SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ - According to a recent survey from the American Community Survey conducted through the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 7,500 Somerset County residents do not have access to the internet in their homes. In an effort to lessen the digital divide, the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) will connect residents with internet access on the go by circulating free mobile hotspots for checkout across all 10 branches.
“When an individual needs access to resources, technology, and/or the internet, they often turn to their local library,” said Cathy DeBerry, adult services supervisor. “This is because public libraries have long been trusted with the delivery of services designed to support the information literacy needs of the communities they serve. As librarians we understand the digital divide–the separation between individuals who have access to modern technology and those who do not–and they know it’s far more complicated than having or not having the internet.”
According to the Digital Divide Council, the digital divide affects education, society, and the economy. Offering mobile hotspots has a number of community benefits including: lessening the homework gap for children who don’t have internet access at home; providing connectivity to financially disadvantaged patrons; providing access to health information for individuals with mobility issues and individuals living with disabilities within the comfort of their own home.
Mobile hotspots are small devices that allow internet access via Wi-Fi through cell phone towers. They enable users to connect their personal devices such as tablets and laptops to the internet.
“SCLSNJ is excited to offer Internet On the Go as a technology resource to our patrons,” said Lauren Ryan, manager of branch services, strategic initiatives and special projects. “Circulating hotspots is in direct alignment with our Strategic Plan's Core Service of providing technology access and expertise that meet the needs of the community. We anticipate that hotspots will be popular with our patrons who lack internet service at home and to people who want to access Wi-Fi on the go.”
SCLSNJ customers will be able to checkout a mobile hotspot for a loan period of three weeks; customers may also find (non-reservable) hotspots on the Lucky Day shelf. For more information, email InternetOnTheGo@sclibnj.org.