Libraries lending mobile hotspots – the why and how?

Someone asked me about mobile hotspots lending programs and how to implement one. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked a reference desk – but luckily I still have friends in the library world who could help me out. I thought I would share the info here to help out other libraries and others who are considering a mobile hotspot lending program.

Note: a mobile hotspot lending program allows patrons to “check out” a mobile hotspot (or MiFi) that is a small piece of equipment, smaller than a smartphone, that will set up a small wireless network that allows a houseful of people to connect to the Internet via cellular service.

The Institute for Museum and Library Services funded a brochure that outlines many of the issues you’d want to consider: Starting a Mobile Hotspot Lending Program covers the following topics:

  • Why Hotspots?
  • Questions to Consider
  • What is a Hotspot?
  • Your Monthly Bill
  • Implementation Strategies
  • Peripheral Costs
  • Challenges
  • Community Outreach
  • Links and References

The NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) also has a good article outlining some of the bigger issues:

  • How much will it cost our library?
  • Won’t people just take advantage of it and watch Netflix/cat videos?
  • How will you stop people from using the hotspots to view adult content?
  • What about data throttling?
  • Hey, are you trying to spy on me?
  • What if the hotspot gets stolen or lost?

The person contacting me was especially concerned with what folks might access via the hotspot so I also found a couple model Acceptable Use Policies from Aurora Public Library Computer Use Policy and Pikes Peak Wireless Access Policy. And if you’re really considered there’s a great research paper related to all things filtered in the library.

A number of Blandin Broadband Communities have added mobile hotspots to public places or providers opportunities to check out hotspots. Most, if not all, have seem pleased with the program once it has started. (Hotspots on the school bus has been a perennial favorite.) Generally libraries and other nonprofits can get better deals on the hotspots than an individual can so it’s a great way to serve a need in the community.

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