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Sonoma County Library lends wi-fi hotspots, Chromebooks and more

One woman used “SonomaFi” to apply for - and land - a job. Another, who lost her home in the Tubbs fire, used it at her temporary living space to retain a sense of normalcy.

Up to 700 residents are using Sonoma County Library-?provided wireless hot spots at any given time, taking advantage of a program first rolled out this past spring and growing by the month.

“They are very popular,” said Kate Keaton, branch manager for the Central Santa Rosa branch of the Sonoma County Library. “Very rarely do we have anything available.”

The Central Santa Rosa branch, on E Street in downtown, has 75 wireless hot spots, known as “SonomaFi,” which makes up about 10% of the 700 ?Verizon devices owned countywide by the 12-branch Sonoma County Library.

Library card holders can check out the hot spots for two-week periods, and Keaton said most people return them on time. Just five are currently missing, compared to countless books.

“Not everybody in the county has access to the internet where they live,” Keaton said. This program “allows better access to the internet for the whole community.”

The county’s wireless hot spot program began April 1, and is funded through Measure Y, the 2016 voter-approved eighth-cent sales tax that generates $10 million per year to fund a variety of programs and services.

But it’s not the only unusual thing you can get on loan from your local library. Here are four more fun things to put on your 2020 list to check out

Sonoma Parks Backpack: Those interested in taking a hike might want to check out the Sonoma Parks Backpack. Each of the 43 backpacks in the library system comes equipped with a county parks pass thanks to the library’s partnership with Sonoma County Regional Parks Department. Once there, you can pull out a flora and fauna guide, and even take your turn at a journal with which visitors are encouraged to use to document their visits to various parks.

Video games: Since November 2018, the library system has offered video games for checkout, justifying the move by pointing to the learning applications and the low stakes involved in trying, and failing at something new. Kids, take note. The Sonoma County Library has more than 230 games available, including popular titles Madden and Kingdom Hearts III. Games are available for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 gaming platforms.

Chromebooks: The most recent addition to the Sonoma County Library checkout program, Chromebooks were first made available for check out a couple of months ago, Keaton said. There are ?100 of the devices, which also come with hot spots, and the Central Santa Rosa branch has 10 available for patrons to check out.

DIY toolkits: Give yourself a chance to say “nailed it” with the library’s energy efficiency do-it-yourself toolkits, which rolled out to Guerneville, Sebastopol and Central Santa Rosa locations in November 2016 and expanded to all branches in late 2017. There are 51 kits throughout the system, and each offer library card holders things they can keep - four LED lightbulbs, weather stripping, low-flow showerheads - and things they have to return - a Kill-A-Watt meter, infrared laser thermometer and pliers.

“The kits are a way for members of the public to be able to test their energy efficiency in their house,” Keaton said. “Are they losing energy through their windows? Are there leaks in their pipes? Are their toilets as efficient as they can be?”

The program is in partnership with Sonoma Clean Power, Sonoma Water and the Sonoma County Energy and Sustainability Division.

You can reach Staff Writer Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or at tyler.silvy@pressdemocrat.com.

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