The Santa Barbara Public Library System cardholders can now borrow mobile Internet hotspot devices for free.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Free Internet access is available anywhere and anytime for Santa Barbara Public Library cardholders thanks to a mobile wireless hotspot-lending program.

“MiFi to Go” made its debut last week, and is rolling out an easy-to-use hotspot that enables a cardholder’s mobile device, tablet, or laptop to access the Internet, according to Molly Wetta, a programming and marketing librarian at the Santa Barbara Public Library.

Library cardholders may use the device for seven days and check out one MiFi per library card.

The hotspot connects to up to 10 devices, and users may renew for an additional seven days, as long as there are no holds on the library account, Wetta said.

“It’s easy to check out and easy to return,” Wetta said. “We are always looking for innovative ways to meet the needs of our patrons. While a lot of people do have Internet access, that isn’t the case for everyone. MiFi allows students, people who are traveling, individuals applying for jobs, or anyone can now access the Internet.”

It is possible coverage in some areas may be available when there is no cell phone service, Wetta said.

In agreement with the library’s privacy policy, the library maintains records of which users have checked out materials for the time of the checkout period and “may use that data to maintain proper operation of the library,” according to the Black Gold Cooperative Library System website.

Personal identifiable information is eliminated from those records as soon as the items are returned, according to the website.

The only information the library collects from MiFi users is the total data received and transmitted by each device during a billing cycle, as well as anonymous circulation data related to device checkouts, according to the website.

Cardholder information is not provided to T-Mobile, the service provider.

The holder’s library account will be charged a $100 fee if the device is damaged beyond repair or lost.

Wetta said 114 devices were distributed throughout the Black Gold Cooperative Library System branch libraries.

This new library service is one step to help increase Internet access to the community, Wetta said.

“We’ve played a significant role in providing services to all ages that help bridge the digital divide, and providing free mobile hotspots to those that need it is the next chapter in that story,” Library Director Jessica Cadiente said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.