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Library offers Google Chromebooks, free Wi-Fi
As part of a Google pilot program that aims to increase Internet access in public libraries, the Porterville Public Library is offering its patrons Chromebooks and free Wi-Fi.
It is one among 44 libraries across the state participating in the program managed by Califa Library Group, a nonprofit consortium of libraries in California.
According to Heather Teysko, assistant director at Califa, the notebooks were purchased with a grant from the California State Library. The grant to Califa for $535,881, helped pay for the distribution of 1,000 Chromebooks to public libraries throughout the state.
The Porterville Public Library received 15 Chromebooks — ultra-light notebook computers designed for web browsing and easy portability — for in-library use. They are cloud-based computers, meaning all operations take place through the web and do not need manual updates, security software or resetting to maintain privacy, unlike traditional laptops.
Porterville Library Supervisor Anthony Arellano said that while the program clearly benefits Google in that it promotes the multinational corporation’s product, it’s a win-win situation because the library gets equipment it otherwise couldn't afford.
Arellano said he estimates the library’s Samsung Chromebooks cost about $500 each.
“We don’t have that kind of extra money,” he said. “Since the Chromebooks were available for us all we needed to do was get Wi-Fi.”
To complement the new notebooks, the city library now offers wireless Internet during all open hours of the library, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Patrons are encouraged to bring their own wireless devices, including iPads and laptops, to connect to the web free of charge. They can also check out a fully-charged Chromebook and use it by signing in with a Google account or as a guest. Once the patron logs out, their personal data will not be accessible by other users.
Arellano said the Chromebooks will be loaned out for in-library use on a first-come, first-served basis to library card holders age 18 and older. First-time users will also have to sign a borrower agreement to use Chromebooks in the library once per day for up to two hours.
He said patrons will be fully responsible for any lost, stolen or damaged notebooks while checked out on their library card.
He said part of the program’s purpose is to learn about creating more Internet access points in public libraries.
“I think all these companies are looking for ways to benefit the community, and libraries have traditionally been that connection point for the haves and the have-nots,” he said.
The library will have to report monthly to Google. The program will last one year and will be evaluated for best practices at six months and one year.
“They’re mostly asking us to report any feedback on the material. There’s also a survey, and anybody who comes in and uses one is encouraged to fill it out,” Arellano said.
Patrons can also find a list of frequently asked questions, the borrower’s agreement and a start-up guide on the city library’s website.
Contact Denise Madrid at 784-5000, Ext. 1047. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseMadrid_.