I'm Franklin Walther, digital services librarian. Among our digital services is the Tech Center, which offers eight computers with internet access, professional creative software, and available printing. It has always been one of the Library's most popular features. When the building closed to the public in March of 2020, however, that vital service to the community became inaccessible, so the search was on for ways to extend our digital services beyond the building walls.
In December 2020, we launched Tech to Go. Patrons can now borrow Wi-Fi hotspots and Chromebook kits (bundling a laptop and hotspot), expanding internet access to those currently without it (or stuck with pricey, low-speed connections) as they search for jobs, stay connected, and navigate an ever more online world. More than convenience, unequal broadband internet access is an equity issue the Library wants to do its part to remedy.
Patrons can also check out battery power packs for recharging their phones and tablets - useful in normal times but even more during a Public Safety Power Shutoff or other emergency, when staying connected and communicating is critical.
Also, the Macbook Pros the Library used for in-person computer classes before the pandemic can be borrowed and used inside the library or in the Peter Dreyfus garden - we re-arranged our Wi-Fi access points to provide a strong signal to patrons sitting outside.
Patrons can also send print jobs to the library from anywhere and pick them up in the building or curbside, thanks to our PrinterOn service.
The Library Foundation and the Friends will financially support the first year of Wi-fi in the Plaza, an initiative bringing free public Wi-Fi to the area from Lytton Square to the Gravity Car, the circular sitting area near the new public restrooms, and the median area between Peet’s and the Depot.
When we have internet access, it’s all too easy to take it for granted. We can forget how necessary it’s become in a time of remote school, remote work, and remote interaction with government and social services. The Library intends to lend a hand to break down these digital barriers and spread inclusion and opportunity across our community as far as we can.