BPL Outdoor Spaces
We’re expanding the critical role of Boston Public Library (BPL) branches as community resource hubs.
Boston Public Libraries (BPL) Outdoor Spaces provide free, outdoor Wi-Fi 24 hours a day at 14 locations. These areas further our investment in digital equity, community, and climate resilience. We want to make it easier to use and enjoy BPL’s free resources and provide consistent access to community spaces that are safe and welcoming year-round.
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WHAT WE DID
In 2020, BPL partnered with the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics to install permanent 24-hour Internet access points outside of fourteen branches in response to COVID-19. The pandemic highlighted how many Boston residents rely on libraries for Internet access, technical support, and a range of services and amenities to support learning, wellness and social connection.
To further support access to these critical resources in 2021, the BPL piloted “Outdoor Wi-Fi Pop-ups.” As 24/7 outdoor workspaces with lighting, shade, and access to the Internet and essential services, the pop-ups provided a setting for the return of in-person community events such as book groups, neighborhood discussions, and quilting circles. The pilot included East Boston, Egleston Square, Codman Square, Brighton, Mattapan, and Grove Hall branches, which were all equipped with misting and cooling features to help residents stay cool during heat waves. These features further acknowledged the role libraries play in supporting community resilience, especially in the context of a changing climate.
In November 2021, the BPL Outdoor Wi-Fi Pop-ups received an AARP Community Challenge Grant to extend the program through spring 2022 and provide additional age-friendly winter workstations at the Roxbury and Hyde Park branches.
In 2022, with support from BPL Fund and a collaboration with Youth Build Boston, the pop-ups were transitioned to permanent, multi-seasonal fixtures at nine branches.
The BPL’s Outdoor Spaces support City’s ongoing efforts to expand digital equity and community resilience. We seek to create spaces that assert and expand the role of libraries in civic life. We seek to create spaces that celebrate the diverse communities that surround each branch. Most of all, we seek further the BPL’s commitment to providing consistently safe and welcoming environments to residents regardless of age, race, economic background, status, and or ability.
A special emphasis in the design of the BPL’s permanent outdoor spaces was placed on serving librarians and residents who rely on the library to get online or access critical services. The newly-built spaces focus on engaging the leadership and expertise of individual branches, amplifying existing creativity and including librarians and local community members in the site designs and furnishings.
why we did this
The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanic's work with the BPL on Outdoor Spaced is related to several broader City goals:
In Boston and across the United States, many families lack reliable Internet access. This creates a digital divide that reinforces inequality. According to a recent Pew Study, more than 40 percent of low-income Americans making less than $30,000 lack access to broadband Internet. Outdoor Wi-Fi at Boston Public Libraries will help fill this critical gap more reliably for residents across the City.
There were 22 days over 90 degrees in 2015. By 2030, we could see up to 40 days over 90 degrees. Building more shaded public areas ensures people can stay safe and cool on hotter days. We're exploring how to use public spaces to improve heat resilience and protect communities from the impacts of climate change.building a family-friendly city
In addition to supporting the needs of residents who learn and work remotely, the BPL recognizes that its spaces function as essential community resource hubs. They provide access to a range of services and amenities to support learning, wellness, and social connections. Post-pandemic, creating joyful shared public spaces to gather and rebuild is more important than ever.
Visit a bpl outdoor space
Hours and resources
Select a Wi-Fi pop-up location for information on library hours, facilities, and resources:
Borrow a BPL device
Boston Public Libraries play a critical role in bridging the digital equity divide. In addition to outdoor Wi-Fi access, Bostonians can borrow devices and hotspots to use the internet at home.
Borrow a Hotspot
Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots are available for free at any BPL location. Users can borrow them for up to 21 days. Hotspots come with unlimited data and work anywhere in the United States. Learn more about Borrowing a Hotspot.
Borrow a Chromebook
In addition to public computers, every library branch except BPL Central has laptops available to use for up to two hours at the library. All BPL locations have free Wi-Fi inside the library. Learn more about laptop rentals.
To get work done at home, you can borrow a Connectivity Kit. The kit includes both a Chromebook laptop and a Wi-Fi hotspot! Kits contain everything you need to connect to the internet, including a laptop case, mouse, and all charging cables. Learn more about borrowing a Connectivity Kit.