Mobile Wifi Hotspots

I’m getting ready to kick off a few of my new outreach projects this Spring, including roving business reference and a book bike. The one common thread with all of these projects is the WiFi issue. I want to be able to do reference and borrowing services on site no matter where in town I am.

Currently, the library uses Comcast for internet services. While Comcast has some hotspots throughout town (train stations), I’ve found that it’s not always reliable. It seems to go in and out often, and I wonder if this has to do with the volume of use. Some local businesses offer WiFi, too, but I’d prefer to use both of these free services as backups to a personally controlled device.

It took a few searches to come up with the appropriate keywords. It appears that what I’m looking for is a “MiFi,” and Novatel’s device was “Editor’s Choice” a few years back: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2385018,00.asp

xfinity MiFi

xfinity MiFi

According to some articles published in 2011, Comcast only charges $25 for the device. Naturally, a search of their site doesn’t show any pages with purchase details. When I chatted with a rep, she said that Comcast still has the MiFi. I can find it by looking on “comcast.net.” Ha. I didn’t have time to ask for a direct webpage and signed off. I plan to look more into the costs, etc. after the holidays.

Here’s to 2015 being the year of fun, busy, effective outreach!

Virtual business space @ your library

The one renovation desire that I have is for a virtual office space for patrons. It would be a space for people to “work from home” while enjoying all the necessities of an actual office: comfy seating, space to spread out documents, outlets always nearby, updated scanner/copier/fax machine, the ability to use cell phones, and maybe even a chance to collaborate.

I’m currently sitting in a local business that offers such a place for a price. They have a free Friday offer for newbies, so I thought I’d infiltrate and gather intel. I think this may be two hours of my life that I’m not getting back.

I honestly don’t see a benefit to working in their social business space versus the current library structure. Other than the ability to use your phone and a handy kitchen, the space itself is inadequate. Not only do the bright red tables have a distracting glare from the lights above, the seat is beginning to hurt my bum after about 90 minutes and I’m not a fan of chairs on rollers (I think it might be a short-person problem).

There’s also a TV that I keep catching out of the corner of my eye. Being a newbie and not wanting to step above my rank, I left the sound on until a regular opted to mute it. If I wanted these distractions, I’d just…work from home. This home office has led me to be more counterproductive that I had hoped.

I also think our library has already one-upped this business by providing mobile printing, which allows patrons to print wirelessly from their laptops. I see no option here and wonder, should I want to print, how I go about that. No clear information was given or appears readily available. [Note to self: signage and directions regarding technology usage must be easily visible.] Not that it matters because I’m running out of juice and there are only three outlets in view–none of which are easily accessible save for a few seats across the room.

But maybe it’s just me. The seats are 1/4 full so far and everyone seems to be plugging away at their respective endeavors. I wonder if, once a more accurately developed virtual office is in place at the library, people will opt for the free workspace. We shall see.