Come Work or Lounge in the Library with our Free Wi-Fi

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By Teresa Duggan

Did you know that the Pratt Library offers all customers free Wi-Fi access in most all library locations? With the temporary exception of the Washington Village Branch, any Pratt Library location you visit around Baltimore is equipped to connect you to the internet for free. We have public computers, of course, and in the Central Library you can borrow a library laptop, but you can also bring your own laptop, tablet, or smartphone and use our connection, without having to sit at one of our computers. You also don't need to be in an designated area to get an internet connection, it can be anywhere in the library.

New second floor Laptop Lounge
If you haven't seen it yet, an alcove on the second floor of the Central Library was recently converted into a gorgeous "Laptop Lounge". This is the area at the very top of the decorative window grating that extends all the way up from the front entrance below, so the main feature is that beautiful window arch. It's dark enough to feel cozy and somewhat private, but the natural light and modern furniture will make you settle in quickly, feeling like you've found a wonderful secret spot for your web browsing, writing, or e-reading.

wifi lounge window detail laptop by lamp light - detail laptop lounge armchair - detail working by the window - detail
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More friendly, comfortable places to sit
The idea for that first Laptop Lounge actually came about from a complaint. I'm a member of a sort of staff think tank called the Best Practices Group; we take suggestions for improvements to the library from staff around the system. Someone had asked for signs in the first floor Pratt Wi-Fi Cafe, specifying time limits so that people wouldn't spend so long there, hogging the available seats. We discussed pros and cons of posted time limits and customer service, and then someone asked why customers don't use all of the other seats we have around the library with their laptops. After all, the place has three floors of public areas, and it's a whole block long! As we talked more, we realized two things:

  1. people may not know that the entire building has free Wi-Fi
  2. people like to hang out in the Pratt Wi-Fi Cafe because it's nice there

Pratt laptop in the cafe- detail logging into a Pratt laptop in the cafe - detail Pratt Wi-Fi Cafe logo - detail Pratt Wi-Fi Cafe - detail
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We decided to both create signs to let everyone know that they can spread out around the building, and to set about creating more laptop-friendly spots around the building. In addition to the fancy second floor window lounge, there are several other spots around the building that have been rearranged just for that purpose, and more are being planned. Take a look around, or ask a librarian if you need a nice web-connected spot to sit.

Beyond the cafe and Lounges: Wi-Fi access everywhere
When the Pratt Cafe was first set up years ago, we had received a corporate grant for Wi-Fi just in that area. But those days are gone, and you can now connect from anywhere in the Central Library building, as well as any other Pratt Library in your neighborhood. Many areas have electrical outlets available, but others just have a quiet spot or a sunny window waiting for you. One of my favorite spots is a big window well by the Travel section in the Social Science & History Department. Do you have any favorite spots at your library? If so, let us know in the comments below.

sign at the entrance - detail wired work area alcove - detail laptop at a blacony desk - detail window seat view - detail
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From the Hi-Fi days of smoking to Wi-Fi days of web surfing
vintage sign: Please Feel at Home, Read or Smoke If You LikeThe "modernization" of our public library spaces for laptop use brings to mind an old (and now very humorous) newspaper article about when part of this same library was renovated—with a private donation—to accommodate our customers who feel more comfortable smoking while they read in the library. Some excerpts from The New Enoch Pratt Free Smoking Lounge, The Baltimore Sun, 1954:

"Next Monday a new lounge is to be opened in part of the library's central hall, and in this lounge smoking will be permitted. A considerable selection of books will be handy to the lounge, and there will be comfortable chairs and plenty of ashtrays." "...having made the books available, it is good sense (means permitting) to provide conditions appropriate to reading." "If his chair is uncomfortable, he is distracted. And—let us admit it—if he is a slave to the weed he finds it a lot easier to concentrate and extract the full measure of satisfaction from the book before him, if he can puff at a pipe or take an occasional drag on a cigarette. The smoker is not only happier, he can get more out of his book, if he is smoking."

We feel pretty sure that laptop lounges in the library are a better modern-day solution than a smoking lounge, but who knows what our customers will want to feel more comfortable here another 50+ years from now. In the meantime, come to the library to work on your laptop or relax in our many areas with free Wi-Fi. For more information, learn more about the Pratt Library's Computers, Internet, and Wireless Access.

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