Borrow the Internet from Your Local Library


November 05, 2021
Celeste Bruno
Communications Director
1-800-952-7403 x208

Massachusetts residents conducted 15,000 internet sessions every day in public libraries during 2019. When COVID-19 hit and many libraries closed their doors, patrons were left without the internet access they needed to participate in remote schooling and telework.  Libraries stepped up with outdoor library Wi-Fi, but a more user-friendly solution was needed, especially during the winter months.  Now, through a new statewide program from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), residents can borrow the internet from their local library by checking out a hotspot.  

“Access to reliable internet is an issue of economic, educational, and social equity,” said MBLC Director James Lonergan. “Our statewide hotspot program allows residents to participate in telehealth, remote classes, telework, apply for a job or any other internet related activity in their own home or wherever they feel most comfortable.”

Using $1.5 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the MBLC has developed and is coordinating the statewide program which has dispersed 3,000 hotspots to more than 200 public libraries. The MBLC has created a hotspot map to help users find a library near them where they can borrow one.

“Because we are a small library, the monthly cost of hotspots is prohibitive. The MBLC hotspot lending program has made 10 new hotspots available for patron use,” said Lisa Cheever, Director of Blackstone Public Library. “This allows us to reach the underserved in our community and those affected by the digital equity gap. Paired with the library’s laptop lending program, this Internet access will not only allow patrons to access much needed data and information for school and work, but also alleviate the isolation individuals are still experiencing post pandemic.” 

Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots connect to cellular data the same way a smart phone does to create a secure and reliable internet connection. Hotspots through the statewide program can connect up to 10 devices. Libraries have set their own borrowing requirements but in most cases all that is needed to check out a hotspot is a library card and that the patron be at least 17 years old.

"The hotspots are so easy to use. Once you turn them on - they have the network name and the password right on the menu. I also love how we can mobilize them when the power goes out. Patrons are happy with internet they can take everywhere, giving them access to school, work and entertainment,” said Kelly Depin, Director of Whelden Memorial Library in West Barnstable.

The MBLC will fund the program through September 2022. After that libraries may opt to take over the service if they are able. The MBLC has made state funding to libraries through budget line 7000-9501 a priority in the legislative agenda so that libraries may have the funds needed to continue the hotspot program. More information about this service is available for residents.

While the hotspot program expands internet access for some residents, the MBLC continues to work towards more widespread permanent solutions and has supported efforts by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and OpenCape to ensure that public libraries in underserved areas can offer broadband and Wi-Fi to their residents.

In addition to statewide hotspot lending, the MBLC has used federal ARPA and CARES Act funds through the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop  innovative programs that help libraries, residents, and communities find long-term solutions to challenges that surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The MBLC has also provided grants to libraries in hard-hit communities, increased funding to the statewide eBook and audiobook program, and coordinated training in mental health for librarians.

About MBLC

The Board of Library Commissioners ( is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.