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Free Library Hot Spots

Free Library of Philadelphia
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Innovation Summary

Free Library Hot Spots are computer labs located in trusted community centers throughout Philadelphia. Each Hot Spot is equipped with internet access, computers, software, a skilled trainer, and some library materials.

Innovation Leader: Siobhan Reardon, President and Director, reardons@freelibrary.org

Problem Statement

Forty one percent of Philadelphians lack internet accessibility and more than half of the city’s working-age residents lack the skills to fill out a job application online. Despite the Free Library’s 54 locations and free Wi-Fi, internet, and computer access, residents from some of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods were resistant to coming into a Library location to log onto a computer and get the skills training they needed to connect with the world around them, particularly as it relates to job and career searches.

Innovation

Determined to combat this problem, a team at the Free Library decided to pilot a project in the Spring of 2011 to put computer labs—equipped with trainers and all necessary equipment—into the hearts of these underserved communities in trusted community centers that already had equity with neighborhood residents. The labs were designed to provide basic, entry level, one-on-one training to residents through skilled teachers, ensuring that visitors got the attention they needed and deserved, and were not left to figure out technology or the internet on their own.

Progress

To date, the Free Library’s six neighborhood Hot Spots have welcomed more than 20,000 visits and have connected more than 60 Philadelphians with new jobs! With the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, the program has been an incredible success and on April 12 the Free Library launched The Techmobile, its first “Hot Spot on Wheels” designed to travel even further into underserved neighborhoods of Philadelphia. In addition, the Free Library also recently launched a dedicated Hot Spot Wiki, an easy-to-use website full of tips and tools for visitors to our Hot Spots.