Free Wi-Fi is like finding a lucky penny to people like me, those of us inflicted with a constant, insatiable need to track datum, capture it and stow it in our change purses. A small dose of dopamine is released in our brains whenever we spy a wireless hotspot icon, which, is really just a hipper, svelte version of clip art radio waves lest we forget that orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing is just gussied up radio signal that let’s one tap into an Internet connection. The stronger the signal, the better. Often times, this means sitting close to the source – like boozehounds, belly to the bar – so that every moment of connectivity is a peek experience.
Among the best free signals in town is the one bouncing invisibly off the walls of the Sonoma Valley Branch of the Sonoma County Library. I’ve long crowed that the library is key among Sonoma’s arsenal of secret weapons and the free Wi-Fi makes it all the more formidable.
It’s only apropos, really, that such a vast repository of knowledge and information, democratized access and Free Speech would have a portal our local library. Beyond being the analog version of all the above, every library comes stocked with stewards of such data and ours is no exception. Of course, it’s more than mere data that they’re both mining and minding – the continuum seems to go “information,” “knowledge,” “wisdom,” “Yoda.” I added that last one, seeing as the pragmatism of being Jedi seems more in line with library science than, say, Nirvana.
Since the 90s, there’s been jabber that libraries would eventually prove irrelevant in the Digital Age, serving as little more than places for homeless people to read newspapers. Untrue. Homeless people also check their email, but more to the point, libraries remain a cornerstone to our democracy and a good reference librarian has more instruments of access and expression in their intellectual toolkits than can be enumerated with ones and zeroes.
And what of Google, you ask? Consider this: a librarian armed with Google and the other means of mining data at his or her fingertips is functionally omniscient. Be nice to them – they know what you’re thinking. Fortunately, they won’t talk, not even if your requested items include “How to Build an Atomic Bomb” and “World Domination for Dummies.” Remember, it was librarians who stood up to the Bush administration to preserve your privacy in the face of an overreaching Patriot Act. Of course, it’s only the library’s staffers who have pledged to honor your confidentiality – patrons, passersby and the occasional columnist can and will look over your shoulder, so no sites that are NSFW (is it a double negative if it’s an acronym? Ask a librarian – Google didn’t know).
If you’re traveling light, that is, sans laptop, smart-phone, tablet or other web-enabled device, take heed – the library offers plenty of computers with Internet-access at the ready. Theoretically, a savvy entrepreneur could launch a business empire using a clever mix of cloud-computing, a distributed workforce and the sundry resources made available by our public library. The only hiccup is that the librarians would probably shush your board meetings, though you could probably reserve the more-private Delong room for a few thousand shares of your start-up.
Mind you, we’re already all shareholders in our public library. Everyday an IPO of opportunity makes us all richer than we probably realize and the free Wi-Fi just helps as we’re laughing all the way to the data-bank.