How the time of day patrons use WiFi is changing

Free WiFi at public libraries is an often used resource for many patrons.  The pandemic is causing changes in how libraries operate and how patrons use library resources.  This post covers how the pandemic has caused changes in the times of day that Free WiFi at public libraries is utilized.  We show the WiFi usage times from before the pandemic in March of 2020.  We then further show how the times have changed throughout the year 2020.

The Data

WhoFi is a leading provider of Wireless Session Counts and other WiFi statistics for public libraries and community spaces.  The data shown represents WhoFi’s public library partners across 23 states.  Always on equipment like wireless routers, printers, and other always on devices were excluded from these statistics.  The samples were taken from specific weeks Sunday through Saturday during the course of 2020.

What Changed

Before Covid, the hours of noon to 6pm were over 50% of the total WiFi usage for the day.  Early evening and evening hours made up about 25-30% of the remaining WiFi usage.  Morning hours before noon represented only about 20-25% of the WiFi usage.  However, since the pandemic began and continuing until now, there is an increase in early morning hours WiFi usage.  There is also a decrease in later hours WiFi usage.  

Immediately following the March declaration of the pandemic, the noon to 6 pm hours dropped from 52% to only 42% of the total WiFi usage.  While the midnight to noon hours increased 10% and the 6 pm to midnight hours stayed flat.

By December, 9 months into the pandemic, the noon to 6pm time frame is back to being used roughly 50% of the time.  But the 6pm to midnight time frame now represents 20% of the usage, while the midnight to noon time frame represents 30% of the usage.  There was an immediate and also now persistent shift away from evening usage and into more morning WiFi usage for patrons at public libraries.

It’s important to note that during the April time period, total WiFi usage had dropped to almost 40% of their March numbers at public libraries.  By December, total WiFi usage at public libraries had recovered to roughly 70% of it’s previous usage.  However, this change in patterns remains. 

What is causing this

Seeing this change isn’t overly surprising.  Although each library system is different, libraries across the country have adapted to the pandemic in a variety of ways.  Many libraries have had their doors closed.  However, they have also increased their resources outside of the building.  For example they have increased WiFi speed and availability into parking lots as well as offering curbside checkout and pickups.

We don’t know exactly what is causing this shift in patron behavior.  Some stories are that due to e-learning, students and parents are utilizing library WiFi in the morning now.  This would include early morning book and activities pickups for remote learners and young children.  Some other possibilities are that with increases in unemployment, adults searching for jobs or filling out unemployment claims online are also morning WiFi users.  Further possibilities are that evening library usage often included night classes or social gatherings for students and patrons with day jobs.  Many of these patrons have WiFi at home.  As the night classes became virtual they no longer came into the building.  So they are no longer represented in the data.  Although it’s difficult to know for certain what has caused this shift, it is notable that this shift has occurred.


There has been an immediate and persistent shift in what times patrons utilize the WiFi at public libraries.  The immediate shift was towards heavier after hours usage in general.  The longer term shift is towards morning and early morning hours.  We’ll continue to report on this and see this trend continues as libraries fully reopen in 2021 and beyond.