The Alachua County Library District is doubling to 200 the number of mobile WiFi hotspots that are now available for checkout.
The library started the program in April with the purchase of 100 WiFi2Go devices.
Each device can connect up to five devices—including computers, smartphones and tables—to the internet. The devices have no data limits, and library users don’t pay any connection or usage fees, according to the library’s website.
From April 1 to Aug. 20, patrons checked out the library’s initial set of hotspots more than 1,100 times.
The popularity of the hotspots prompted the library to purchase an additional 100 hotspots, which were added to the library’s collection this week, said Rachel Cook, the ACLD’s public relations and marketing manager.
“The WiFi2Go program is a huge success, and these additional hot spots will allow us to connect even more patrons with reliable internet access,” Library Director Shaney T. Livingston said in a news release.
Both sets of mobile hotspots were paid for with grants from the Alachua County Library District Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps provide supplemental funding to the library. Each hotspot set was paid for with a $36,000 foundation grant.
Mitzi Austin, the vice chair of the ACLD Foundation, said that the funding for the second phase of hotspots came in part from a generous anonymous donation.
“The Foundation has been very pleased with the success of the initial WiFi2Go program and is very pleased to be able to fund a second phase, providing for another 100 hotpots,” Austin said in a news release. “The Board and Associates of the Foundation are impressed with the far-sighted efforts of the Library District in going beyond the traditional books to provide service to the community.”
The program allows Alachua County residents with library cards in good standing to check out the hotspots for seven days. If there are no holds on the hotspot, they can be renewed.
The hotspots work on the T-Mobile network, so users have to be in an area where they can connect to the network. According to the T-Mobile coverage map, most parts of Alachua County have access to the network’s extended 5G service, while some locations in Gainesville have access to the network’s ultra 5G.
“We are thrilled to expand this important service and grateful for the Foundation’s support,” Livingston said.
Alachua County library cardholders can reserve hotspots using the online catalog by searching for “WiFi2Go” or by calling any branch. Patrons can return WiFi2Go hotspots to any library branch.