Library-goers can take advantage of 24-hour access at select branches.

The pandemic has forced many public spaces to close their doors, but Montgomery County just made things more accessible for library-goers. As part of the federal COVID-19 funding received by the state, the county is installing free outdoor Wi-Fi in 10 public libraries.

The 24-hour coverage will be offered at Aspen, Davis (North Bethesda), Gaithersburg, Germantown, Maggie Nightingale (Poolesville), Marilyn Praisner (Burtonsville), Rockville Memorial, Twinbrook, Wheaton, and White Oak branches, which will be accessible in the facilities' parking lots. The amount of access may differ in frequency, depending on the location.

In a statement issued Monday, County Executive Marc Elrich acknowledged the "digital disparity" affecting citizens during the pandemic, particularly the obstacles it creates for completing routine activities, from job-searching to accessing one's bank account.

“The work of MCPL and the Department of Technology Services (DTS) to secure funding to provide Wi-Fi availability for outside use at 11 County facilities is another step in working to ensure that all community members have equitable access to reliable connectivity," he said.

Each branch was selected based on community need, with data utilized from the public library system and U.S. Census. Low-income residents typically rely on public libraries more than their high-income counterparts, and the pandemic has exacerbated this problem. The Pew Research Center found that adults making under $30,000 a year make up 18% of those without internet access, and disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic residents.

“Outdoor public Wi-Fi will provide more places for people without home Wi-Fi to access the Libraries’ early literacy, education, workforce development and health and wellness information and the robust digital programs and services,” said MCPL Director Anita Vassallo.

The county noted that extra coverage may be available at the Davis and Wheaton branches, along with Rockville Town Square. Residents can also obtain Wi-Fi access at the Silver Spring Civic Building at Veteran's Plaza.

How do you feel about these libraries offering outdoor Wi-Fi? Do you rely on the library for any of these resources? Let us know in the comments.