Public libraries, in particular, are frontline forces in economic recovery. After the Great Recession, Americans increasingly turned to public libraries to access resources, skills training, and job search assistance. Today, libraries have become “second responders” to COVID-19, providing 24-hour free Wi-Fi hotspots, temporary shelter to people without homes, and 3D printers to make masks for health workers.
The value of the New Haven Free Public Library as a community connector and economic inclusivity engine has become even more critical during the pandemic. When the physical library closed on March 16 due to COVID-19, it pivoted to the virtual realm and began providing free Wi-Fi hotspots and new programs, including Zoom meetings an (ad office hours to help residents cope with the pandemic’s fallout, manage stress for small businesses, and address issues related to racial injustice. The community that took root in rooms of Ives Squared now thrives virtually. This fall, the library was able to reopen with a phased plan and limited capacity.