Kitchener-Waterloo

Kitchener Public Library wi-fi lending program doubles reach thanks to donation

Sandvine donated 20 wi-fi hotspots to the Kitchener Public Library to double the number of devices it lends out. The library says the lending program is extremely popular and the internet sticks are never on the shelf for long before they're signed out again.

Sandvine donates 20 hotspots to library to help meet demand

Kitchener Public Library has expanded its wi-fi hotspot lending program thanks to a donation of 20 devices by local tech company Sandvine. (CBC News )

A popular wi-fi lending program at Kitchener Public Library has received a boost thanks to a donation from a local tech company.

Sandvine has donated 20 hotspots to the library, doubling the number of devices the library can lend out.

Mary Chevreau, CEO of Kitchener Public Library, said they knew there was a demand for the program when they started it.

"But we were amazed with the response from our library users," she said in a release about the Sandvine donation. "Not only does the long wait list for our few hotspot devices prove this, but sadly, it also illustrates the very real digital divide that exists in our technology-focused community."

The company helps people around the globe access free internet, so they wanted to do something for the people in Kitchener, said Dave Caputo, CEO of Sandvine.

"Waterloo Region is flourishing thanks to the power of the internet, and KPL's wi-fi lending program plays an important role in ensuring that anyone in the region can have access to the empowerment it provides," he said.
Kitchener Public Library users can borrow these Wi-Fi LTE hotspots for up to three weeks. The library was the first in Canada to offer the hotspots on loan. (Rogers)

Award-winning lending program

In October 2015, the library became the first in the country to lend out wi-fi hotspot devices much the same way people borrow books, magazines or DVDs. Staff started the program because statistics showed 23 per cent of people living in Waterloo region did not have internet access.

"It's a real range of people that are looking to use the internet outside of library hours and in most cases it's people who cannot afford the internet," Lesa Balch, the senior manager of service development at the Kitchener Public Library, told CBC News in January.

Not only does the long wait list for our few hotspot devices prove this, but sadly, it also illustrates the very real digital divide that exists in our technology-focused community.- Kitchener Public Library CEO Mary Chevreau on the popularity of their hotspot lending program

The devices, also called internet sticks, are so popular, they are rarely on the shelf for long once they are returned.

"It might sit on the shelf for an hour or so and it's checked out again," Balch said, noting people watch the holds list and as soon as their name pops up, they go into the library. "They're never sitting on the shelf, they're always checked out."

KPL won the the Ontario Library Information Technology Association project award from the Ontario Library Association early in 2016 for the initiative.

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