of life, and adult life, right now,” said Kopel.

And he says sometimes public access to the Internet isn’t enough.

“Libraries like here at White branch has great computer access, but not everyone lives in a 9-5 world.  Not everybody  And this program allows people to experience the internet and work on the internet on their own time.”  

To start, internet kits will be offered out of the White Branch and Satellite Library at the Southwest Community Center in Onondaga County, and the Jordanville Public Library in Herkimer County.  Kopek says if the program is successful it could expand next year.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.