Expanded Access to Technology: Courtyard Upgrade
Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library, Ohio
To expand access to technology at our West End Branch (4,549 square feet) that supported needed pandemic safety protocols, the branch's long unused outdoor courtyard was reactivated as a safe space to access Wi-Fi and computers. Laptops were secured by our chief development officer with a grant from a community partner, the FC Cincinnati Foundation.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the West End Branch’s limited space, capacity and duration limits were put in place upon reopening. This branch serves one of the poorest neighborhoods in the community, where many residents rely on the library for internet and computer access. To ensure physical distancing, most of the computers were removed. Only six customers could enter the branch at a time, and they could only stay for one hour. This caused long wait times, which was very detrimental to this high-needs community.
The courtyard was in disrepair, but it presented an opportunity to make a positive difference in this low-income community by activating outdoor community space. With the changes, it now offers a public, outside space that's rare in many urban communities and maximizes our small branch. Facilities staff replaced the concrete and installed new furniture. With a private donation, we purchased laptops to expand computer access. We installed an eight-unit laptop cart for checkout.
Based on data from our computer reservation software, the branch has had a 42.42% increase in computer sessions and a 43.46% increase of daily in-person visits since activating the courtyard. Many of our young customers specifically request to use the outside space because they can be a little louder, and mask requirements aren't as strict. The courtyard also allows families to have their own space together.