SOMERVILLE – An outdoor Wi-Fi pop-up has landed in front of Somerville’s Central Library to provide free, 24/7 internet access to the public during the pandemic.
While library buildings remain closed, the Somerville Public Library partnered with several local organizations to bring free Wi-Fi to patrons in a COVID-safe environment. CultureHouse, a nonprofit that activates unused public spaces, designed and installed the structure, and volunteers from Mass Mesh expanded the Library’s existing Wi-Fi network. The Somerville Public Library Foundation (SPLF) funded the project.
Constructed in the Library’s front courtyard at 79 Highland Avenue, the pop-up features four socially distanced, open-air workstations, each with high-speed Wi-Fi connection, a small table and chairs, and a canopy umbrella overhead. The structure is also heated and lit with string lanterns. Patrons can use their own devices in the space for now, but the Library will make Chromebooks available in the future.
“The ability to provide free internet access in a safe and inviting space means a great deal,” said Director of Libraries Cathy Piantigini. “Maintaining connections is so critical during this time of social distancing, both digitally and in person. We’ve missed being able to offer both during the pandemic, and we’re thrilled for the opportunity to make these essential services available.”
“The Foundation funds innovations in services and programming at the Somerville Public Libraries,” explained SPLF president Mark Howland. “Together with the Friends and Trustees, the SPLF supports the Library’s leadership role in serving the educational, cultural, and informational needs of Somerville residents.”
The Wi-Fi pop-up is yet another example of the creativity and resilience demonstrated by so many in the community throughout the pandemic. In addition to outdoor internet access, the Library continues to offer contactless book pickup and printing services at all three of its branches.