Yesterday, I had to perform an act that, for a variety of reasons, was tinged with nostalgia and regret.
Now, you may be thinking that I am being overly dramatic, or a bit over-the-top. However, that particular branch of the library has special resonance – it was my first library experience.
My grandparents lived in Brighton Park, just down the street near Archer and California. When I was a child, the library was the one place I had permission to walk to by myself. (At least, when I wasn’t running errands for my grandparents). As a child, it provided great social and educational opportunities. (Not only was I a frequent participant of the Library’s summer reading club, but I eagerly awaited the summer movie series….if only to get a yearly view of George Pal’s War of The Worlds)
It also didn’t hurt that my uncle once worked there.
But as I was prepping to work my latest assignment (as well as take on some other freelance clients), as well as a variety of published writing projects, it became a well-needed lifeline….and is a sorely needed serve to drive digital excellence throughout the Chicago area. Only three libraries – Brighton Park, Greater Grand Crossing, and Douglas – have hotspots as part of the pilot program. But despite a plethora of venues that provide free wi-fi, there is still an economic disincentive. (Fast food venues, laundromats, and other such places provide wi-fi to drive and build traffic; this is a great opportunity to help Chicago residents build their financial capacity and digital expertise).
Hotspots (at least, the one I received) is connected to the Sprint network – patrons check out a box containing the hotspot, cord and adapter, and manual. After reading and signing an agreement outlining my responsibilities (in short, not taking the hotspot apart and bringing everything back into the same container), I was able to check out a hotspot (which is renewable via the library’s web site), and connected.
As far as connection is concerned….it is very fast and extremely workable. Unfortunately, the only complaint is that I had neglected to turn off Windows update on my home computer….and that burned through quite a bit of bandwidth. (Hotspots have 5 GB, and thankfully there’s no penalty for going over the limit – however, service throttles when the level hits 2 GB). Given the smallish screen, finding the password for the hotspot can be a bit tricky. (And in all honesty, I didn’t bother to check to see if it filters for inappropriate content). However, since I happen to live near and regularly work out of the West Lawn branch of the library, I don’t worry too much about bandwidth busters like streaming video and downloads.
But it’s been a thrill to reconnect with one of my childhood institutions – in fact, I was there earlier today, engaged in a Twitter chat for a client. It was an oddly comforting experience without any whiff of nostalgia. Perhaps it’s the fact that libraries are part of my own DNA, and that they have always played a key role in my life, but it felt so much like home that I found myself not wanting to leave…as well as getting up and walking through the stacks. (Note – I did get a new one today, and so I’m eager to continue my exploration of portable broadband)
The Chicago Public Library’s Internet to Go program not only offers the chance for others to connect online, but as a way to drive traffic to various branches….well, it’s a great opportunity for community connection and reconnection.
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