Joey’s Notepad: Westdale and Barton Most Popular Library Branches for Outdoors WiFi Use during COVID Shutdown

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Hamilton Public Library WiFi usage in April, May, and June of 2020

Joey’s Notepad is where I post short notes in a microblog format.


As our lives went online due to COVID this spring, Hamilton’s libraries were closed but kept their WiFi active for people to use outside of the building at a time when residential internet service providers were unable to keep up with demand, and many found themselves in need of high speed connectivity.

Prior to COVID, many in lower-income neighbourhoods relied upon the library for internet access. With COVID, there is much concern about access to online learning in these neighbourhoods. With library branches reopen, the Hamilton Public Library is prioritizing expanded hours in these neighbourhoods.

The HPL released WiFi usage statistics for April, May, and June. The data is quite interesting.

The Barton library branch, the branch with the largest socio-economic need by location, saw the largest use of WiFi during the COVID closure.

Following closely behind in second is the Westdale branch – an affluent area of Hamilton with a large post-secondary student population of McMaster students. With the move to online lectures, and most student houses filled with four to eight students (some even more) sharing a not great internet connection, it is not surprising the library’s wifi hotspot was a popular destination.

East Hamilton’s Red Hill branch follows closely behind Westdale. The Ancaster branch wifi was well used as well, fourth for usage.

This indicates many people driving to the parking lots of library branches to access reliable high speed internet.

The Central Library branch was only the fifth most popular branch for WiFi usage. In part, this can be attributed to the limited space outside the library which the WiFi reaches, and the unfriendly urban environment. To use the Wifi required leaning against the building, or sitting on the sidewalk. There are no benches available to sit.

By comparison, in Westdale there are benches outside the library and people could sit on the closed Tim Horton’s patio next door. Similarly, the Ancaster branch is surrounded by a green space and comfortable outdoor spaces to work.

[Note: this is by hours of usage, the Hamilton Central library branch had the highest number of connections, however, connections includes when someone’s mobile device connects to the network while walking by for example. Whereas hours of usage correlates to actual wifi usage]

The rural Lynden branch stands out, at sixth busiest, for it high WiFi usage. If we were to measure based upon the population of a branch’s catchment area, it easily be the busiest.

These statistics are useful for the Hamilton Public Library to plan for 2022.

Should there be outdoor patios at library branches?

The HPL is planning a patio for the new Greensville branch. Migrant farmer workers rely upon the Greensville branch for WiFi access to remain connected to their families at home, much of this use occurs outside of branch hours.

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First published: September 19, 2020
Last edited: September 19, 2020
Author: Joey Coleman

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