Need a laptop or Wi-Fi? Sno-Isle Libraries can help

Sno-Isle Libraries is expanding the laptop loan program with Laptops to Go and Wi-Fi Hotspots to Go.

Librarian delivers a Laptop To Go bag
Arlington Library Circulation Supervisor Amy Stefany delivers a Laptop To Go bag.

Sno-Isle Libraries customers can place a hold in the catalog under the new program to borrow one of 124 laptops or one of 50 Wi-Fi hotspots for use at home. Laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots are available for checkout for one week, with a one-week renewal if no other customers have placed a hold on the equipment.

Sno-Isle Libraries has been loaning laptop computers to customers since October, but use was limited to community library parking lots. That service continues to be available. 

To borrow a laptop or hotspot to take home, customers will need a valid Sno-Isle Libraries card with a barcode. Online-only library accounts do not qualify for new program.

All laptops come in a carrying bag with a power cord and sign-in instructions on how to access Sno-Isle Libraries services and how to connect to a Wi-Fi network. Each laptop comes with a functioning webcam, microphone and speakers.

“When connected to Wi-Fi, the laptops will allow customers to attend school and meetings, connect with friends or family, and take tests online, such as the GED,” said Mariner Library Manager Sandra Beck, who headed up the program.

The Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation provided more than $96,000 from its Opportunity Fund to help pay for the laptops. Sno-Isle Libraries received a $50,000 CARES Act grant from the Washington State Library to pay for the Wi-Fi hotspots that include one year of service.

The laptops are configured similarly to computers used at the library. They have Microsoft Office 2016 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and OneNote); Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome web browsers; GIMP Image Editing, Inkscape, Inkview, IrfanView and paint.net image software; Audacity, Windows Media Player and VLC Media Player media software; and Adobe Reader.

Customers are not able to download other software or programs to the laptops. Due to technical reasons, Mozilla Firefox is not included as a web browser.

There is no disc drive on the laptop, so customers must provide their own external CD/DVD drive to watch DVDs or listen to CDs. Sno-Isle Libraries does not have external drives to loan.

To save any files, customers need to use save and email, use an external device (USB flash drive or an external hard drive) or save to a cloud-based service.

“When saving, any file saved to the laptop will be deleted when the customer signs out, restarts or shuts down,” Beck said. “This is similar to our in-library computers and for customer privacy.”

Customers can use their weekly $7 print allowance to print from the laptop by using the remote printing portal. Remote printing instructions in multiple languages are included in the laptop bag.

Laptops to Go do not have a built-in data connection or plan. In order to use the internet, customers need to connect to Wi-Fi using a home or business network or with Wi-Fi Hotspot to Go. Software applications that do not require an internet connection will function without connecting to Wi-Fi.

The Wi-Fi Hotspot to Go uses a mobile signal to connect to the internet.

“We understand that mobile signals will vary by location, and unfortunately, some customers may have connection issues depending on where they live,” Beck said.

Each Wi-Fi Hotspot to Go comes in a case with a power cord and instructions.

The Wi-Fi hotspot has a content filter, but customers will still have access to email as well as commonly used websites, including search engines and social media websites.

Laptops to Go and Wi-Fi Hotspots to Go will be quarantined for a full 24-hours upon return.

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