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Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Library Chiefs Announce Expansion of Library Hotspot Program Through Google Donation

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Google gives New York City libraries $1 million for 10,000 Wi-Fi devices for program lending Wi-Fi devices to New Yorkers

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio, New York City’s three library systems, and Google today announced a $1 million donation from Google for an innovative library program lending Wi-Fi devices to New Yorkers to use at home.

The Library Hotspot program gives families, many lacking broadband access, the opportunity to borrow free Wi-Fi devices from their local libraries. The program was successfully piloted by The New York Public Library over the summer, when families at four branches in the Bronx and Staten Island were able to borrow devices for months at a time.

Google’s $1 million donation, along with a $500,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge, an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and Robin Hood Foundation, will allow the program to expand this fall to all three library systems, including Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library. The goal is to offer about 10,000 families Wi-Fi devices powered by Sprint, helping to close the digital divide in New York City.

“Whether you’re a parent looking for a job, a child working on a school project, or a family looking for information on services, broadband access is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity.” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I commend both New York City Libraries and Google for their commitment to increasing accessibility to technology through the innovative Library Hotspot program, and I am thrilled to see thousands of New York City families get access to the internet.”

“It is simply unfathomable that in the digital world in which we live, one-third of New Yorkers do not have access to broadband internet at home, putting them at a serious disadvantage at school, in applying for jobs, and so much more,” said New York Public Library President Tony Marx. “The Library is proud to partner with Google, as well as with the Robin Hood, Open Society, and Knight Foundations, to help close the digital divide, and set an example for the country.”

“Far too many New Yorkers do not have regular access to the Internet, and as a result find themselves excluded from a wealth of education, employment, and community resources,” said Ben Fried, Google’s Chief Information Officer. “This innovative program to loan hotspots to low-income households is a simple, effective way to help those who need broadband and technology the most.  With this donation of $1 million and wifi-enabled Chromebooks, Google hopes to give some of the most underserved in our city a way to bridge the tech divide.”

“Too many Brooklyn residents are on the wrong side of the digital divide. Free Wi-Fi at local BPL branches is a vital resource, but it can't make up for the lack of internet access in the home — access that helps children succeed in school, and provides parents with critical information on health, employment, education, and more. As we prepare to rollout this program in our branches with the greatest need, we are grateful to Google, the Knight Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation, and our partners at NYPL and Queens Library for helping us take our mission beyond the walls of our branches and directly to our patrons,” said Linda E. Johnson, President & CEO of Brooklyn Public Library.

“Lending mobile hot spots, coupled with our Google tablet lending program, will put powerful technology into the hands and homes of Queens residents. It will boost computer literacy across all income and educational levels, promoting true digital equity. We are very grateful to Google; the Knight News Challenge, and the Robin Hood Foundation for making this possible,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, Interim President & CEO of Queens Public Library.

“Providing internet access to all New Yorkers should be a priority in this increasingly high-tech world,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Thanks to support from Google, The Knight Foundation and The Robin Hood Foundation, our public libraries across the city will take a big step toward that goal. I'm proud of this achievement and look forward to finding even more ways to make access as universally available as possible for New York City's residents.”

The New York Public Library launched its pilot program after a survey of patrons revealed that 55 percent of those utilizing free internet and computers in its branches did not have broadband access at home. When household income dropped to under $25,000, about 65 percent reported having no access.

The expanded program will launch in December, with the city’s three library systems each rolling it out slightly differently:

  • In the Brooklyn Public Library, patrons are eligible to borrow devices for one year if they don’t have broadband at home and are enrolled in one of BPL's adult education or inclusion programs, including ESOL, Adult Basic Education, or Citizenship Preparation classes. BPL will also make devices available at their NYC Connected Communities branches, which serve communities most impacted by the digital divide. At those branches, adult library cardholders without broadband at home can register for and attend a program orientation session.
  • In the New York Public Library system, which covers the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, people are eligible to borrow devices for six months if they don’t have broadband at home and are currently enrolled in one of several library programs, including after-school programs or adult learning programs, such as ESOL or literacy classes.
  • At Queens Library, the mobile hotspots will be lent to students in its Adult Learning Program, and to anyone with a library card from five libraries also lending Google tablets.

In addition to funding for Wi-Fi devices in New York City, Google’s donation will also provide the city’s library systems with 500 Google Chromebooks, which will be distributed based on need to children and teens enrolled in Library after-school programs. Additionally, small portion of the Wi-Fi devices will be distributed to support similar pilot programs in libraries in Maine and Kansas.

“This $1.75 million investment into our City's three library systems will work to address the “digital divide” that has gripped New Yorkers in need of access to broadband internet,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair of the Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee. “Through this innovative partnership we will expand internet access for families throughout the five boroughs. I commend Mayor de Blasio, Google, The Knight Foundation and The Robin Hood Foundation for working with our City’s three library systems. Their commitment toward tackling the digital divide brings us closer to a day when no New Yorker will fear a lack of access to one of our most precious resources. ”

“At a time when the Internet has emerged as an important vehicle to achieving a better life and securing a better future, New York City continues to pursue initiatives to bring Internet access to communities who need them the most,” said Chair of Council Technology Committee James Vacca. “Families with sufficient access to broadband internet are able to better compete for jobs and access the wealth of information that could improve their quality of life.  New York City is becoming the next technology and innovation hub of the world. We must not leave anyone behind.”

“Access to broadband internet should not depend on financial constraints.  This innovative new program will help close the digital divide for city residents no matter where they live or work.  New York is an ambitious and innovative city and this program helps make that innovation more inclusive and reachable by all.  I commend Mayor de Blasio and the city libraries for their leadership and I thank Google for their generous donation to make this program possible,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the City Council Libraries Sub-Committee.

“With this innovative program, the City of New York is demonstrating that bridging the digital gap requires more than just providing Internet access in public schools and libraries,” said Andrew Rasiej, Chairman of NY Tech Meetup. “It means giving students and underserved communities 24 hour access to all the world's information resources necessary to succeed in today's hyper connected global economy.”

About The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support. 

About Queens Public Library
Queens Library is an independent, not-for-profit corporation and is not affiliated with any other library. Queens Library serves a population of 2.3 million in one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the U.S. and has among the highest circulations of any public library system in the world. For more information about programs, services, locations, events and news, visit the Queens Library web site at www.queenslibrary.orgor phone 718-990-0700. Queens Library. Enrich your life
About Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is an independent library system for the 2.5 million residents of Brooklyn. It is the fifth largest library system in the United States with 60 neighborhood libraries located throughout the borough. BPL offers free programs and services for all ages and stages of life, including a large selection of books in more than 30 languages, author talks, literacy programs and public computers. BPL’s eResources, such as eBooks and eVideos, catalog information and free homework help, are available to customers of all ages 24 hours a day at our website: www.bklynlibrary.org.

Contact:

Angela Montefinise / angelamontefinise@nypl.org

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