BPL to partially re-open computer room at central library, boost WiFi at some branches

The Boston Public Library announced yesterday it's partially re-opening the computer room at the Copley Square

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The Boston Public Library announced yesterday it's partially re-opening the computer room at the Copley Square central library, where people can now sign up for two-hour slots to use socially-distanced computers.

Slots to use one of ten computers in the room will be available Mondays through Thursdays , between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Patrons will have their temperatures checked on arrival, will be escorted to the computer room and will be required to wear a mask at all times. Reservations can be made at online or by phone at 617-536-5400.

Separately, BPL announced outdoor WiFi at nine branches: Mattapan, Codman Square, Parker Hill, Hyde Park, Grove Hall, Egleston Square, East Boston, Honan-Allston and South End.

These locations were chosen according to data reflecting at-home broadband adoption, household income, and availability of nearby outdoor seating. Outdoor areas such as parks and parking lots near the BPL locations will be ready for public use starting today. To access the Internet, users will need to bring their own device, such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and must maintain physical distancing. There is currently no time limit to an individual's Internet use and access will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Boston Public Library (BPL) today announced two new initiatives designed to help bridge the digital equity gap in the City of Boston. The Public Computer Access program will allow residents to sign up for a two-hour appointment to use library computers in a socially distanced space within the Central Library in Copley Square. The Outdoor Wi-Fi Program provides 24-hour outdoor internet access at nine BPL branch locations across the city, allowing users to socially distance while accessing the Internet for free.

"Boston's libraries play a vital role in our communities by providing digital access to all. We're increasing the availability of these critical resources through our Public Computer Access program at the Central Library and Outdoor Wi-Fi programs at BPL branches across Boston," said Mayor Walsh. "Digital access at the BPL helps Boston residents find jobs, attend classes, download e-books, or just check email and read the news. By providing computer and Wi-Fi access, we will provide a digital lifeline to many Bostonians, helping our libraries fulfill their mission to provide educational and cultural resources, free to all."

The Public Computer Access and Outdoor Wi-Fi programs will provide residents with reliable computer and Internet access for the foreseeable future, helping residents cope with the coronavirus pandemic and contributing to the City's ongoing efforts to expand digital equity.

Teen and adult patrons can begin booking Public Computer Access appointments at the Central Library in Copley Square on the BPL website at apps.bpl.org/computers or by phone at (617) 536-5400. Appointments are available Monday - Thursday during one of the following slots: 10am - 12pm, 1 - 3pm, or 4 - 6pm. Six computers are available for advance registration and four computers will be reserved for walk-in. Total space is limited to 10 people and patrons are limited to one reservation per day. To accommodate the program, the BPL To Go hours at the Central Library will expand to 10am - 6pm Monday - Thursday. It will also be open 10am - 4pm Friday & Saturday for regular BPL To Go service.

Upon arrival at the Central Library, patrons can enter using the McKim Building entrance where security will take visitors' temperatures using a touchless thermometer, and staff will show them to their computer. The Public Computer Access program will be the first initiative since the start of COVID-19 that allows patrons to use facilities inside the library building. To ensure visitor and staff safety, patrons are required to maintain physical distance and wear masks at all times, and the computer room will be fully sanitized between each two-hour appointment slot.

In a statement, BPL President David Leonard said:

Today's public libraries are critical resources for closing the digital equity gap, and are more important than ever as we respond to and recover from the impacts of COVID-19. Closing this gap requires access to devices, connectivity, and skills. Public computer access and extended outdoor Wi-Fi at branches are more ways to increase public access and remove barriers to opportunity. Inside or out, our buildings are there for the local community.


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