How Do Communities Stay Connected When COVID Forces Us Apart?

Public spaces bring people together. Both urban and rural communities share a commonality–the collective use of shared spaces available to all members of the community. Public spaces like community centers, parks, and libraries are staple gathering places in every community. Other communal spaces like co-working co-ops and coffee shops bring people together, too. 

When the coronavirus began to sweep across the country, once-bustling spaces became vacant. An eerie depiction of the effects the virus was having on our communities. State-wide shut-down orders were in place. Schools closed and moved to an online learning model. Many workers quickly adapted to remote work. Businesses closed or did curbside pick-up only. Families hunkered down trying to navigate the new reality that was quickly thrust upon us. 

Social distancing is hard when humans are wired for connection. 

Studies have proven that social connection is a pillar to our health. There is significant evidence that social support and feeling connected have many psychological and physical benefits such as:

  • Decreased depressive symptoms
  • Mitigated PTSD symptoms
  • Improved overall mental health
  • Healthy body mass index
  • Healthy blood sugar levels
  • Improved cancer survival rates
  • Decreased cardiovascular mortality

Social isolation has a negative effect on health and can increase depressive symptoms as well as mortality.

Community spaces provide the opportunity for social connections.

Social connections can help us reduce stress, which can keep us healthier. Our libraries, parks and other gathering places do so much to enrich our lives and even improve our health. We need them now, as much as ever. A recent study reports that Americans (and likely people everywhere) are experiencing a significant and sustained increase in depression and anxiety symptoms related to COVID. 

How can community spaces continue to bring people together and provide value in the new COVID world?

Businesses, community spaces, and libraries alike are thinking of ways to adapt to the new normal. How can we stay connected to our customers, patrons, and community, while also practicing safe social distancing? 

There’s no playbook for navigating a pandemic in the modern world. We’re just trying to make our way into the unknown as best we can. The internet gives us the ability to stay connected even when we can’t be physically together. When libraries and other public spaces provide free WiFi, it’s a lifeline for many members of the community.

Bringing people together–online and outside.

Online and outdoor activities (with social distancing measures in place) are a safe way to stay connected. As we enter into the next phase and recognize our need for social connection and support, there are some safe ways we can come together.

Businesses are getting creative with their operations so they can continue to serve customers. Many implemented online ordering and curbside pick-up to ensure a safe experience for employees and customers. As some places begin to reopen, they still offer online ordering and curbside pick-up which helps them get business while reducing the number of people in the physical store. 

Coffee shops add outside seating, appropriately spaced for social distancing, and offer online ordering and curbside pick-up. Coworking spaces are requiring social distancing while ensuring proper sterilization between shifts. 

Outdoor parks have been a go-to activity since they provide an outdoor space that allows for safe social distancing. Outside spaces are great for relaxation, exercise, picnics, and even movies. 

Community centers can offer classes outdoors to maintain safe social distancing. Gardening, crafting, or take-home craft pick-up would be a great idea. 

Public libraries provide immense value to the community through education, resources, programs, and advocacy. They were quick to adapt their services to meet safety precautions–offering online library card registration, curbside pick-up for books, crafts and STEM projects, free ‘drive-in’ WiFi, online storytimes and curbside pick-up for other essential services (unemployment forms, PPE, food, diapers, etc).

Businesses and community spaces recognize the need to stay connected to their customers and patrons. It’s beneficial for the business and for the individual. If you’d like to learn more about how WiFi analytics can help you better understand your customers or patrons, book a demo with our team or contact us to chat. 


The New Normal of Remote Work

Everyone has probably heard the phrase ‘the new normal’ since the COVID-19 outbreak. Every aspect of our lives has changed. At the front and center of this new normal is remote work. We’ve kept businesses running by creatively serving customers and clients while ensuring people are safe while working. From the breakdown of old structures emerges a new way of navigating life–a new normal. 

A seismic shift in work and home life

Our work and home life quickly became intertwined. Many people started working from home for the first time, and rather abruptly, to ensure social distancing measures are followed. Schools and child care facilities closed and classrooms moved online. This means working parents were doing double duty to fulfill their job and homeschool and care for their kids. 

The pandemic has created new stressors for all of us. But many workers report feeling reduced stress for work-related things associated with going to an office. Typical workday routines like getting ready and out the door (add even more stress if you have to worry about getting kids ready and out the door, too) and a commute have been eliminated by working at home. This means we can spend less time getting ready for the office and have more time for ourselves. What could you do with an extra 5-10 hours a week? 

On the other hand, there are challenges with working at home, especially if there are kids in the house all the time. But people are making it work by being flexible and adjusting expectations. That has to happen in this new normal. The workday and workflow won’t look like it did at the office because we’re not at the office. Leaders and teams are getting used to this and finding that staying connected virtually is also important. 

Rumblings were occurring before the pandemic

Even before the pandemic, remote work was on the rise, with more than one-third of the U.S population doing remote work. In the absence of the office culture, workers have started to migrate to remote working spaces to combat loneliness and create connections. In the middle of a pandemic, though, this isn’t an option. Workers simultaneously crave office culture while enjoying the benefits of remote work. As states ease shelter-in-place restrictions, and office workers ease back into the office, everyone is considering how to navigate this new normal.

How can public libraries help remote workers?

Public libraries have a lot to offer to the remote work community. Freelancers, contractors, or small offices that don’t have a physical office and would like to meet in person occasionally, could all benefit from frequenting the library. The library provides private workrooms for individuals and groups to use. The system is similar to checking out a book, simply reserve the room or show up and request one once it’s available. And there are plenty of desks and chairs scattered around the library for patrons to use for remote work. Stopping by your favorite coffee shop in the morning before heading to the library to work sounds like a nice change of pace for remote workers. Sometimes a change of scenery or just being around other like-minded people can inspire creativity and boost productivity.

As libraries begin to navigate the next phase of COVID-19, they could consider this opportunity to serve the community. With proper social distancing and disinfecting practices in place, remote work at the public library would further solidify the community’s need for libraries. 

Usings WiFi insights provided by our Library Edition would help libraries prove the effectiveness of remote work initiatives.  If you’re curious to learn more about how this works, schedule a demo with our team. 


Navigating The Next Phase of COVID-19 Library Service

It’s now officially summer, and we’re approaching nearly three months since statewide shutdowns were in place. The impact on daily life certainly has been jarring. For many families and individuals, the public library is a mainstay in our lives. Visiting our local library was part of a regular routine. While nothing can replace the real-world library experience, libraries have done an excellent job adapting to continue to serve communities. Creative ideas keep communities connected–like offering “drive-in WiFi”, expanding digital access, moving adult and children’s programming to an online format, and offering all kinds of digital resources. Now, libraries begin to navigate into the next phase of COVID-19 library services. 

As some states ease the shelter-in-place restrictions and businesses re-open (with social distancing guidelines in place) what does this mean for libraries and the communities they serve?  

The library is a summertime staple for many families who come for the children’s programming, storytime, kid’s events, or just a safe place to play on a hot day. And, public libraries are an important support system for individuals experiencing unemployment or homelessness, which has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 outbreak. Free WiFi and access to computers and other services help patrons apply for benefits and seek employment. 

There are certainly many things for libraries to consider when re-opening and navigate the next phase of COVID-19 library services. This will look different for every library depending on the severity of the virus’s local impact on that location and specifics about each library and community. The library’s role in the community is just as important, arguably more, as it was pre-pandemic. But the way in which it functions within this new environment will change. We hope that insight gained from WiFi analytics can guide the direction.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Public Library WiFi 

The WhoFi team released a series of blogs outlining the effects of COVID-19 on public library WiFi use. We analyzed data from our library partners to understand the effects and to determine how, or if, the spread of COVID-19 affected public library WiFi usage and patron behavior. We found that patron use of library WiFi did decline, but this is expected when a building closes. The interesting thing is that WiFi analytics is showing the continued use of library public WiFi despite the closure. This is in part due to the library’s efforts to continue and expand services. It also highlights the library’s essential role within the community and the value of extended COVID-19 library services. Libraries can use data to assess patron behavior amid COVID-19 and determine how to best help them and advocate for themselves.

Here are the highlights of what we learned: 

  • There was a correlation between key events related to COVID-19 and decreased WiFi use which provides an interesting insight into patrons’ behavior. 
  • Patron WiFi use did decrease, but only by 67% at the end of March.
  • Even after the ALA officially recommended closing libraries to the public, patrons were accessing the WiFi which both illustrates the value of this service and the community need.
  • Our data shows that library WiFi use in both urban and rural populations showed a decrease, but urban areas had a much greater drop, perhaps reinforcing the reality of the digital divide. 
  • The data shows continued use of the library WiFi which validates the importance of this service.

Libraries can use WiFi insights to learn how patrons are feeling as we move into the next phase of COVID-19 library services.

These insights can provide answers to questions like: Are patrons continuing to use drive-in WiFi and at what rates? How does patron visit time compare to pre-pandemic visit times? Are there new users and how many? Are returning visitors coming back at the same rate as before?  Are we continuing to meet the WiFi needs of our community? After a few months of insight gathering, what is our new normal benchmark? These are just some of the questions that can be answered by using WiFi insights. 

One thing remains true, the community needs its library, and the library needs its community. 

Libraries can use WiFi insights to make data-influenced decisions. They can guide protocol on how to best serve the community as we enter into summer and whatever lies ahead. We don’t know when things will be back to pre-COVID life. But one thing is for sure, our libraries will continue to adapt to the ever-changing reality and provide a sense of certainty and security in an uncertain world.


Urban and Rural Comparison Analysis: Effects of COVID-19 on Public Library WiFi Use

As we set out to gather data on the library WiFi usage numbers amid the COVID-19 health crisis, we analyzed the effects of COVID-19 on public library WiFi use in urban and rural areas. We wanted to know the effects of COVID-19 on public library WiFi use by population size. For this comparison, we consolidated data from our library partners to identify trends in service areas based on population size. We want to know if library WiFi usage changed by population size and if so by how much. Did changes mirror the national data and timeline? The purpose of urban vs. rural comparison is to see if population size made a difference in WiFi usage. 

Our data shows that library WiFi use in both urban and rural populations showed a decrease, but urban areas had a much greater drop. 

US Public Library WiFi Visitors Weekly Change by Population
Population Range Week of March 22nd-28th Week of March 29th-Apr 4th
1 - 2,500 -49.00% -46.65%
2,501 - 7,500 -60.38% -62.20%
7,501 - 15,000 -69.25% -67.92%
15,001 - 100,000 -71.46% -71.78%
100,001 - 1,000,000 -81.87% -81.81%
National Average -67.02% -66.66%

 

Rural areas did show a decrease in WiFi use, however, the decrease wasn’t as dramatic as in urban areas. The percentage of decrease correlates with the population size. The chart above shows that the larger the population, the greater the decrease in WiFi use. 

Library Service Area Size and Patron WiFi Needs

It is difficult to determine exactly why the data shows a difference in the effects of COVID-19 on public library wifi use by population size. From conversations, we’ve heard that a variety of social, cultural, and economic factors contribute to these numbers. Variables such as transportation, other means of accessing the internet, climate, and when local governments declared shelter-in-place orders influence these numbers. Another variable could be when and if libraries moved routers closer to windows to make drive-in WiFi access easier. Librarians in respective service areas can use this data. These numbers combined with local knowledge can shine a light on the community needs which can influence advocacy and funding. For more information about our data related to COVID-19 and WiFi use, check out our previous blogs. 

 


Timeline: Effects of COVID-19 on Public Library WiFi Use

We analyzed data from our library partners to understand the effects of COVID-19 on public library WiFi use. We intended to determine how, or if, the spread of COVID-19 affected public library WiFi usage and patron behavior. And if it did, how, when, and why did patron behavior change. This analysis includes all population sizes and service areas of our library partners. 

Our data shows that between the first week and last week of March, visitor usage dropped significantly, then leveled. It’s interesting to note that there has not been a rapid and steady decrease like this in the history of our reporting.

The data is from library locations that kept WiFi on even after closing the building to the public. We did not include data from libraries that didn't continue WiFi service while closed.

The purpose of the national data analysis is to identify national trends and responses to the spread of COVID-19 and determine if particular events correlated with data changes. We used the timeline of events from NBC news to correlate our data findings with international news related to the virus. 

Breakdown of the Daily Changes in National WiFi Use 

As you can see from the graph above, the data shows that the outbreak of COVID-19 did affect public library WiFi use. Even though 98% percent of libraries were closed by the end of March, and 81% left WiFi on. The fact that WiFi use did continue in some capacity seems to be a result of this library action. By March 28, the national library WiFi use declined by an average of 67%.

When libraries close we expect a decrease in WiFi use. But there were interesting findings in the timing of these changes. The data shows that between the first week in March and last week in March, patron WiFi usage dropped significantly, but there was still some activity. The graph below shows the biggest drop was after the week of March 8-14. When we dig even deeper, we can see changes on specific days that seem to correlate with national events. See the graph below for a detailed breakdown of the daily changes and the rapid decline of WiFi use. 

 WiFi Usage Correlates With Key Events

Were there key events that could have made a difference in patron behavior and WiFi use? Based on our data and national timeline of events, it seems so. The graph above shows a sharp decline in WiFi use beginning March 11 with the sharpest declines occurring on March 13th, 14th, and 15th. March 11th was the day the NBA suspended its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for coronavirus, and also the day that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive. March 12th was the day that MLB, NHL, and NCAA basketball announced suspension or pause of their events. Then, on March 13th, President Trump declared a national state of emergency. At this point, many local governments issued shelter-in-place orders, effectively closing many library locations. 

As always, correlation does not equal causation. It's unclear if these national events were the cause, a tipping point, or a random occurrence that correlated with the data. In either case, it is clear that a trend change to a “new normal” occurred between the days of March 11th and March 15th. 

Official ALA Recommendations  

On March 17, The ALA officially recommends closing libraries to the public. Then on March 23, the ALA officially recommends libraries leave WiFi on. Again, whether these recommendations caused a decrease in WiFi usage or were in response to the drop is unclear.  

Timeline of Events

The data shows these major events correlated with a change in patron WiFi use.

  • March 11 The World Health Organization declared that the coronavirus outbreak “can be characterized as a pandemic,” which is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity.
  • March 11 The NBA suspended all basketball games after a player for the Utah Jazz preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19.
  • March 13 President Trump declares a national state of emergency.
  • March 15 Twenty-nine additional states announce school closures.

Interestingly, prior national events related to the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t correlate with a decrease in library WiFi use.

  • January 22 The first travel-related confirmed COVID-19 case was documented.
  • February 24 The U.S. stock market crashed over coronavirus fears after the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced the worst day in two years.
  • February 26 The first case of suspected local transmission was recorded.

Even after the ALA officially recommended closing libraries to the public, patrons were accessing the WiFi. Though, some variables affect the numbers such as how quickly libraries closed after this official recommendation or if they closed at all. There were also differences when comparing data from rural and urban libraries, which we’ll do later in the next report. 

Data highlights the importance of public libraries in communities.

Libraries have adapted and expanded services to meet community needs. Many libraries created ‘drive-in WiFi’ hotspots to meet the needs of the community.  This could be why the WiFi usage numbers have remained relatively steady after the decline from March 11 through the 15th. Tracking this could prove to be beneficial in future library advocacy efforts. In our next blog, we'll compare the data for urban and rural service populations. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. According to data from the PLA Survey and Response to COVID-19.


Effects of COVID-19 on Public Library WiFi Use

Public libraries adapt to the needs of their local communities. This has proven to be true in the COVID-19 pandemic. We analyzed data from our library partners to understand the effects of COVID-19 on public library WiFi use. While 98% of public libraries closed their doors to the public by the end of March, libraries quickly adapted to continue service. These changes came in many forms, one of which is the continuation of free WiFi service. This report takes a detailed look at WiFi usage during March as libraries closed and patron behavior changed.  

98% of public libraries close to the public. 81% keep their WiFi available to the public. 

WhoFi is a service provider for a technology called WiFi analytics, which is how we gathered the data presented in this report. WiFi Analytics shows big picture trends in WiFi usage such as changes in the number of users, busy times of day, and new vs. return rates. This service provides insights to guide data influenced decisions for things like strategic planning, day to day operations, advocacy communications, and programming enhancements while maintaining patron privacy.  The data shows our library partner’s things they wouldn’t have realized otherwise. 

WiFi analytics is showing the continued use of library public WiFi despite the closure.

The PLA survey report shows that 98% of libraries are closed to the public. However, the WiFi data that we’re seeing shows a national decrease in WiFi usage of only 67%. We’ve been reading stories and hearing from our library partners about patrons outside of the library while they’re closed to use the WiFi. There is now data that supports that this trend is occurring.  

A library closure could be devastating for the individuals and communities that rely on them for all kinds of services. As we well know, libraries do more than check out paper books. Instead of adopting a closed-door, closed services mentality, libraries are quickly adapting. In-person services are created for an online platform, library cards are being issued online, digital learning and check-out programs are being expanded, and free WiFi services continue and grow even more robust. In typical library fashion, they rise to meet the needs of the community they serve quickly, efficiently, and compassionately. 

Since mid-March, we’ve heard mutterings and seen stories of libraries adopting the above practices, specifically extending WiFi services. More than simply leaving the WiFi on, libraries are making it easier to access and creating ‘drive-in WiFi’ hotspots to help patrons. If there’s ever a time we need internet access, it’s now. Schools are adopting online learning platforms, many jobs are being done remotely, grocery shopping is done online, and millions of Americans are newly unemployed and need to be able to apply for benefits, find work and seek care. These are all difficult tasks without the internet, perhaps even unsafe in these current conditions. 

Libraries can use data to assess patron behavior amid COVID-19 and determine how to best help them. 

Our mission is to help community organizations grow by providing accurate insights so they can better serve their community.  We consolidated data from our library partners across the U.S. to gain a better understanding of the national response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The following blog posts will outline trends in patron behavior in response to the pandemic and other important factors. If you have questions about your library, please contact our customer support team, and if you'd like to learn more about implementing WiFi analytics at your library, schedule a demo with our team. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. According to data from the PLA Survey and Response to COVID-19.

2. According to WhoFi data on file for 25 library partners across the U.S.


Library Parking Lots Become WiFi Hotspots In Response To COVID-19 Closures

Drive up, pick a spot and open your laptop. Drive-in WiFi is an emerging trend in response to public spaces closing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s a scene reminiscent of drive-in movies, except people are using WiFi from inside their car, instead of enjoying a film while comfortably seated on the grass. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 shuttered businesses and public spaces across the world. While we all stay at home to slow the spread, many of us remain comfortably connected to the internet. Yet 19 million Americans lack access to broadband internet, according to FCC reports. Other reports show 33 million Americans lack access. Either way, that’s a staggering amount. Millions of people don’t have reliable internet access at home and depend on the free WiFi service public libraries provide. In addition to free WiFi, libraries have computers for patron use while at the library and many locations have laptop check-out and WiFi hotspot programs for patrons to use at home. So when the buildings close to the public, that can provide complications for this type of service and outreach. 

Doors close but services continue.

Many people rely on the library for services, WiFi included, and closure could be devastating. Schools move to an online learning model, and many jobs are done remotely at home instead of the office. Both of which require a good internet connection. So what are the millions of Americans without access or with limited access left to do? 

Libraries are stepping up to meet the community need.  According to the PLA response to COVID-19 survey, 98% of libraries closed to the public. But closed doors don’t mean service stops. If anything, libraries are working harder to bring services to the community in a safe way. The survey showed that 81% of libraries leave WiFi on even while the building is closed and 12% expanded or added to their WiFi service in response to the pandemic.

To overcome concerns about patrons complying with social distancing regulations while accessing library WiFi, the staff are getting creative, in typical librarian fashion. Many libraries are installing WiFi hotspots that can be accessed from parking lots or nearby courtyards. These drive-in WiFi access points are helping people attend classes, do work or just stay in touch with family they would otherwise be able to see in person. 

In these challenging times, library teams are working hard to continue service to communities. 

Locations are extending the reach of the signal by moving routers closer to the window. They’re transforming parking lots into drive-in wifi hot spots using signs and cones to direct users. School buses are being fitted with WiFi routers and parked at apartment complexes and neighborhoods to help children connect to online learning portals. College academic libraries are transforming parking lots into drive-in WiFi hotspots. Public libraries are leaving WiFi on 24/7. 

Libraries are key community hubs. 

Unemployment claims rose to nearly 17 million in just a few weeks. Public libraries are an important support system for individuals experiencing unemployment. They serve as critical lifelines to people in times of need by providing internet access, loaning technology and providing guidance and help. They are community hubs--offering a myriad of services and support all in one place. In addition to providing free WiFi 24/7, many libraries are extending their laptop loaning programs so people can apply for benefits, a difficult task without access, especially when complying with social distancing rules.

Students need computers to access online classes, and schools and libraries are meeting this need by checking out Chromebooks. Some public libraries already have an electronic check out system in place while others are ramping theirs up. These programs connect patrons to the materials and resources they need to stay afloat during this public health crisis. As we all continue to adjust to this new normal our community libraries will adapt and continue to provide critical resources.


public library bookshelf

WhoFi Library Edition Makes PLS Reporting Easy

The Public Library Survey report is due in the coming months. Your WhoFi Library Edition makes it simple to report accurate WiFi usage data. The accurate data provides accurate insights into your library's community impact. The Library Edition provides a consistent collecting and reporting standard across state public libraries to better understand how patrons are using their locations. This data provides insights to guide decisions for things like strategic planning, day to day operations, advocacy communications, and programming enhancements. Accurate reporting makes a difference in the impact your library can have in your community. We know that public libraries have always been a community pillar, and continue to provide services when the community needs it most. With the data and insights from your WhoFi dashboard, your library can show accurate numbers to showcase your role in community support.

 

“The information available through the reports is great. I’m so glad the state purchased this for us. Now the board can see how the library is benefiting the community. We’re really able to show our worth.” Ashton Public Library, Tim Christianson

Here’s what you need to know about reporting WiFi sessions using the WhoFi Library Edition.

Quick Guide: 

You will find the total WiFi sessions for the year in cell H24 on the December Monthly Trend Summary. This is the number that should be reported on the PLS.

In-depth Guide:

For detailed and visual instructions, click here. 

Happy reporting!


Public Libraries Continue To Serve Communities While Closed to The Public

 

As of March 17, 2020, the ALA executive board recommends closing public libraries to the public. This message comes as many cities enforce closings for public places to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus. This public health crisis further illuminates the digital divide and the need for equal access to information. While our library customers are closing their physical location to protect the health of patrons and the entire community, many are choosing to make WiFi access available 24/7. WhoFi fully supports this and we encourage all of our library partners to establish this as best practice. 

Public libraries are doing great work to promote digital inclusion and can continue to do so by maintaining public WiFi service. Libraries are key partners in empowering members of our community to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

You can communicate to your service population that WiFi will still be available through email and social media. We know many patrons either lack access entirely or have limited access, so create signage to place on windows and doors that provide WiFi access information. Work with local governments to get the message to the community. Patrons can access WiFi while remaining in their car at any time of day while being in compliance with the CDC social distancing recommendations. Continue to run your WhoFi analytics software so your library can gather insights into patron WiFi usage during closings. The data gathered during this time will be beneficial for advocacy efforts in the future. 

Providing internet connection, especially during a public health crisis, is a critical utility. Equal access to information helps our community as a whole, and in today’s digital age we all depend on it. Yet 19 million Americans lack access to broadband internet, according to FCC reports. Other reports show 33 million Americans lack access. A Pew Research study found that internet access and adoption are tied to demographic variables such as age, education level, household income, and community type. Higher education is tied to increased access and use of the internet. People who live in rural areas are less likely to have internet access than their urban counterparts. 

People who use library WiFi as their primary source of internet rely on it for personal and professional reasons including: 

  • Access or apply for benefits
  • Get information from or about local government
  • Do schoolwork or research for school
  • Access social media
  • Get health or medical information
  • Look for or apply for a job
  • Attend an online class, meeting, or webinar
  • Find legal or consumer rights information
  • Stay in touch with friends or family
  • Read or send email
  • Research and buy a product
  • Use online banking services or pay bills
  • Create or post original media
  • Look for answers to computer problems
  • Arrange transportation
  • Research a new skill
  • Learning language (programs or watching videos)

We are committed to serving our public library partners during these uncertain times. We will all be working remotely for the coming weeks, and will still be available by phone or email should you have any questions or needs.

 

Ideas to help patrons use library free WiFi

  • If possible, place the wireless access points closer to the exterior windows to extend the reach of the WiFi signal.
  • Make signs to place in windows from the interior of the library with a message about accessing the WiFi network and password.
  • Make sings to place in windows with social distancing guidelines while accessing WiFi. These can include:
    • Remain in your car while using your device to access WiFi
    • Library staff can use tape or chalk to create 'access stations' where patrons can safely stand outside the library while accessing WiFi. New reports show that COVID-19 can travel more than 15 feet in a closed environment with air-conditioning. The CDC guidelines state persons should maintain a 6-foot distance. Make sure your markings allow enough distance between each access station. Post information about the guidelines and purpose of the access station on windows.

Is your library leaving WiFi on? Share your best practices and ideas with us! Email us at support@whofi.com with the subject line: My library is adapting to COVID-19


How Libraries Help Remote Workers

Your public library offers so much value to your community. Everything from children’s programming, language learning, print, audio and digital books, and that’s just the beginning. And what about considering the public library as a workspace for remote workers? Libraries could serve the remote working community by promoting their space as such. 

A recent report shows that remote work has surged 400% in the last ten years. Work flexibility is becoming an expectation for the Millennial workforce. According to Forbes, more than one-third of workers in the U.S. are part of the gig economy, which includes freelancers and contractors. Some cities are even using financial incentives to attract remote workers to their communities. 

The nature of work is changing. 

Tools like online project management systems, virtual meetings, and cloud-based systems make online team collaboration easy and effective. In the absence of the office culture, workers have started to migrate to remote working spaces to combat loneliness and create connections. Whether part of a team or a freelancer, remote workers are making use of co-working spaces for everyday office use and meeting spaces. 

Libraries have a unique opportunity to provide even more value to the remote working community by promoting their library as a remote working space.

Co-working spaces are cropping up in cities across the U.S. Libraries could promote their space as a value-added benefit that’s already included in citizens’ taxes. And they already have the amenities remote workers are seeking, such as: 

  • Free WiFi
  • A quiet place to work
  • Private meeting rooms for phone or web calls
  • Plenty of space to meet as a group
  • Office amenities like printers, copiers, scanners, and fax machines
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Water fountains
  • Charging outlets

And, a great atmosphere to focus on work. Libraries are available in any city, which opens up options for remote workers who like to travel. You can even bring your favorite coffee to sip on while you work. Public libraries are well-positioned to help the remote workforce. 

Libraries are using WiFi analytics to improve patron experiences and prove the value of public libraries as a co-working space. 

WiFi analytics is an easy-to-use technology that works for a single location or multi-location libraries. Our Library Edition allows you to see large scale trends while maintaining user privacy by encrypting their personal information before it even arrives on our cloud system. Librarians can make data-driven decisions using the insights and reports provided through our software.

Libraries can use this software to look for trends that would indicate patrons are using their space for work, like staying logged on for multiple hours at a time. Seeing these trends on your WiFi analytics dashboard could help you develop services, equipment, or programs geared toward this group. Offering freelancing programs or seminars with business speakers, presentation equipment rental, or more private conference rooms can help make your library a great place to work remotely. 

The rise in remote work certainly offers many benefits and the flexibility the modern workforce expects. In the absence of office culture, co-working spaces are becoming more popular. This workplace trend appears to be a mainstay, and public libraries can promote themselves as an option for remote working spaces. Learn how WiFi analytics help you serve the remote workers in your community. Schedule a demo today.