SonomaFi Connect IMLS Grant

Since April 2022, Sonoma County Library purchased and deployed 15 industrial level, portable WiFi hotspot kits to its branches to be used at community outreach events. Staff has facilitated 78 community outreach events which were supported and complemented by SonomaFi Connect WiFi hotspot devices.

Staff presented the kit and signage to offer free WiFi to participants at events, introduce participants to library resources, and answer library and event-related questions using the kit-provided WiFi. The events took place in towns and cities throughout Sonoma County. Examples include farmers’ markets, senior centers, the Summer Lunch program, music festivals, parks, Pride festivals, affordable housing, emergency preparedness, back-to-school nights, and BiblioBike events.

In advance of the events, staff created a lesson plan to ensure a more efficient use of the device and to establish a target goal and audience. They utilized the SonomaFi Connect device to bring WiFi to a particular event for public use and to promote and teach library resources on library laptops or patrons’ smartphones and other devices. Via participant surveys, staff gathered data to learn more about participant use and to research areas for improvement at future events.


Project Summary

Activities Proposed in Your Grant Application Activities Completed During the Award Period of Performance Explanation of Any Variance
Purchase equipment and prepare mobile network popup kits Purchased and prepared SonomaFi Connect equipment for branch use. Purchased a total of 15 kits. Also purchased a companion laptop for each kit, a laptop bag, and a lock to secure each kit when out in the field.
Hold strategic planning meeting with staff and partner organizations to determine relevant training and programs Generated a spreadsheet of potential community partners. Conducted regular meetings with a select group of staff that included at least one representative from each branch. Our SonomaFi Connect staff team met regularly to create outreach opportunities. Did not hold strategic planning meetings with partner organizations.
Develop calendar of digital literacy workshops and programs Determined in strategic planning meetings that branches were best able to plan their own events as their calendars allowed. Each branch completed programs based on their schedules and availability. A formal calendar was not developed in advance of the year.
Develop forms and participant survey Created lesson plan templates for branches to use to plan their programs and report on the outcomes of their programs. Created both paper and digital program surveys to measure participants program outcomes. N/A
Develop marketing and promotional plan Created promotional website materials and signage to announce the availability of free WiFi/SonomaFi Connect at various programs. Created QR codes and links to help people easily connect their devices to SonomaFi Connect kits. Created materials to promote events via website, event calendar, email, poster, etc. Did not create lesson plans specifically tailored to partner organizations’ digital literacy needs.
Train staff and partner organizations Trained staff on how and when to use SonomaFi Connect, grant requirements, kit safety and maintenance, and best practices. Created staff training materials: PDF/PowerPoint SonomaFi Connect presentation, How to Secure the Kit video, and 1-page instruction sheet for each kit. Did not train partner organizations, however, in the future, the library intends to lend kits to partner agencies to enhance their efforts now that the performance period has passed.
Distribute 12 mobile network popup kits to 12 branches Distributed 13 mobile network popup kits to 12 branches and 1 each to Headquarters and Bibliobus. Purchased a total of 15 kits in order to have 2 back up kits in case a branch kit malfunctions and one kit for our BiblioBus and Headquarters use.
The 15 kits all stayed within the awarded grant funds.
Deliver digital literacy workshops and community programs for all ages in English and Spanish county-wide Completed 78 community events using the SonomaFi Connect kits. Created a lesson plan and reported on outcomes for each event.
Staff assisted patrons with the internet and introduced them to the library and its resources.
Exceeded goal of utilizing the SonomaFi connect kits at community events for a minimum of 72 times county wide. SonomaFi Connect succeeded in supporting community events with Wifi but activities did not include specifically digital literacy classes.
Assess program with staff and partner organizations Program assessment regarding where we could make program improvements was conducted on a regular basis during staff meetings. Assessment with partner organizations was not completed.
Complete curricula specifically tailored to information insecurity, a best practices toolkit and a report to our Library Commission N/A N/A
  • Type: Extension
  • Description: Our focus leaned more heavily on teaching participants digital literacy skills and how to access and implement Sonoma County Library’s resources. Due to the pandemic, resulting staff shortages, and time constraints, we focused less on creating lesson plans tailored to the individual needs of a particular organization or community group.
    The above listed challenges, specifically the pandemic also necessitated our request for a time extension to complete our grant goals. This extension was approved on July 15, 2022 and has offered us ample time to meet our goals.
  • Date of Approval: 7/15/22
  • SonomaFi Connect: Offered free WiFi, library resources and education at 79 events
    Collected 41 survey responses
  • Laptop estimate: Discount PC - 15 at $359
  • Monthly mobile broadband unlimited: Verizon–15 at $1208.34 annually
  • Pop-Up Network Kits: RCN Technologies–15 at $3199.99
  • Grant: $41,460
  • Cost Sharing Responsibility: $41,460
  • Accessories:
    • Cable lock
    • Mouse
    • Laptop bag
    • Acrylic sign holder for QR code signage
  • Signage: QR code with network connection
  • Coverage area: Approximately ½ acre or ¼ city block with no disturbance
  • Number of people able to connect: Varies based on type of usage
    50-100 people typical email and internet use (not streaming movies)
  • Battery Life: 6-8 hours before needing to be recharged
  • Size of Kit: The size of a thick briefcase
  • Weight of Kit: ?


Performance Measure Statement Survey Respondent No. of Participants No of Total Responses Yes No N/A
Do you feel more comfortable using technology? 90% 41 41 37 0 4
Are you able to access internet resources more easily? 90% 41 41 37 1 3
Did you increase your understanding of e-resources and Sonoma County Library services? 85% 41 41 35 0 6
Are you better able to navigate social services websites? 68% 41 41 28 3 10
Are you better able to identify accurate news or medical resources? 66% 41 41 27 1 13
Intended Result(s) Actual Result(s) Explanation of Any Variance
1. Implement digital literacy and community outreach programs by providing internet access and instruction to Sonoma County residents.    
Outcome: 75% of participants will feel more comfortable using technology accessing internet resources more easily, navigating social service websites, identifying accurate medial information and news, and increasing understanding of electronic resources and services provided by Sonoma County Library. 90% of respondents now feel more comfortable using technology.
90% of respondents are now able to access internet resources more easily.
85% of respondents have increased their understanding of eResources and services provided by Sonoma County Library.
68% of respondents are now better able to navigate social services websites.
66% of respondents are now better able to identify accurate news or medical resources.
Outputs: Library staff will lead no less than 72 community outreach programs county wide. Library staff led 78 community outreach programs county-wide.  
2. Teach residents about Sonoma County Library’s relevant resources.    
2. Work with partners to bring experts to provide information on relevant topics such as job searching and signing up for food assistance at community sites.    
Outcomes: Increase access to and understanding of local and online resources for participants and offer a big picture assessment of the true needs of county residents. Though we were not able to collect survey results from each participant, it is estimated that more than 2,000 people accessed Sonoma County Library’s resources and SonomaFi Connect at 78 different community programs in the county.  
Output: Collaborate with partners no less than four times during the year. Staff collaborated with community partners to gain access (a table, tent, or other space) to provide assistance to the public at community events. Thought collaboration was necessary to provide a presence at community events; Sonoma County Library did not provide lesson plans specifically targeted to the agency’s needs. Typical education included accessing the Internet and using library resources.
Data Collection: Administer pre and post outcome-based surveys to determine both efficacy and areas of improvement. Staff collected 41 program surveys from community members. Statistics and comments provide relevant information on both efficacy and areas for improvement. Due to the short time range that staff was able to assist participants, a pre and post survey was not realistic.
Continuously keep dialogue open with partners and implement a formal assessment at the end of the year. Staff created a database of community partners to share across the library system. Staff communicated with partners regularly to schedule community events and learn more about how to efficiently participate in these events. Though staff communicated regularly with partners, a formal meeting or working group was not established. Since most events presented SonomaFi connect generally – lessons plans were not created specifically for each agency – a formal assessment was not conducted.
Tangible Items: Create curricula specifically tailored to information insecurity and from device management to finding employment virtually. 78 different lessons plans were created for 78 different events to plan, determine need and application and assess the success of each event. Though lessons discussed information insecurity and device management, few if any were dedicated to finding employment virtually.
Create a report for our end of year Library Commission presentation. A PowerPoint report is in progress and will be displayed as a part of our Library Toolkit website. A PowerPoint report for our Library Commission meeting will be created for presentation at our March 2024 meeting.
Create a toolkit out of our documents in order that our project may be replicated elsewhere. We have created a website toolkit of our documents to assist other libraries in replicating this project. It will offer examples of events, lesson plans, statistics, best practices, lessons learned, and a photo gallery of marketing materials used, and event images.  

Lessons Learned

We learned a variety of lessons regarding how to implement and utilize the SonomaFi Connect kits. In the wake of the pandemic and economic challenges, we had to be creative and find organizations that allowed us to participate in their events. Additionally, we were often short-staffed, which decreased the number of outreach events we could facilitate.

Though some of the organizations we worked with already had WiFi, often the SonomaFi Connect kit had a stronger signal, could be used as backup in an area with high demand, or as secondary WiFi.

We found the kits useful for in-library use when there was a power outage or other situation where our house-WiFi was not available. We learned that even in California, there were much fewer community events taking place outdoors in the winter months. Most of our outreach took place outdoors in the spring/summer/early fall months. The device is best used in an area the size of a quarter city block or smaller. It is most useful when participants are not moving quickly through an area such as down a street or in and out of a door/building/structure. The slower participants are moving and the longer the duration they stop at the table/tent/space, the more effective the WiFi will be.

Next Steps

  • Now that the performance period has passed, the library intends to lend the kits to partner agencies to enhance community efforts. The kits will be checked out by community partners on a contract basis.
  • We will present the results of this project at the March Library Commission meeting to inform staff, administrators, and commissioners of the results of the project.
  • We plan to share our SonomaFi Connect Toolkit (below) as widely and as regularly as possible so that other libraries and organizations can learn how to implement the device and learn from our experiment.


Sonoma County Library Events
with SonomaFi Connect

SonomiFi Connect Toolbox

Helpful resources for your event.

Event Photos




Farmers Market Rincon Valley


Brookdale BiblioBus


Cafe Roseland

Concert on the Green


Juneteen 2022


Back to School - Rohnert Park


Friday Night Farmers Market


Juneteen Central


Rivertown Revival - Petaluma


National Night Out - Rohnert Park


Oakmont Gardens


Rivertown Revival - Petaluma


Santa Rosa Senior Center


Santa Rosa Senior Center


Sebastopol Farmers Market