What do we do when wi-fi booms?
We’ve been able to use free computers and Internet as a selling point for library services over the past few years. It has led to an increase in patron visits for most libraries and continues to be a major service provided for many patrons. Overall, the only major problem patrons have with Internet usage in libraries is the ability to customize the computer to their liking (i.e. download/update software, files, etc.).
Wi-fi is a nice addition as it allows patrons more access to more content and the ability to download software without having to worry about the library policies and security settings. Considering the latest drop in laptop prices and the rise of the netbook, wi-fi is becoming a major sell for many of our patrons.
But what happens when wi-fi becomes commonplace?
The affordability of laptops and other wi-fi enabled devices becomes more negligible each day. Just this past weekend the Trenton-area circulars advertised laptops for under $200. Wi-fi cellphones may still cost a bit right now but two years down the road, when it’s time to re-sign your cellphone contract and get the free upgrade, don’t be surprised is wi-fi is standard or available on the lower end models. Even personal gaming systems have wi-fi capabilities; no upgrades required.
The point is, the ability to access wi-fi is already here, the thing holding it back is where to find free wi-fi… and that is quickly growing.
This past week, my family and I took a vacation to Deep Gap, North Carolina. Don’t feel bad if the name doesn’t ring a bell, its major selling point is that it is in the middle of nowhere and hard to find. That said, the recreation center had free wi-fi for all visitors and residents. The Burger King we stopped into to let the girls burn some energy on the playground also had free wi-fi for all its customers. As a matter of fact, we probably had more difficulty getting a good cellphone signal than we did finding a wi-fi signal (this was certainly the case in the Blue Ridge Mountains).
Many companies, social organizations and eateries are finding out what most libraries know; free wi-fi brings in more people and that means more sales. Going to Google and typing in “Free wi-fi New Jersey” pulls up several sites dedicated to finding free signals. Some of the sites even catagorize the signals by establishment (restaurant, hotel, spas).
I’m happy to say that libraries still seem to be the leader of free wi-fi areas for most of these sites.