Sno-Isle Libraries is now providing check-out laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots to help local residents maintain internet access.
The laptops and hotspots are available at all Sno-Isle Libraries, including the Marysville, Arlington and Lakewood/Smokey Point libraries.
Checkout is for one week, which can be renewed for an additional week if no other library clients have placed a hold.
The initiative began because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused internet access to be even more vital for community members than it used to be.
“Sno-Isle Libraries started Laptops to Go and Wi-Fi Hotspots to Go in order to fill the needs of customers who are doing more things from home and online than they were one year ago,” said Kurt Batdorf, Sno-Isle Libraries communications specialist. “Laptops to Go can help those customers who may need faster technology in the short-term to help with connectivity, school projects or job searches and online applications."
The Wi-Fi hotspots provided as part of the package are also meant to help those who have slow or limited internet.
Providing computer technology to the public is an integral part of the library systems, however as the COVID-19 pandemic has closed libraries that access has been cut off.
“The public computers in our community libraries were very popular when our libraries were open. Knowing that, we wanted to find a way to meet that need creatively until we can reopen community libraries to the public,” said Batdorf.
The first program to help re-open that access began in October, when Sno-Isle Libraries started to loan laptop computers for use in the parking lots of local libraries. That service will continue to be available as well as checkout laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots now.
“We hope our customers are using Laptops to Go and Wi-Fi Hotspots to Go to help them ease some of the difficulties and complications in the face of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Batdorf.
The checkout process for laptops is similar to the pickup of any physical material such as a book. Clients need to have a valid Sno-Isle Libraries card with a barcode though, so online-only library accounts do not qualify for the program.
The checkout laptops come with a power cord, instructions on how to use them, a webcam, a microphone and speakers.
They are also configured with software similar to what is on typical library computers, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, image editing software, sound editing software and Adobe Reader.
“As for limitations, customers will not be able to save files on the laptop’s desktop or hard drive, although they can save files to an external USB drive of their own,” said Batdorf.
There is no CD or DVD drive so customers who want to listen to music or watch media will have to stream it instead.
“The laptops do not come with data access like a Google Chromebook. That means customers will need to provide their own internet access, whether that’s at home or on a public Wi-Fi system,” said Batdorf.
Free Wi-Fi is available outside of Sno-Isle Libraries buildings. The Wi-Fi Hotspots use a cell signal to internet speeds may be weak if cell signal is weak in an area.
The program is funded in part by $96,000 given from the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation and $50,000 received from the federal coronavirus relief bill passed in March.