JUNE 23, 2014 – With a grant awarded today from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The New York Public Library will soon launch a program to loan mobile hotspots to thousands of families living without broadband access. The New York Public Library is one of 19 winners of the Knight News Challenge; the challenge sought breakthrough ideas that strengthen the Internet for freedom of expression and innovation.
The Library’s program, expected to launch in the fall, will allow families to check out the hotspots from local branches and bring them home, providing them broadband internet access and helping close the digital divide in New York City, where an estimated one-third of residents do not have broadband internet in their homes.
The Library did its own survey of patrons who utilize the free internet and computers available in its branches, and found that 55 percent reported not having broadband access at home. When household income dropped to under $25,000, about 65 percent reported having no access.
“In a world where access to the internet is necessary for almost any important task – applying for jobs, doing school work, paying bills – it is unacceptable that so many of the most vulnerable New Yorkers would be left behind,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “Andrew Carnegie believed in making knowledge and information accessible to all, and this new program to loan wi-fi devices continues that important mission, ensuring library materials can be read at home and providing families with the key tools that they need to succeed and open new doors of opportunity.”
The Library is already operating a small pilot program with approximately 100 families in four branches – Port Richmond in Staten Island and Bronx Library Center, Mott Haven, and High Bridge in the Bronx. The participants are enrolled in the Library’s after-school programs where students are provided with subscriptions to cutting edge educational software, which helps children with a variety of school subjects. Students are given home access to this software through the hotspots enabling them to extend their learning.
“I get smarter and smarter every day,” said Alexander, 7, a patron from Port Richmond who is part of the pilot, and enrolled in the Library’s Enrichment Zone after-school program. “I went up a level in reading because of the computer. It helps me learn and read and do math . . . Without the computer, it was really hard to do my school work.”
The new, expanded program will launch in neighborhoods with low internet connectivity. Patrons are eligible if they are without broadband internet at home and are currently enrolled in one of several New York Public Library programs, including after-school programs or adult learning programs, such as English or literacy classes.
The program will not only be available in The New York Public Library system – which covers the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island – but also in the Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library systems, which will also have hotspot devices available for lending.
The Knight News Challenge on Strengthening the Internet was a collaboration between Knight Foundation, Ford Foundation and Mozilla.
“Continuous access to the Internet means more informed community that can help shape the digital arena, and take part in safeguarding it as an open, available resource for all,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism and media innovation.
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 the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.KnightFoundation.org.